ZETAR: Modeling and Computational Design of Strategic and Adaptive Compliance Policies

Linan Huang, Quanyan Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Compliance management plays an important role in mitigating insider threats. Incentive design is a proactive and noninvasive approach to achieving compliance by aligning an insider's incentive with the defender's security objective, which motivates (rather than commands) an insider to act in the organization's interests. Controlling insiders' incentives for population-level compliance is challenging because they are neither precisely known nor directly controllable. To this end, we develop ZEro-Trust Audit with strategic Recommendation (ZETAR), a zero-trust audit and recommendation framework, to provide a quantitative approach to model insiders' incentives and design customized recommendation policies to improve their compliance. We formulate primal and dual convex programs to compute the optimal bespoke recommendation policies. We create the theoretical underpinning for understanding trust, compliance, and satisfaction, which leads to scoring mechanisms of how compliant and persuadable an insider is. After classifying insiders as malicious, self-interested, or amenable based on their incentive misalignment levels with the defender, we establish bespoke information disclosure principles for these insiders of different incentive categories. We identify the policy separability principle and the set convexity, which enable finite-step algorithms to efficiently learn the completely trustworthy (CT) policy set when insiders' incentives are unknown. Finally, we present a case study to corroborate the design. Our results show that ZETAR can well adapt to insiders with different risk and compliance attitudes and significantly improve compliance. Moreover, trustworthy recommendations can provably promote cyber hygiene and insiders' satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4001-4015
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computational Social Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2024


  • Bayesian persuasion
  • incentive learning
  • incentive mechanism
  • information design
  • insider threat
  • zero-trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Modeling and Simulation


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