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Florian Schaub earns Google Award to improve phishing protections

Friday, 03/06/2020

A newly announced Google Faculty Research award will fund collaboration between University of Michigan School of Information assistant professor Florian Schaub and professor Melanie Volkamer, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Schaub and Volkamer will use the award to fund a research project on developing better phishing warnings.

Phishing attacks trick victims into clicking malicious email links to get them to disclose sensitive information such as personal data and passwords, or install malware.

“To help people avoid falling for phishing attempts, common advice is to ‘check the URL before you click a link,’ but that’s actually not well supported in today’s email clients,” explains Schaub. “The onus is on the user to figure out whether or not a link in an email poses a security risk, which can be quite difficult.”

Building on prior work by both the UMSI and KIT teams, including Schaub’s paper on phishing warnings, which received an Honorable Mention Award at the 2019 CHI conference, Schaub says this project will design new phishing warnings that guide users' attention to a link’s underlying URL and help them evaluate whether the link is safe to click.

The team’s research findings will be integrated into a browser extension that consumers can then install to have improved phishing warnings appear in Gmail and other email clients.

“I’m excited that Google is supporting this work and look forward to the collaboration with Prof. Volkamer’s group,” says Schaub.“Our research has the real potential to help people better recognize and avoid phishing risks.”

The Google Faculty Research Awards Program supports academic research in computer science, engineering and related fields. Through the program, Google funds world-class research at top universities, facilitates interaction between Google and academia, and supports projects whose output will be made openly available to the research community.

Jessica Webster, UMSI PR Specialist