Gentle Interventions for Security (GIFS)

Dates: November 2018 – November 2019

Lead Researchers: Dr Emily Collins, Cardiff University and Dr Joanne Hinds, University of Bath


Users are still at the centre of cyber security and are responsible for making a large number of security related decisions on a daily basis, despite a lack of understanding of the risks involved. Drawing from the literature and theoretical frameworks surrounding habit formation in health-related behaviours and from successful ambient “nudge” interventions in the areas of work-breaks and health, this project aimed to explore thepotential for ambient displays (such as small, desktop light boxes) to gently encourage more secure habits in workplace office contexts at times tied specifically to the behaviour in question.

The project took a user centred approach, by conducting interviews which allowed the team to identify which cyber security behaviours to focus on, and how ambient displays could be useful for those behaviours.

The project aims were to:

  • Identify how security behaviours could be encouraged or discouraged through ambient displays.
  • Identify the most effective ambient features to use in such interventions.
  • Develop an ambient display in line with this research and;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of such a display on security behaviours.

Policy implications

The findings are relevant to Problem 4 in the NCSC’s sociotechnical problem book: ‘How can security contribute positively to an organisation’s culture?’ In particular, the need to support people to behave securely in line with their values and the culture of their environment to help mitigate risks and support more secure ways of working. This project also contributes to broader understanding about how to better protect people and businesses against cybercrime.


User interviews, participatory design workshops, ambient display design, experimental testing.Find out more: Contact the lead researcher, Dr Emily Collins, for more information at:

Funders: Home Office

External collaborators: Dr Sarah Wiseman, Creative Technologist, Goldsmiths University of London.

Follow on work: The findings from this work are being integrated into larger projects exploring more broadly how ambient displays can be adapted for different cyber security behaviours and for different contexts.

Publications: One paper is currently under review with several others in preparation.


Posted on

December 9, 2021