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We have all had that one email that has arrived in our inbox. You know the one. The email claiming to be your bank and asking you to "click here" to confirm your account details. Or maybe it's from an address claiming to be Amazon, Target, or American Express. We have all likely seen those emails in our inbox asking us to "click here" to confirm.

A simple click means you have now become a victim of one of the most common online attacks and scams. It's called phishing and these scams are intended to look like a real email from a real company. But it isn't. Instead it's someone looking to gain access to you bank account, credit cards, and more.

Phishing can be terrible for you and it's also a national security problem. That's why the Department of Defense has awarded two Texas Tech researchers with a grant to study who can be more susceptible to a phishing scam.

It's common to think of older people as those who are susceptible, but Texas Tech researchers think there is more to the story according to a press release from the University.

But Keith S. Jones, an associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences, and Akbar Siami-Namin, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, are now working to develop a system that can determine a user’s phishing susceptibility based on publicly available information, such as the user’s personal social media and the website of the organization named in the phishing email.


Contrary to commercial services that offer testing – which usually send a phishing email to see who clicks it – the solution envisioned by Jones and Siami-Namin doesn’t require attempting to phish users.


“That can be useful, but likely only identifies those who are extremely susceptible, and likely fails to identify users who are susceptible but not enough to respond to the relatively generic phishing emails that are typically used during self-phishing campaigns,” Jones said. “Accordingly, we aim to develop an automated means for determining users’ phishing susceptibility that does not require self-phishing.”

The grant is a three year grant for $784,732 to study what makes some people give in more to these scams. The study will include 400 participants in order to build an algorithm that can predict phishing susceptibility. From there 100 participants will be used to identify and evaluate data.

Remember, be careful what you click on and that financial intuitions will not email you asking for personal information. If you think it could be a scam, call your bank or credit card company for more information.

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