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Celebrating Experts in Human Aspects of Cyber Security: Professor Cleotilde Gonzalez

On the International Women's Day many websites suddenly remember that women as well as representatives of other underrepresented groups are doing cool work in different fields, posting lists and summaries. In contract to the convention, at CyberBitsEtc, we decided to provide an in-depth view on the life and achievement of 5 inspirational women throughout this week, not only giving you links to follow, but explaining why these women are awesome and why they do groundbreaking work (with references to their talks, books, and articles!).


I have not seen these women on any power lists, which, in my own personal view is really unfair. They are unsung heroes, who help us get one step closer to understanding behavioural aspects of cyber security. This is not a ranking of any kind and it is heavily skewed towards my personal interests in cyber security. However, these are scholars and practitioners, whose work I can recommend to read, follow and admire. Because these women are worth it! And they are worth it not because they are women, they are worth it because they are really best at what they do.


Today's spotlight is on Professor Cleotilde (Coty) Gonzalez!




Cleotilde (Coty) Gonzalez is a Research Professor at the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. Coty's research concentrates on the study of human decision making in dynamic and complex environments and she made a number of ground-breaking contributions to the psychology of cyber security, though cyber security in only one of many applications that her work has touched. At Carnegie Mellon University, Coty is a member of the Human Computer Interaction Institute, the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition. She is also affiliated with the Center for Research on Training at University of Colorado. Coty serves on a large number of editorial boards of very reputable journals. Specifically, she is a part of editorial teams of Cognitive Science Journal, Decision, the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, the Human Factors Journal, and the System Dynamics Review.


She is Fellow at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, a member of the Governing Board of the Cognitive Science Society. In 2021 she has been named a 2021 fellow of the Cognitive Science Society for her long-term contribution to cognitive sciences research, sustained research excellence, and impact, which her work had on the cognitive sciences research community and beyond. Together with Lujo Bauer and Matt Fredrikson, Coty is part of the CyLab team, who have recently won the prestigious US Department of Defense (DoD) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) Award and will be doing research into human-machine teaming in defence contexts.


Coty grew up in a large Mexican family with 9 kids; and was the first woman in her family to get a PhD (Coty has a PhD in Management Information Systems from the Texas Tech University). In 2002, she founded the Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory (currently known as DDMLab). Initially, the Lab was supported by a grant from the US Army Research Laboratories, but eventually it has grown into a large team of like-minded, yet, interdisciplinary researchers from Behavioral Decision Research, Psychology, Engineering, and Computer Science. Currently, the Lab is fully funded by various US-based as well as international grants from research institutions such as National Science Foundation, Army Research Labs, Army Research Office, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and others.



The team of Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory as featured on the DDML website


Coty's research focuses on how people and machines make multiple, interdependent, real-time decisions in complex environments, when they have to adapt to external changes and using past experience. Naturally, these scientific questions are directly related to multiple applications in cyber security, where Coty published absolutely brilliant work. Coty is one of the main masterminds behind the theory of decisions from experience, called Instance-Based Learning (IBL) Theory. She and her colleagues have extensively worked on the IBL computational models, able to generate predictions of decisions humans would make in particular domains and help improve decision-making in cyber security (among many other domains).


Here are just very few of Coty's recent papers (for the complete list refer to her webpage and Google Scholar Page):


Gonzalez, C., Aggarwal, P., Cranford, E., Lebiere, C. (2020). Design of Dynamic and Personalized Deception: A Research Framework and New Insights. Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences HICSS 2020, January 7-10, 2020. pp. 1825-1834. doi.org/10.24251/HICSS.2020.226.

Aggarwal P., Gonzalez C., Dutt V. (2020) HackIt: A Real-Time Simulation Tool for Studying Real-World Cyberattacks in the Laboratory. In: Gupta B., Perez G., Agrawal D., Gupta D. (eds). Handbook of Computer Networks and Cyber Security, Springer, Cham. doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22277-2_39.

Aggarwal, P., Thakoor, O., Mate, A., Tambe, M., Cranford, E. A., Lebiere, C. & Gonzalez, C. (2020). An Exploratory Study of a Masking Strategy of Cyberdeception Using CyberVAN. 64th International Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES 2020). October 5-9, 2020. Chicago, Il.

Cranford, E. Gonzalez, C., Aggarwal, P., Cooney, S., Tambe, M., Lebiere, C. (2020). Adaptive Cyber Deception: Cognitively Informed Signaling for Cyber Defense. Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences HICSS 2020. January 7-10, 2020, pp. 1886-1894. doi.org/10.24251/HICSS.2020.232

Cranford, E. Gonzalez, C., Aggarwal, P., Cooney, S., Tambe, M., Lebiere, C. (2020). Toward personalized deceptive signaling for cyber defense using cognitive models. Topics in Cognitive Science., 12, pp. 992-1011. doi.org/10.1111/tops.12513.

Cranford, E. A., Gonzalez, C., Aggarwal, P. Tambe, M. & Lebiere, C. (2020). What Attackers Know and What They Have to Lose: Framing Effects on Cyber-Attacker Decision Making. 64th International Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES 2020). October 5-9, 2020. Chicago, Il.

Rajivan, P., Aharonov-Majar, E., Gonzalez, C. (2020) Update now or later? Effects of experience, cost, and risk preference on update decisions. Journal of Cybersecurity, 6(1). doi.org/10.1093/cybsec/tyaa002.

Singh, K., Aggarwal, P., Rajivan, P., & Gonzalez, C. (2020). What Makes Phishing Emails Hard for Humans to Detect? 64th International Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES 2020). October 5-9, 2020. Chicago, Il.

Thakoor, O., Jabbari, S., Aggarwal, P., Gonzalez, C., Tambe, M., & Vayanos, P. (2020) Exploiting Bounded Rationality in Risk-based Cyber Camouflage Games. Conference on Decision and Game Theory for Security, October 2020.


Coty is also an amazing painter - I encourage you to not only read her research papers, but also check the Hobbies part of her website!