ATHENE researcher receives award for dissertation


For her dissertation "From the Quest to Replace Passwords towards Supporting Secure and Usable Password Creation", Dr. Verena Zimmermann received one of the three prizes awarded by the Gesellschaft für Datenschutz und Datensicherheit e.V. (GDD) at the end of last year for young academics. Her work was done as part of the ATHENE project "Integrating Safety and Security Aspects in Secure Urban Infrastructures" in the SecUrban research area and one of its predecessor projects. Verena Zimmermann is a researcher in the Work and Engineering Psychology Research Group at the TU Darmstadt.


As part of her dissertation, Verena Zimmermann first investigated the usability, security, and privacy perceptions of various authentication methods in order to identify an alternative to the still predominant password. However, in direct comparison with other methods, which included carrying tokens, revealing biometric features, or remembering complex patterns, the studies still showed a preference of users for the password method.

Since the password procedure will not be completely replaced, at least in the medium term, for reasons of cost and ease of implementation, she developed new strategies to support users in creating secure passwords. This was achieved with the help of password nudges, which motivate users to create a secure password and provide feedback on technical password security.
Nudges (according to Thaler & Sunstein) are small changes in the decision architecture that support the choice of the "wiser" decision without limiting the decision options. She was able to successfully apply her findings on password nudges to other security and privacy decisions that are relevant in the context of security-critical infrastructure. These included choosing a secure WiFi in public places, encrypting a smartphone, or choosing a secure cloud service.

About the GDD Science Award for Young Academics.

The GDD Scientific Advisory Board, chaired by Prof. Dr. Tobias Keber, awards the GDD Science Prize every year in recognition of outstanding scientific work. The prize is endowed with 5,000 € and goes to young scientists of all disciplines who deal with questions of data protection and data security. The award is intended to help fill gaps between the social, legal and technical frameworks of data protection and data security. Due to their high scientific excellence, 3 papers were selected from a large number of submissions this year and will be honored with this year's GDD Science Award.

Information about Dr. Verena Zimmermann

Information about the GDD

Announcement "GDD Science Prizes for Young Academics". 

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