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Examining employee security violations: moral disengagement and its environmental influences

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Employee security behaviors are the cornerstone for achieving holistic organizational information security. Recent studies in the information systems (IS) security literature have used neutralization and moral disengagement (MD) perspectives to examine employee rationalizations of noncompliant security behaviors. Extending this prior work, the purpose of this paper is to identify mechanisms of security education, training, and awareness (SETA) programs and deterrence as well as employees’ organizational commitment in influencing MD of security policy violations and develop a theoretical model to test the proposed relationships.


The authors validate and test the model using the data collected from six large multinational organizations in Korea using survey-based methodology. The model was empirically analyzed by structural equation modeling.


The results suggest that security policy awareness (PA) plays a central role in reducing MD of security policy violations and that the certainty of punishment and immediacy of enforcing penalties are instrumental toward reducing such MD; however, the higher severity of penalties does not have an influence. The findings also suggest that SETA programs are an important mechanism in creating security PA.


The paper expands the literature in IS security that has examined the role of moral evaluations. Drawing upon MD theory and social cognitive theory, the paper points to the central role of SETA and security PA in reducing MD of security policy violations, and ultimately the likelihood of this behavior. The paper not only contributes to theory but also provides important insights for practice.
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Keywords: Deterrence; Information security behaviours; Information systems security; Moral disengagement; Organizational commitment; SETA; Social cognitive theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Brock University, St Catharines, Canada 2: Sahmyook University, Seoul, Korea 3: University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA 4: American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, UAE 5: University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas, USA

Publication date: December 3, 2018

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