Who’s most likely to click on spam? Neurotic women on Facebook

what makes people click on spam

By now most of us can sniff out blatant spam. Nigerian princes are never going to wire transfer anyone real money, and our friends are never going to start sending us suspiciously generic weight loss links on Twitter and Facebook.

But sometimes it gets confusing. I spent about 20 minutes last week trying to figure out whether I’d get a computer virus from watching that twerking girl who set herself on fire. (No virus, but I did lose a decent amount of self respect!) 

So yes, some spammer tactics can fool even the most tech-savvy Internet users. And some people are more susceptible than others to these attacks, and researchers from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University looked into the psychology behind clicking on bad links to find out why some people just can’t resist phishing attacks. 

Their research indicates that certain personality types are more vulnerable to phishing attacks. They used the “big five” personality framework in their assessment, taking a look at neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness as potential factors. The researchers hope that they can help develop customized security measures for personality types more likely to succumb to online attacks. 

People who participated in the study took a questionnaire to determine where they fell on the personality spectrum. In addition to the standard test administered to delve into these personality categories, the researchers added some questions that would gauge how often people used the Internet and how preoccupied with Internet culture they were. The test subjects also filled out a questionnaire about their Facebook habits and how they assess risk involved with sharing information online. 

Then the researchers started getting tricky. They sent each person participating in the study an identical spam email promising a free Apple computer. They included a few classic phishing tip-offs to give the subjects chances to identify the email as suspicious — there were spelling mistakes, the link text didn’t match the link address, and a number of other problems. The students who clicked on the link were directed to a screen and asked to log in. Those who did were considered phished. 

And 17 percent of the test subjects were finished, a high number considering all of the test subjects were all university students who grew up using e-mail. 

There was one stark, sad predictor when it came to who got phished: While 14 percent of the male test subjects clicked on the log-in link, more than half of the women were gullible enough to click on the link —  53 percent of the female participants did. The women who clicked on the links tended to have neuroticism as a primary personality category, while the men who clicked on it were more of a mixed group, without any one personality trait more likely to fall for the trick than any other. 

So the research reveals the group of people most likely to click on link-bait — neurotic women — but it also looked at whether they could predict the likelihood of people clicking on phish-based on their Facebook activity.

Their test found a link between Facebook use and phishing susceptibility: “This result points to the fact that there is a correlation between Facebook activity and phishing response. This indicates that being more active in online social networks may cause higher susceptibility to such attacks. Therefore, people who feel more comfortable with online communication and expressing themselves online may also be more likely to respond to phishing emails,” the researchers wrote. 

spam researchThis might be counter-intuitive, since one might assume that people who spend more time online would be better at detecting spam, but they’re not — and even people who said that they were highly concerned that their passwords would be stolen were just as likely to take the bait as people who were not concerned. 

The conclusion focused on how women with neurosis are most likely to fall victim to phishing schemes involving prizes, and that people who engage on Facebook more regularly are more vulnerable to security attacks because they often have less restrictive privacy settings. It should be mentioned that women are also the highest users of Facebook, so there’s a correlation there. 

The researchers recommended that future work focus on different types of email, and it will be interesting to see if Google’s decision to split email into tabs will have an impact on the frequency of spamming, since many of the messages that would’ve sneaked through may be relegated to the promotions tab or stuck in the spam folder, while people who use other services may have a much higher chance of seeing spam in the first place. 

Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?

Snooze soundly anywhere you lay your head with the best sleeping bags

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.

How to delete and reinstall games on your Xbox One

Removing and reinstalling games on the Xbox One's hard drive isn't difficult, but it's a process that not everyone is familiar with. Thankfully, our guide will run you through each step so you'll know precisely what to do.
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.