I’m Maina, and I’m excited to start out as a Senior Fellow at Simply Secure. Prior to this fellowship, I conducted research at the Center for Advanced Security Research Darmstadt, and the Technische Universität Darmstadt. Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, I focused on the usability of verification in Helios, an end-to-end verifiable, open-source, remote electronic voting system. Previously, I taught several undergraduate courses, including human-computer interaction and computer security. My undergraduate degree is in computer science, and for my master’s degree, I investigated secure protocols for mobile phone voting.

My previous research had two goals: first, to investigate the usability of verification in Helios, and second, to investigate whether voters are motivated to take up opportunities to verify their vote. With respect to the first research goal, my colleagues and I conducted a cognitive walkthrough and identified obstacles to voter verification in Helios. We proposed improvements which were integrated and tested in a lab user study. The findings showed that voters were able to perform verification with the improved Helios. We also found, using surveys, that despite the usability improvements, voters lacked the motivation to take up verification opportunities. Furthermore, and with respect to the second research goal, we identified that voters trust the people and processes involved in (paper-based) elections, suggesting that they are insufficiently motivated to take up verification opportunities. Consequently, we designed motivating messages to increase voter verification intention.

At Simply Secure, I want to continue to focus on user motivation and apply it in the context of secure communication. I want to understand user motivation and how it can better guide secure behavior, focusing specifically on email. My research will concentrate on these three questions: (i) To what extent does a lack of user motivation contribute to the low adoption and use of secure email behaviors?, (ii) How can we motivate users to adopt such behaviors?, and (iii) How can security motivation be integrated effectively into the design of email interfaces? I will focus on the link between user motivation and adoption, and test the impact of motivational interventions. The output of my research should recommend how to increase the uptake of secure email behaviors for the general population.

Niaje, pronounced ’ni-a-dʒei’, means “what’s up” in Swahili.