User Mental Models of Cryptocurrency Systems - A Grounded Theory Approach

Mai, Alexandra and Pfeffer, Katharina and Gusenbauer, Matthias and Weippl, Edgar and Krombholz, Katharina
(2020) User Mental Models of Cryptocurrency Systems - A Grounded Theory Approach.
In: Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) 2020.
Conference: SOUPS Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security


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Frequent reports of monetary loss, fraud, and user-caused security incidents in the context of cryptocurrencies emphasize the need for human-centered research in this domain. We contribute the first qualitative user study (N=29) on user mental models of cryptocurrency systems and the associated threat landscape. Using Grounded Theory, we reveal misconceptions affecting users' security and privacy. Our results suggest that current cryptocurrency tools (e.g., wallets and exchanges) are not capable of counteracting threats caused by these misconceptions. Hence, users frequently fail to securely manage their private keys or assume to be anonymous when they are not. Based on our findings, we contribute actionable advice, grounded in the mental models of users, to improve the usability and secure usage of cryptocurrency systems.


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