Secure or usable computers? Revealing employees’ perceptions and trade-offs by means of a discrete choice experiment

Eric Molin*, Kirsten Meeuwisse, Wolter Pieters, Caspar Chorus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


It is often suggested in the literature that employees regard technical security measures (TSMs) as user-unfriendly, indicating a trade-off between security and usability. However, there is little empirical evidence of such a trade-off, nor about the strength of the associated negative correlation and the importance employees attach to both properties. This paper intends to fill these knowledge gaps by studying employees’ trade-offs concerning the usability and security of TSMs within a discrete choice experiment (DCE) framework. In our DCE, employees are asked to indicate the most preferred security packages that describe combinations of TSMs. In addition, security and usability perceptions of the security packages are explicitly measured and modelled. The models estimated from these observed responses indicate how each TSM affects perceived security, perceived usability and preference. The paper further illustrates how the modelling results can be applied to design highly secure packages that are still preferred by employees. The paper also makes a methodological contribution to the literature by introducing discrete choice experiments to the field of information security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-78
Number of pages14
JournalComputers and Security
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Discrete choice experiments
  • Discrete choice models
  • Employees’ preferences
  • Information security
  • Security measures
  • Security perception
  • Usability perception


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