Purdue University Graduate School
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Personality Traits and Resistance to Online Trust Exploitation

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posted on 2023-08-07, 15:24 authored by Vaishnavi MahindraVaishnavi Mahindra

Social engineering attacks, especially trust exploitation, have become a focus of attention

for cybercriminals attempting to manipulate or deceive users to take actions that further

expose their vulnerabilities. This has also become a budding field for researchers as these

interactions are based on complex social equations that are constantly taken advantage of.

Identifying the "weakest link" is a popular method of identifying how these exploits take

place, generally by observing when individuals fall for a social engineering attack. However,

valuable insights may be used to harden security by observing patterns in users resistant

or vigilant to these attacks. Primarily, this trend may be discovered in resistant users’

personality traits. This has been found to be a more accurate indicator of behavior than

self-reported intentions. Survey responses (n=120) indicate correlations between high test

scores in trust exploitation exercises and Conscientiousness in the Big 5 Personality Model

(p<0.001). No significant correlation was seen between self-reported cybersecurity habits

and actual security behavior.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Computer and Information Technology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Marcus Rogers

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Dr. John A. Springer

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Tatiana Ringenberg