23 June 2015
Nowadays, advanced security mechanisms exist to protect data, systems, and networks. Most of these mechanisms are effective, and security experts can handle them to achieve a sufficient level of security for any given system. However, most of these systems have not been designed with focus on good usability for the average end user. Today, the average end user often struggles with understanding and using security mechanisms. Other security mechanisms are simply annoying for end users. As the overall security of any system is only as strong as the weakest link in this system, bad usability of IT security mechanisms may result in operating errors, resulting in insecure systems. Buying decisions of end users may be affected by the usability of security mechanisms. Hence software providers may decide to better have no security mechanism then one with a bad usability. Usability of IT security mechanisms is one of the most underestimated properties of applications and systems. Even IT security itself is often only an afterthought. Hence, usability of security mechanisms is often the afterthought of an afterthought. Software developers are missing guidelines on how to build security mechanisms with good usability for end users. This paper presents some guidelines that should help software developers to improve end user usability of security-related mechanisms, and analyzes common applications based on these guidelines.