Purdue University Graduate School
Stacia Smith Final Dissertation 5-31-2023.pdf (1.32 MB)

Investigating Factors that Increase Vulnerability to Cyber-Attacks During the First Year College Transition

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posted on 2023-05-31, 18:53 authored by Stacia Rae SmithStacia Rae Smith


Moving from high school to college is a major life transition leading to significant changes across many aspects of daily life. This time frame is often seen as the transition from a youth to a young adult, yet its impact on technology use and cybersecurity vulnerabilities remains relatively unstudied. This study investigated which factors associated with the first-year college transition are likely to increase vulnerability to cyberattacks in a sample of first-year college students attending a public university in the northeast United States, all of whom graduated from high school within the last 12 months. This study used a concurrent triangulation mixed methods design. A quantitative survey and qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted concurrently, the methods were prioritized equally, and the results were interpreted together. Thematic analysis was used to analyze survey short answer responses and semi-structured interviews. A more descriptive analysis was completed to analyze survey responses from 38 respondents. The research found that an increase in the amount of time spent online, changing main internet activities, and lack of cybersecurity awareness training are factors which are likely to increase vulnerability to cyber threats during the transition from high school to college. 


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Technology


  • Technology Leadership and Innovation

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Linda Naimi

Additional Committee Member 2

Darlene Russ-Eft

Additional Committee Member 3

Raji Sundararajan

Additional Committee Member 4

Kambiz Ghazinour