Making Waves in Cybersecurity and Privacy through Interdisciplinary Research

Monday, April 1, 2024

By: Regina Ashna Singh

Bridging Technology and Design

Some would consider Leah ahead of her time and a prime case that exemplifies the University of Waterloo’s recently launched Global Futures vision – a strategic initiative that provides a framework to address the world’s most pressing challenges through collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to solve real-world problems. According to Leah, HCI is at the intersection of psychology, interaction design, and computer science. As the next phase of the internet evolves into the metaverse, which S&P Global defines as a “single, shared, immersive and persistent 3D virtual space where humans and machines interact with one another and with data”, issues of security and privacy will persist. Thus, through the advice and guidance she received by those whom she considers her “research parents” (Dr. Sonia Chiasson and Dr. Robert Biddle), Leah pursued a doctorate in Computer Science and achieved her PhD in 2017.

Her current research at Waterloo falls under the Societal and Technological futures by examining the implications of new technology and people’s attitudes and perceptions towards them. More importantly, Leah is investigating how people’s privacy and security practices can be improved in a wave of emerging and immersive environments. In other words, it is important to protect people’s privacy and security, but from a design perspective, she believes it is essential to create privacy and security mechanisms that are better integrated into the entire user experience.

She used an interesting analogy of security mechanisms as speed bumps to further explain: “It's well known that no one likes to click on security warnings…I see them really as speed bumps…necessary speed bumps in the user flow…For example, I want to play my game using my virtual reality headset, but I’m not necessarily interested in authenticating myself…but it’s an additional layer of burden for users…So how can we support people’s security and privacy preferences, but also maintain their user experience and their primary goals, whatever that may be?” One approach is privacy conscious design.

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