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Abstract

This paper describes the development of the technology threat avoidance theory (TTAT), which explains individual IT users’ behavior of avoiding the threat of malicious information technologies. We articulate that avoidance and adoption are two qualitatively different phenomena and contend that technology acceptance theories provide a valuable, but incomplete, understanding of users’ IT threat avoidance behavior. Drawing from cybernetic theory and coping theory, TTAT delineates the avoidance behavior as a dynamic positive feedback loop in which users go through two cognitive processes, threat appraisal and coping appraisal, to decide how to cope with IT threats. In the threat appraisal, users will perceive an IT threat if they believe that they are susceptible to malicious IT and that the negative consequences are severe. The threat perception leads to coping appraisal, in which users assess the degree to which the IT threat can be avoided by taking safeguarding measures based on perceived effectiveness and costs of the safeguarding measure and self-efficacy of taking the safeguarding measure. TTAT posits that users are motivated to avoid malicious IT when they perceive a threat and believe that the threat is avoidable by taking safeguarding measures; if users believe that the threat cannot be fully avoided by taking safeguarding measures, they would engage in emotion-focused coping. Integrating process theory and variance theory, TTAT enhances our understanding of human behavior under IT threats and makes an important contribution to IT security research and practice.

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