Investigating Installers of Security Software in 20 Countries: Individual- and Country-Level Differences

Andy Ful

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Dec 23, 2014
Investigating Installers of Security Software in 20 Countries: Individual- and Country-Level Differences.

Authors: David Smahel
, Lenka Dedkova, Lydia Kraus, Vaclav Matyas, and Vlasta Stavova
Faculty of Informatics, Masaryk University, Brno 60200, Czech Republic
Academic Editor: Zheng Yan


This article provides detailed evidence about the installers of online security software on personal computers according to differences among clusters of countries and various other country characteristics. The study presents unique data based on real installations around the world. The data are based on a large-scale quantitative study (N=18,727) which was prepared in cooperation with an international security company. The cluster analyses revealed four distinct clusters of software installers: those who install the software for a different user, those who are IT technicians and mostly install the software for other users, those who install the software for themselves and others on a shared computer, and those who install the software only for themselves. A second cluster analysis revealed four different country clusters. Within these clusters, countries handle online security software installation similarly; however, there are differences for the clusters according to industrialized, English-speaking countries and the cluster of developing countries. This study presents unique cluster analyses of the countries to shed light on the cross-culture differences in security software adoption and installation. The results implicate that software companies should consider providing different versions of the security software to match the country characteristics.

3. Materials and Methods​

In our study, we cooperated with an online security company, ESET, and collected large-scale data from the real installations of its security software around the world during five months (see below). We asked the software installers (i.e., the people who actually performed the installation) at the end of online security software installation about their relationship to the computer (i.e., whether they were the owners and whether they were the users of the computer). For users, we distinguished between sole users and users who shared the computer with others. We were further interested to cross-check whether the installation of online security software was a task for which people sought professional help. Subsequently, we asked whether the software installer was an IT technician. Lastly, we were interested in how the characteristics of software installers differed between countries. We used cluster analysis to find distinct groups of software installers under the assumption that the resulting clusters would correspond to the knowledge drawn from previous studies. Our cluster analysis is of an explorative nature; thus, we will discuss the commonalities and deviations in installation behavior as compared to the related work in Discussion of this article.

6. Conclusions and Implications​

This large-scale study was conducted on data from the installations of ESET security software from software installers in 20 countries, and it shows that every other installation of security software is done by a person who will not use the computer—and that the gap between the actual user and software installer largely differs among countries. Western, more developed countries with a higher GDP and better ICT infrastructure also have the most skilled and self-efficient users who are able to install their software, as opposed to developing countries. Our study indicates that, in Western English-speaking countries, installing security software seems to be a task that is often accomplished by either the actual users or by the owner of the computer, whereas people in developing countries more often rely solely on the computer owner to install the software for other users. The findings in our study indicate a lasting digital divide on a country level. By shedding light onto the question of who installs security software, our research extends the existing body of knowledge on security practices in different countries.

The results of this study have several implications for the usage of security software, the development of security software, and the security software companies. This study revealed that security software is often installed by people who do not use the computer and the computer might be shared by more people. This implies that some steps in the setup of the security software in the installation process are done by nonusers of the computer. This should be taken into account during the software development process because the usage of the security software is related to the patterns of usage for the computer; for example, the user interface could be different for the installer and the user. It could also be different for the aging population. We point out that the investigation of the pros and cons of security software installation by persons different from the actual user would be a fruitful area for future research. Our study also shows for the first time how patterns of the security software installations differ across countries. This could help software companies to adapt different versions of the security software to relevant countries.

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