Security and Usability: Designing Secure Systems that People Can Use Paperback – Sep 4 2005
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"It's good. Buy it for your team library." - Lindsay Marshall, news@UK, June 2006
About the Author
Dr. Lorrie Faith Cranor is an Associate Research Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a faculty member in the Institute for Software Research, International and in the Engineering and Public Policy department. She is director of the CMU Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS).
Simson Garfinkel is a journalist, entrepreneur, and international authority on computer security. Garfinkel is chief technology officer at Sandstorm Enterprises, a Boston-based firm that develops state-of-the-art computer security tools.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the real world it has been recently noticed that when security "gets in the way"; it is often circumvented by the users. For example, systems that "upgrade security" by requiring lengthy passwords often result in sticky notes appearing as people begin to write their passwords down. The book explores a number of topics from the perspective that improved usability can enhance the real world security of a system.
The chapters are written by different authors and grouped around related topics. It's hard to pull off these kinds of books well, but I believe this one succeeds. I put the chapters into three categories; talking points, patterns I can use, and presentations.
Talking point chapters help me explain to others how improving usability can improve security; examples include "Usable Security" and "Design for Usability". Patterns I can use chapters present a framework for evaluating different approaches to common security problems; such as evaluating authentication mechanisms. Presentation chapters discuss a particular topic presenting pros and cons, such as "Identifying Users from Their Type Patterns" or "Informed Consent by Design".
I enjoyed reading this book. If you're considering buying or designing a secure system I recommend checking it out.
The book is broken down into six sections. In the first, "Realigning Usability and Security", the reader is presented with five essays which hammer home the point that if security of applications and systems are not made user friendly, the users can and will find ways to bypass them. This may range from doing whatever they can to bypass the controls put in place to not using the systems at all. The next section, "Authentication Mechanisms", covers topics that include the evaluation of authentication mechanisms, the problems of passwords, challenge questions, biometrics and more.
The third section, "Secure Systems", covers specific issues associated wit the use of PKI, the sanitizing of equipment being disposed, desktop security, and security administration tools/practices. From here, the fourth section, "Privacy and Anonymity Systems", deals with the challenging topic of privacy. The essays in this section focus on human-computer interaction, policies, analysis and more.
The fifth section, "Commercializing Usability: The Vendor Perspective", sealed the deal from me. Why? Because it allowed the book to grow beyond a purely academic discussion to a discussion of real world challenges faced and addressed by vendors. The vendors selected - ZoneAlarm, Firefox, Microsoft, IBM/Lotus, and the now 'defunct' Groove Networks - are important because each vendor addresses important issues in strong security and IT governance as collaboration becomes more important.
The final section, "The Classics", provides 3 essays focusing on users not being the enemy, a study of KaZaA, and why people cannot encrypt.
Who Should Read This Book
The discussions presented in this book need to be discussed, even debated, if advances in the field are going to occur. And this debate should not be limited to the IT security community. This is because security is everyone's responsibility. As I said at the beginning of this review, I consider this book to be a "must read" for the information security, application development, system administration, and IT audit communities.
Eagle on a 600 yard Par 5 playing into a stiff wind
Have you felt the frustration of working through client interviews, screen reviews, team discussions and iterations of tests to make the most usable possible application -- only to learn that users stumble time and again even getting to your product? User authentication and authorization complaints rank right at the top in most help staff logs. This book may provide some alternatives to passive acceptance of things as they are.
It is hard to summarize a 750 page book with over 60 contributors. There is a lot here for a broad range of interests. Yes, some chapters have a load of mind-numbing jargon, but as a whole, this material is very approachable by the professions I mentioned above. Many of the contributors are from the ranks of the same professions. Stats are mixed with anecdotes in an interesting way.
Bruce Tognazzini's "Design for Usability" was a personal favorite -- and so was the chapter on designing the interface to ZoneAlarm, a product familiar to most.
If there is one theme that unites all the contributions, it is expressed in the title of Ch. 32: "Users Are Not the Enemy." Amen to that.
In the exciting new book 'Security and Usability' by O'Reilly, 34 papers are published all in one text that examine this issue in a thorough and interesting manner.
The topics are broken up into the following parts:
Realigning Usability and Security
Privacy and Anonymity Systems
Commercializing Usability: The Vendor Perspective
With so many different papers it's nearly impossible to discuss the book as a whole, better leaving each paper/analysis to speak for itself. If for nothing else, the "Classics" section featuring the following 3 papers are probably the highlight of this book:
Users Are Not the Enemy by Anne Adams and M. Angela Sasse
Usability and Privacy: A Study of KaZaA P2P File Sharing by Nathaniel S. Good and Aaron Krekelberg
Why Johnny Can't Encrypt by Alma Whitten and J.D. Tygar
For any engineer or user that finds the topic of how to make a system/application that is very secure and very usable (a need for nearly anything used on the computer in this day and age), this is an important text that brings the topic together in one place. This is a book that will probably be required reading for any college course in security concerns, and it's well worth the read.
***** HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Security and Usability (S&U) is targeted at two main camps. The usability camp who doesn't quite understand what a security system is. They think in terms of making the user's experience with the software better, and often that means making the design more accomodating. That's great, and very valuable, but sometimes that's been known to compromise the system's security.
The other camp this book targets is a security application or a security system designer. Often this camp doesn't have a great grasp on usability. We (I think I fall into this category) tend to be power users and build systems that work for power users. When regular users (read: "everyone else") encounter such a system they're usually stuck, and understandably so. S&U introduces many usability concepts and paradigms to the software or system designer and provide a springboard for better results.
Make no mistake, this book wont make you an expert in either field, but it will give you a deeper understanding and a strong foothold at improving both scenarios. If nothing else, it gives both camps the vocabulary to start talking and working together.
One of my favorite chapters in the book outlines how ZoneAlarm was designed and implemented, along with some of its issues along the way. This is a remarkably successful application that achieves both good security design and utility while being usable by a large portion of the population. Such a study - and the book has many similar studies to back up viewpoints - is an invaluable aid in getting the message across.
If you write security software, design security systems, or work with a team that does, by all means look at this book. It will improve your product.
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