Environmental uncertainty and end-user security behaviour: a study during the COVID-19 pandemic

Popyeni Kautondokwa, Zainab Ruhwanya*, Jacques Ophoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced individuals to adopt online applications and technologies, as well as remote working patterns. However, with changes in technology and working patterns, new vulnerabilities are likely to arise. Cybersecurity threats have rapidly evolved to exploit uncertainty during the pandemic, and users need to apply careful judgment and vigilance to avoid becoming the victim of a cyber-attack. This paper explores the factors that motivate security behaviour, considering the current environmental uncertainty. An adapted model, primarily based on the Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), is proposed and evaluated using data collected from an online survey of 222 respondents from a Higher Education institution. Data analysis was performed using Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM). The results confirm the applicability of PMT in the security context. Respondents’ behavioural intention, perceived threat vulnerability, response cost, response efficacy, security habits, and subjective norm predicted self-reported security behaviour. In contrast, environmental uncertainty, attitude towards policy compliance, self-efficacy and perceived threat severity did not significantly impact behavioural intention. The results show that respondents were able to cope with environmental uncertainty and maintain security behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation security education for cyber resilience
Subtitle of host publication14th IFIP WG 11.8 world conference, WISE 2021, virtual event, June 22–24, 2021, proceedings
EditorsLynette Drevin, Natalia Miloslavskaya, Wai Sze Leung, Suné von Solms
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030808655
ISBN (Print)9783030808648
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2021
Event14th World Conference on Information Security Education: Information Security Education for Cyber Resilience - online event
Duration: 22 Jun 202124 Jun 2021
Conference number: 14th

Publication series

NameIFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology Series
ISSN (Print)1868-4238


Conference14th World Conference on Information Security Education
Abbreviated titleWISE 2021
Internet address


  • Information security
  • Protection motivation theory
  • Theory of planned behaviour
  • Environmental uncertainty
  • Covid-19


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