Android Security Symposium 2015

Human factors in anonymous mobile communication

About the speaker

Svenja Schröder

University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Svenja Schröder received her Master's degree in Applied Communication and Media Science from the University of Duisburg-Essen in 2008. From 2003 until 2010 she worked - first as student assistant, later as research associate - for the Chair of Collaborative Learning in Intelligent Distributed Environments (COLLIDE) where her research focus was mainly on social network analysis, ontology engineering and human computer interaction.
Since 2014, Svenja Schröder is research assistant at the Cooperative Systems Research Group (COSY) at the University of Vienna and is responsible for the scientific coordination of the cosy:lab which focuses on user trials. Furthermore, her research interest is in the field of usable security and human computer interaction which is also the topic of her PhD thesis.


As the user is shifting more into focus as an essential part of secure systems, the field of usable security is significantly gaining in importance. This is especially true for anonymity networks like Tor, which allow anonymous communication on the Internet. Although a variety of studies have examined the usability of programs to access the Tor network from a traditional PC, research concerning Tor-related apps on mobile devices is extremely sparse. Therefore, this PhD project aims at researching usability and human factors of apps for accessing Tor, starting with Orbot (, a Tor proxy app for Android devices.

Our research approach starts from the fact that mobile devices have some limitations compared to full-size computers, notably limited means of user interaction. On the other hand mobile devices also offer features traditional computers lack, like additional sensors and rich context information. HCI as a broad field can help to deal with those limitations and opportunities in order to forge more usable and thus more secure interfaces. Hence, this PhD project aims at systematically identifying all sorts of usability issues in mobile Tor apps. Especially characteristics of mobile context and mobile interactions will be considered in our research, with a strong focus on how mobile context influences usage of Tor apps in the field.

To this end, usability evaluations will take place as controlled laboratory studies as well as field studies. All user studies will be conducted in the COSY user trial lab, which is currently set up and will be fully available at the group’s premises by the end of 2015. Based on the results improvements to the user interface will be suggested and implemented. General design guidelines for mobile usable security and privacy apps will be provided.


Get the slides here.