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Why do people get phished? Testing individual differences in phishing vulnerability within an integrated, information processing model

This research presents an integrated information processing model of phishing susceptibility grounded in the prior research in information process and interpersonal deception. We refine and validate the model using a sample of intended victims of an actual phishing attack. The data provides strong support for the model’s theoretical structure and causative sequence. Overall, the model explains close to 50% of the variance in individual phishing susceptibility. The results indicate that most phishing emails are peripherally processed and individuals make decisions based on simple cues embedded in the email. Interestingly, urgency cues in the email stimulated increased information processing thereby short circuiting the resources available for attending to other cues that could potentially help detect the deception. Additionally, the findings suggest that habitual patterns of media use combined with high levels of email load have a strong and significant influence on individuals’ likelihood to be phished. Consistent with social cognitive theory, computer self-efficacy was found to significantly influence elaboration, but its influence was diminished by domain specific-knowledge.