User interface, security, and "simplicity"
Thor Lancelot Simon
tls at rek.tjls.com
Sun May 4 22:24:13 EDT 2008
On Mon, May 05, 2008 at 11:46:49AM +1000, James A. Donald wrote:
> Thor Lancelot Simon wrote:
> >And, in fact, most VPN software of any type fails this test. My concern
> >is that an excessive focus on "how hard is it to set this thing up?" can
> >seriously obscure the important second half of the question "and if you
> >set it up in the easiest possible way, is it safe?"
> If there is a wrong way to do it, the end user will do it wrong.
No. Your claim sounds plausible because it's a much, much stronger form
of a claim which almost always _is_ true: "If there is a wrong way to
do it, _some_ end users will do it wrong."
But that is not the same claim as "If there is a wrong way to do it,
_most_ end users will do it wrong", a claim which usually seems to be
made because someone who understood cryptography but not human factors
just decided that the problem he didn't know how to solve wasn't
important because he didn't know how to solve it.
The fact that that mistake (in essence, assuming "it is necessary that
most users will get it wrong" instead of "it is possible that most users
will get it wrong) is not pointed out when it is, so often, made, is,
indeed, the typical excuse for security software not bothering to supply
a good user interface such that most of the time, most users get it
That in no way means that such a user interface is not desirable, any
more than low standards in the area mean that it is not possible.
I believe that those who supply security products have a responsibility
to consider the knowledge, experience, and tendencies of their likely
users to the greatest extent to which they're able, and supply products
which will function properly _as users are likely to apply them_. I
believe that not considering those questions at all is irresponsible
and in some cases much worse than that. Pretending that the questions
don't exist is _definitely_ worse than irresponsible; I've quit jobs
when asked to behave that way, in the past, and I'd probably do so
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