Mitigating the ransomware threat: a protection motivation theory approach

Jacques Ophoff*, Mcguigan Lakay

*Corresponding author for this work

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

6 Citations (Scopus)
217 Downloads (Pure)


Ransomware has emerged as one of the biggest security threats to organizations and individuals alike. As technical solutions are developed the creators of ransomware are also improving the sophistication of such attacks. A combination of technical and behavioral measures is required to deal with this problem. This study investigates computer users’ motivation to adopt security measures against ransomware, using protection motivation theory (PMT) as a theoretical foundation. We conducted empirical research, using a survey methodology, collecting data from 118 respondents. Using partial least squares structural equation modelling our analysis provides support for several factors influencing protection motivation in this context. These include perceived threat severity and perceived threat vulnerability, mediated by fear. Self-efficacy is shown as a significant coping factor. Maladaptive rewards and response costs both have a significant negative influence on protection motivation. The results provide support for the use of fear appeals and PMT to influence protection motivation in the context of ransomware threats.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation security
Subtitle of host publication17th International conference, ISSA 2018, Pretoria, South Africa, August 15–16, 2018, revised selected papers
EditorsHein Venter, Marianne Loock, Marijke Coetzee, Mariki Eloff, Jan Eloff
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9783030114077
ISBN (Print)9783030114060
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventInformation Security South Africa - Pretoria, South Africa
Duration: 15 Aug 201816 Aug 2018
Conference number: 17th

Publication series

NameCommunications in Computer and Information Science (CCIS)
ISSN (Print)1865-0929
ISSN (Electronic)1865-0937


ConferenceInformation Security South Africa
Abbreviated titleISSA 2018
Country/TerritorySouth Africa


  • Ransomware
  • Malware
  • Cybersecurity
  • Protection motivation theory
  • Fear appeal


Dive into the research topics of 'Mitigating the ransomware threat: a protection motivation theory approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this