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MSU College of Business hosts international Fulbright Scholar

11-21-16 - Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—An international cyber security researcher and visiting Fulbright Scholar will spend six months working with a Mississippi State University professor of information systems as part of the prestigious international exchange program.

Karen Renaud, a computer scientist with the University of Glasgow in Scotland, is the recipient of one of the first Fulbright Cyber Security Awards. She will spend her time in the U.S. working with MSU Professor of Information Systems Merrill Warkentin. They are collaborating on research that will enhance understanding of human cyber security behavior.

“In the past, we’ve applied a lot of our research on rational theories that say, ‘I make conscious decisions about the cost and benefits of doing things, I choose to encrypt my data,’” Warkentin said. “We now know people engage in computer security behaviors for a lot of other reasons. That’s what’s exciting and driving a lot of the work that we’ve both been interested in.”

After following Warkentin’s research online, Renaud reached out to the College of Business professor to gauge his interest in working together on a Fulbright award. Following a stringent application process, Renaud received a Fulbright Cyber Security Award and began working at MSU this fall. She will stay in Starkville through March.

“I was due for my sabbatical and decided I wanted to make this count,” Renaud said. “We don’t have information systems in Glasgow; only computing science. I wanted to learn from folks that see life differently. That cross-fertilization is good for me. I am a very technical computer scientist, so it’s nice to learn things from the human behavior perspective.”

In addition to working with MSU faculty, Renaud is taking in many of the cultural aspects of life in Starkville. She said she has enjoyed exploring the town and MSU campus. At the end of her stay in Mississippi, she will spend an extra month in the U.S. visiting various people and places.

“I find people are a lot more chatty than the British,” Renaud said. “It’s been an amazing experience so far. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Warkentin and Renaud’s first paper, which discusses the impact of risk disposition on security behaviors, was presented in October at the 2016 Dewald Roode Workshop on Information Systems Security Research in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They plan on conducting an experiment to see if behavioral economics theories can be applied to password usage.

The Fulbright Cyber Security Awards were created to foster cyber security research collaborations between U.K. and U.S. researchers. Warkentin said he is humbled by Renaud’s decision to use her Fulbright to work with him and is glad to see the university continuing to make international connections.

“This supports the university’s mission in connecting in scholarship and research with other institutions,” Warkentin said.

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