University of Oulu

A design theory for information security awareness

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Author: Puhakainen, Petri1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2006
Publish Date: 2006-08-01
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Raahensali (Auditorium L10), Linnanmaa, on July 24th, 2006, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Gurpreet Dhillon
Professor Reima Suomi


When implementing their information security solutions organizations have typically focused on technical and procedural security measures. However, from the information systems (IS) point of view, this is not enough: effective IS security requires that users are aware of and use the available security measures as described in their organizations’ information security policies and instructions. Otherwise, the usefulness of the security measures is lost.

The research question of this thesis is to explore how IS users’ compliance with IS security policies and instructions can be improved. Solving this research question is divided into two steps. Since there is a lack of a comprehensive review of existing IS security awareness approaches, the first step aims at reviewing the existing IS security awareness approaches. This kind of analysis is useful for practitioners as they do not necessarily have the time to go through a large body of literature. For scholars, such an analysis shows what areas of IS security awareness have been studied, and to where the need for future research is of greatest importance.

The second step in this dissertation is to address the shortcomings detected by the analysis by developing three novel design theories for improving IS users’ security behavior: (1) IS security awareness training, (2) IS security awareness campaigns, and (3) punishment and reward. These design theories aim to help practitioners to develop their own IS security awareness approaches. Finally, testing of the design theory for IS security awareness training (1) in two action research interventions is described. The results of the interventions suggest that this design theory provides a useful and applicable means for developing a training program in organizations. In addition, the results provide empirically evaluated information regarding the obstacles to user compliance with IS security policies and instructions.

In the action research studies described, the goal was to solve practical problems experienced by the host organizations and to understand them and the results achieved from the viewpoint of theory. Consequently, the results as such can not be generalized, but they are of use in the host organizations in planning and delivering subsequent IS security awareness training programs. In addition, the results are utilizable in similar organizations as a point of departure in planning IS security awareness training programs.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-8114-4
ISBN Print: 951-42-8113-6
Issue: 463
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2006. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.