KV5029 - Human Factors in Cyber Security

What will I learn on this module?

This module is set in the context of human-centred security and highlights the symbiotic relationship between both parties for holistic security solutions. You will learn about the role of humans in security ecosystems, and how they can both be the weakest and strongest link across any threats or countermeasures. You will also learn how to tailor security processes and tools to different job roles, and move towards understanding security as a process rather than as a solution. Topics include basic definitions of terminology alongside practical and theoretical frameworks to help you identify key usability and security issues, and explore potential preventative measures. You will also be introduced to basic research principles, including ethics, quantitative and qualitative methods to support the completion of your assignment. Key topics include:

Usable authentication
Usable encryption
Social engineering
Organisational Security Culture
Inclusive security
Quantitative & qualitative research methods
User education and awareness
IoT & emerging technologies

How will I learn on this module?

Lectures will be used to introduce the different topics to be covered. This includes some interaction to draw out your own experiences. If you are a part-time student, you will learn at work, through reflecting on your experiences and applying your knowledge from the module to your practice in the workplace, and you will receive guidance on any practical exercises you need to do online. There will be a range of practicals to explore and develop the topics further; including tutor and student led practicals. The research project will ensure that you approach security with a critical mind, and this will be supported with cutting-edge international research to make you aware of recent work and future directions. Materials will be hosted on the eLearning Portal. Student material will be added during the module, to share and extend their knowledge base. Lectures will include links to related online material. The workplace (as a part-time student, a student having completed a placement or as someone in part-time employment alongside your full time studies) provides opportunities for you to put your own knowledge and skills into practice (as well as thinking back to earlier experiences) and review your learning with your manager/mentor.

The standard delivery is Newcastle Campus class room based, however if your employer has a contract with the university that indicates you may study remotely then you will be able to attend the classes virtually. In this case, you will follow lectures via webcasts and attend online seminars / workshops. The use of Blackboard to collaborate (or similar) will be employed to enable this.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Some of the practical time is scheduled specifically for assessment briefings and question and answer sessions. These hands on sessions could be to enable you to ask questions about how to proceed or to have feedback sessions after your student-led activities in order to help you evaluate your progress and identify what needs to be done for improvement. Weekly research paper discussions will highlight key topics in this area that will benefit you in planning and completing your assignment. There is also opportunity for you to arrange to have either telephone tutorials or meetings with your tutors, either individually or in small groups. Queries and concerns may also be handled by e-mail. In addition, the university library offers an Ask4Help service for you if you are having difficulty or would like some advice when undertaking your own research on the module. IT support is also on hand if you are experiencing difficulties accessing university systems.

If you are studying for a Degree Apprenticeship additional support will be available from your work place mentor who will encourage you to reflect upon how your work and studies interact and complement one another.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

MLO1: Identify, and design for, usability factors in security systems, ensuring that security solutions that are deployed are holistic and fit for purpose.

MLO2: Identify the most common cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities encountered by organisations and individuals, and develop an understanding of technologies and methods to protect users against these threats and vulnerabilities.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

MLO3: Evaluate a wide range of online behaviours in terms of their security and ethical impacts, and consider what might be the most ethical and professional response to such situations.

MLO4: Develop practical research skills for rigorously evaluating the impact of technology on users.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

MLO5: Reflect and make judgments on your own learning and professional development and contribute to helping your peers do the same.

How will I be assessed?

The assessment will take the form of a research project culminating in a 10-page academic paper. You will evaluate existing security technologies with users to better understand the role of humans in cybersecurity (MLO1). Before conducting the experiments (MLO1 & MLO4) and evaluating the results (MLO2), you will deliver a 5-minute conference-style presentation summarising your research question and methodology (MLO3). Following the presentation, you will be asked questions by the tutor and your peers to ensure you can reflect on the process and that you have understood the importance of your design decisions (MLO 5). This process will serve to ensure that you are adequately equipped to complete your academic research paper.

Feedback will be given both in written form (electronically) and spoken – this could be in a class scenario or as pre-recorded audio feedback, as well as individual written feedback.





Module abstract

Information security is a complex problem that is made worse by the need to protect against adaptive human attackers. Technical security is now very good, resulting in attackers increasingly targeting users instead of the technical security systems. This is illustrated by the fact that the main cause for security breaches in the past few years has been human factors, thus illustrating the importance of holistic security measures. The module will be enriched by the research that you will do for your assessment work, consisting of a research project evaluating existing security systems. You will produce a presentation with supporting evidence detailing your journey through the user evaluations. This module will introduce you to the core concepts of human-centred security, ethics, and professionalism while helping you build and design better holistic security systems by considering both technical and human requirements.

Course info

UCAS Code GF44

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Computer and Information Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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