Uncovering the Deceptive Tactics Of Cybersecurity’s Dark Patterns
By Tom Seest
At BestCybersecurityNews, we help entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, young learners, and seniors learn more about cybersecurity.
Dark patterns are deceptive designs used by websites and apps to entice users into giving them something valuable, like their time, money, attention, or data. These practices are now receiving increasing regulatory scrutiny.
These practices may infringe upon privacy rights protected by laws such as the FTC, CCPA, and GDPR. Furthermore, state attorneys general are filing lawsuits against them.
Table Of Contents
- Are You Falling for These Deceptive Cybersecurity Tactics?
- Are You Being Manipulated by Nudging in Cybersecurity?
- Are You Falling for the Bait & Switch in Cybersecurity?
- Are You Falling for These Hidden Costs in Cybersecurity?
- Are You Falling for Deceptive Pricing Tactics in Cybersecurity?
- Are You Falling for Confirmshaming?
- Are You a Victim of Privacy Zuckering?
Misdirection is the practice of inducing someone to do something unexpected or out of character. This can be accomplished through various tactics, from subtle distractions to comprehensive misinformation campaigns.
Misdirection can be a valuable tool in cyber defense, serving to distract attention away from an active cyber threat and free up forensic resources while distracting adversaries from completing their objectives.
Deception has long been a tool used by military commanders to deceive their enemies and gain advantage. Recently, misdirection has even found its way into cyber operations.
Randomness is one of the most widely employed misdirection techniques. This creates an atmosphere of uncertainty for adversaries about organizations’ strategies for defending against cyber attacks.
Compromises and breaches to organizational information systems become much more challenging and time-consuming. Furthermore, uncertainty may increase the chance that adversaries reveal aspects of tradecraft while trying to locate crucial organizational resources.
Randomness isn’t the only misdirection technique; other misdirection techniques involve spoofing network traffic with Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijacking. This enables attackers to redirect network traffic away from their intended domain or IP address and alter it for their purposes.
Nudging is a behavioral psychology technique designed to assist individuals in making better decisions by altering their environment. It works by targeting irrational people’s intuition (System 1) or conscious reasoning (System 2) and can be applied both individually and collectively.
Cybersecurity nudges are designed to alert employees when risky security behaviors take place, providing them with a chance to take immediate action and resolve the problem before it gets worse. They’re an effective way to promote employee retention and engagement as well.
Nudge theory, developed by behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, is based on the idea that people often rely on their intuition or unconscious process when making decisions. While these decisions may be imperfect, they can be affected by changes to their environment, including feedback received from others.
Nudging is a controversial area of research, yet many experts agree that it can be used to benefit people and enhance their well-being. Nonetheless, there is an important distinction between nudges designed to increase self-control or activate desired behaviors and those used for less beneficial purposes.
Bait and switch is a type of deceptive advertising in which an establishment or store advertises an item at an incredibly reduced price, yet when customers arrive, they are informed that the item is unavailable and instead given a more expensive alternative.
Bait and switch marketing is strictly forbidden in many countries, such as the United States, England, and Canada. Companies who use this tactic can face legal repercussions for violating consumer protection laws.
A primary objective of a bait-and-switch scam is to convince customers to purchase an inferior or unreliable product at the advertised price. Companies typically create attractive advertisements that entice potential buyers in with promises of great deals.
Consumers can spot a bait-and-switch by looking for warning signs like too-good-to-be-true deals, claims of limited availability, or overly complex fine print or disclaimers. Furthermore, customers should read all terms and conditions prior to purchasing any products or services online.
In some instances, bait and switch may be due to an honest mistake by a vendor who mislabeled something. For instance, a brand-new 60-inch LCD television may be incorrectly priced at $50, but no retailer would sell it at that low of a cost.
Cybersecurity professionals are increasingly concerned with dark patterns. These are web and mobile design elements that lead consumers to make decisions that may not be in their best interests.
Consumers often become victims of these tactics because they’re unaware they are being deceived. They may not realize they are being coerced into providing personal information or misled by the terms and conditions of a subscription service.
The FTC believes many of these practices are intended to coerce users into sharing personal data without their knowledge or consent. For instance, an online retailer might request a user’s credit card number and address without providing them with an opportunity to opt out or alter their preferences.
Another dark pattern involves making it difficult for customers to cancel a subscription or charge. This can happen when websites make it hard for customers to delete their accounts or remove charges even after they’ve made an attempt at stopping service.
The Federal Trade Commission is taking on these issues head-on, and many state legislatures have passed laws to address them. For instance, California’s Age Appropriate Design Code Act prohibits companies from using dark patterns to induce children to provide more personal information than is reasonable or expected.
Dark patterns are design tactics that may coerce users into purchasing goods or services or violating their privacy. The Federal Trade Commission describes them as a variety of tactics, such as misleading advertisements, difficult-to-cancel charges, hidden fees in lengthy disclosures, and ad banners appearing as news reports or celebrity endorsements.
Financial institutions often employ dark patterns to attract and retain customers, but these tactics may cause significant losses if users become aware that these tactics were designed to influence their choices. With increased regulatory attention being paid to dark patterns, it’s becoming more important than ever before to safeguard consumers’ interests online.
A recent EU investigation uncovered that nearly 40% of online shopping websites employ manipulative practices to force customers into making choices against their own interests. To uncover these patterns, the EU consumer protection authorities conducted a sweep of 399 retail websites and apps for dark patterns.
One common dark pattern is price comparison prevention, which prevents users from comparing prices of similar products or services by bundling them together. This prevents informed buying decisions and often results in poor user experiences and higher costs. To prevent this type of pattern from occurring, provide easy comparisons on all units of pricing, such as items or kilograms.
Confirm shaming is a malicious pattern in cybersecurity that uses shame-based tactics to coerce users into taking actions they would never do in person. This typically takes the form of exit-intent modals and pop-ups designed to collect email addresses for future mailing campaigns.
As a general guideline, companies should not make it difficult for users to opt out of their mailing campaigns. Instead, they should make it as effortless as possible and offer valuable rewards in exchange for providing their email address.
Particularly with pop-ups or exit-intent modals, email addresses should only be collected if they provide value to the user’s browsing experience.
In an effort to coax users into signing up for newsletters, some websites are now adding manipulative link text to their pop-up models (also referred to as manipulates). This tacky copy serves as a form of confirm shaming in which visitors feel pressured into taking action they didn’t want or need.
This tactic has been on the rise since UX designer Lior Brignull first identified it in the early 2000s. Researchers have linked it to several factors, such as behavioral economics principles of nudging and the boom of growth hacking around 2010, respectively.
Dark patterns are deceptive user interfaces that affect how people use online products. They pose a particular concern for parents who want to guarantee their children are secure while using digital services.
Avoiding these techniques is possible, but businesses who employ them take a risk. They are trading short-term data or revenue gains for potential bad PR and regulatory fines.
Many of these practices contravene regulations such as the EU’s GDPR and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). Furthermore, they go against the spirit of laws and breach consent management obligations.
One of the most prominent dark pattern categories is Privacy Zuckering, a strategy that tricks users into sharing more personal data than intended. It has become particularly associated with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after his public shame over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Another prevalent dark pattern is sneaking into a website, which adds additional products to a user’s shopping cart without their knowledge or consent. This could include subscriptions to streaming platforms, renewals of subscriptions, and more.
This is a problem because it erodes consumer choices on social media and shopping platforms while costing them money. The European Commission has labeled this practice as a “clear violation of consumers’ rights.”
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