Bringing Crypto Knowledge to School: Examining and Improving Junior High School Students’ Security Assumptions About Encrypted Chat Apps


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RC 11: End-users and Usability


End-to-end encryption (E2EE) of everyday communication plays an essential role in protecting citizens from mass surveillance. The especially vulnerable group of children and young adolescents move quickly between chat apps and use them frequently and intensively. Yet they have had the least time to learn about online security compared to other age groups. In a two-part study conducted with four classes at a junior high school (N=86 students, ages 12–16), we examined perceptions of security and privacy threats related to chat apps and understanding of E2EE using a questionnaire. A pre-post measure allowed us to examine how a short instruction video shown in class to explain the concept of E2EE and how it works in chat apps affected students’ security understanding and threat perceptions. Our results show that students are aware of a variety of online threats but they are not familiar with the term E2EE. After the instruction, students gained confidence in explaining the concept of encryption and their understanding of the security features of E2EE improved. Our results also show that explanation of threats and E2EE can shift the intention of some participants towards tools that offer more protection.


Usable Security and Privacy
Understanding and Transforming Security and Privacy Behaviors
Security Awareness
Empirical Studies on the Perception of Security and Privacy