Security and usability without a trade-off

November 7, 2018

Security and usability without a trade-off

In the past, effective security often came at the expense of usability and vice versa. Presently, many still believe that both security and usability can’t be achieved together effectively and that a trade-off is inevitable. A lot of the time its accepted that a choice must be made. You either choose a secure and unusable solution or a less secure but user-friendly one.

Also, it’s often thought that for a solution to provide effective security it must be complex and if it is easy to use and uncomplicated, this must mean that it can’t deliver reliable protection.

Usability has always trumped security. Organisations and their employees want and need solutions that are easy to use and efficient. They require solutions that do not hinder their functioning.

Cumbersome solutions, many legacy security solutions fall into this group, make users default from using them as they obstruct their tasks and negatively impact work and efficient functioning.

Time and time again, this results in security taking the fall, particularly when complex and unusable security products are relied upon.

It’s vital, now more than ever, that security is achieved at all levels

With the rise in organisations’ valuable data, the advancement of data protection regulations, the increase in cybersecurity threats and frequent high-level data breaches–organisations must ensure security procedures are met to protect their data asset, their business and reputation.

Organisations must incite security practices and the use of protective technologies so that security can be met at all stages. A big part of this is ensuring that users securely manage and process data. The ways of the past, when employees side-stepped security to achieve usability can no longer happen. A security culture must be encouraged and a new way of thinking and doing established, so data can be protected.

Many organisations continue to fear that usability has to take a back seat for them to achieve security (as it has done historically), however; this does not need to happen and shouldn’t be accepted as such. Security and usability can be realised concurrently without a trade-off.

Usable security results in a more secure organisation. For this reason, organisations must aim to achieve usable security.

Security hangs on usability

Good security is futile if the solution is unusable. Products need to satisfy security requirements while extending usability to convey effective protection.

Security should support and enable better business and should not hinder business functioning, employees or negatively impact efficiency. Security needs to incite a positive experience, and this is what a usable product does. If a solution is easy to use employees will choose to work securely over choosing not to every time.

Advanced modern security products are making usable security attainable, so effective security with improved user experience can be accomplished. This is key as the highest levels of security can only be achieved with equivalent highest standards of usability. Security depends on usability.

How prevailing solutions achieve both effective and usable security

Often when priority is placed on security without the consideration for usability (legacy security products come to mind), this results in the failure of security solutions and less secure environments and processes. For security and usability to effectively work alongside one another, security can’t be a constraint but rather an enabler.

Technologies that succeed to deliver usable security, hold usability as a fundamental element of security and through incorporating the following conditions help organisations to attain both usability and security together.

  1. They are secure by design and secure by default

Security by default (encouraged by the GDPR) is a fundamental factor in achieving usability as well as a secure product and process. Solutions that have been designed and created to be both secure and usable from initiation (not as an afterthought) can be relied upon to carry these features through all aspects. When usability, like security, is treated as an equally important design priority, out of the box, these products are usable and secure.

Usable security embodies the entire security product process from creation through to end-user usability. This may include the design, development, configuration and product maintenance etc. It also concerns things like how an organisation functions and uses policies and processes as well as factors that influence how people approach their work, and approach security at work. Usable security does not only refer to end-user experience.

Security tools designed to be as flexible as possible will enable organisations to create the best user experience suited to their organisation and their users while maintaining the best possible security.

Solutions that are secure by design and by default will have reflected usability as part of their design process and placed emphasis on incorporating controls for improved user experience. So, the outcome denotes an effective design whereby constructive actions that encourage security are easy to perform, and destructive ones are thwarted.

  1. They offer real-world operational security

Practical security encourages secure working. Security should be practical and work in real-world applications and scenarios with real people that are inclined to slip-up.

It’s no good if a solution only looks good on paper or is aspirational, but does not apply to real-world conditions. Workable security is fundamental to security success, especially today and for the future if businesses are to get the protection they need.

  1. They provide controls and features that empower users and enhance user experience

Mostly, users are drawn to flexible controls and to security that integrates with how they work rather than add-ons that require time and effort to learn how to use them.

Users want to work in a way that they are comfortable with and does not require them to change how they go about fulfilling their daily tasks. Tasks can be achieved in numerous ways and security should accommodate this. Security should encourage users to improve their security choices, but should not require radical changes to functioning to achieve security.

Considerations for multiple means of authentication to provide choice and varied levels of security, risk-based features whereby security can be heightened or reduced depending on conditions and needs and usable verification so that verification does distract from usability (it can obstruct usability if not aptly balanced) are all vital security and usability considerations.

Additionally, an agile architecture is key. One that lends itself to continuous adaptation is necessary so that a solution can adapt and advance to meet future needs in an efficient, non-complicated and workable way.

  1. Their interface is usable

It’s essential to ensure any interface is easy to navigate with little thought. An interface should be logical and practical to use. If options are permitted, the more secure routes or choices should be encouraged by making them the default or the most natural path for a user to take.

A solution should be intuitive. So that users do not need to decide on how to use a product to warrant security. Instead, a product should work to remove security decisions from users as much as possible. A simple solution, that’s less dependent on user action to work will be more effective as the room for error is reduced.

An interface design that lowers the responsibility on users will improve security.

  1. They take processes, functioning and data into consideration

Technologies that provide usable security consider these aspects during the design process to help create appropriate solutions that offer usability and security across a variety of applications and environments.

Solutions that adequately match tasks and environments are essential. Just like multiple products exist to impart security, various ways exist to fulfil tasks, and not all solutions will suit all scenarios. However, by ensuring that a product or solution fits each task effectively will help to provide the best possible usable security for that particular purpose.

Layer solutions if needed, but without adding complexity. Aiming to keep security uncomplicated will favour better results.

You shouldn’t have to choose between security and usability

Solutions, applications and products that provide effective security while elevating usefulness and convenience for users are attainable. Galaxkey is one such technology!

There’s no need to compromise on security or usability when advanced technologies, designed to improve security and usability concurrently are used.

If users are given the appropriate security solutions to match their tasks, in a way that makes sense to them and entails logical application to accomplish the security intended by the solution. Then little effort is needed for users to work more securely and, successfully, security and usability can be achieved simultaneously.

With secure and usable solutions organisations can meet users’ needs, operational objectives as well as business and data security.