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The Paradox of Enterprise-Level Security

"The Paradox of Enterprise-Level Security" header image

There is zero doubt about the need for heightened cybersecurity in enterprise environments.

There have been plenty of Dateline and 60 Minutes episodes that highlight the increased amount of cyber attacks corporations face.


In fact, Mastercard reportedly faces up to 460,000 intrusion attempts per day.

The types of cyber attacks that are the most expensive and take the longest to resolve are categorized as “malicious insiders” according to the Cost of Cybercrime Study in Financial Services: 2019 Report from Accenture. Beyond bad actors actively trying to ruin their environments, these “inside jobs” include things like users who’ve fallen victim to phishing attacks, social engineering, etc.

So you can’t really fault enterprise security teams for putting harsh security measures, firewalls, and bans on outside software in place to mitigate risk.

Unfortunately, these internal controls often create barriers for employees to get their work done efficiently—causing them to resort to workarounds that compromise security. It’s also hard to fault them for taking actions that help them get their work done with their sanity intact.

Therein lies the paradox of enterprise-level security—sometimes, the digital security measures put in place end up creating more problems than they solve because of usability issues.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Far from it, in fact.

When innovative security systems are combined with innovative user experience (UX) design, enterprises can create safer and more productive environments.

In this post, we’ll examine how firms can integrate the best practices and technologies to combine security and usability for better outcomes.

A fork in a road, where one path is labeled "User experience" and the other is labeled "Design"

Issues with Traditional Cyber Security Systems

Safety first, as your mother would say.

Is it safer to require users to sign in and use two-factor authentication every time they open their emails? Yes—well, until they get so tired of the login process that they start checking their email from a device they brought from home…

It doesn’t matter if your application has state-of-the-art security features. If it’s a nightmare to use regularly, you can say goodbye to secure users.

Often, enterprise systems are designed with security, and onlysecurity, in mind. This is especially true for any organization that’s gone through a breach. Forget about convenience, shore up those weak spots!

Security professionals, for good reason, are focused on creating the safest environments possible as a response to the constantly shifting landscape of cyber attacks. And with all due respect to our friends who work in cybersecurity, many are not familiar with how their security solution is going to affect the rank-and-file user on a daily basis. Again, since their focus is security and not productivity, you can’t really blame them.

There is a growing field of academic study, however, called Human-Computer Interaction and Security (HCI-SEC) which more and more security professionals are paying close attention to.

In plain English, it’s the study of how to create safer cyber environments through the use of UX design.

After all, the most secure safe in the world only works if the user closes the door… and remembers the combination.

How Thoughtful UX Increases Security

The biggest threat to most tech companies is not quantum computers conducting a full-on assault of their servers—it’s users creating weak passwords, which of course can give way to hackers assuming somebody else’s identity and compromising the system.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to realize that when designing security features in your applications, you must not only solve for the machine but also the humans that use them.

Take mobile for example. One thing that is terribly annoying on a touchscreen mobile device is entering a long, complex password. Fat-finger syndrome combined with the fact that your characters are obscured creates a situation that can be quite frustrating, especially if it’s a regular occurrence. From a security standpoint, of course, you can’t just allow users to be constantly logged into applications on their mobile devices—what if it’s lost or stolen?

A rather elegant solution to this problem is to use the biometric (fingerprint scanning) capability that comes with most mobile devices today. It’s easy as pie for the user, yet still secure enough for even the stingiest security professional. And it’s kind of fun, which also increases adoption.

At the end of the day, higher adoption equals higher security.

How can you start adding seamless and fun UX features like this one into your secure, enterprise technology? By reading on.

An illustration showing the five steps to weaving security into product design

How to Integrate Security Into Product Design

As we now know, security works on two levels—technical and user adoption. You need both, and the best way to achieve this is to weave your security measures into the product design, not bolt them on after the fact.

Here’s how to increase security via user experience.

1. Know Your Users’ Security Needs

The user is the heart of product design. Security often comes last in the design process. Instead, consider security as an important part of the overall product design. The following list of questions may help you get to know the security needs of your users:

  • How sensitive is the information you collect from users?
  • What setting(s) will your app be used in?
  • What other systems are involved in the users’ jobs?

When you’re able to understand the goals of your users in context, you’ll be in a much better position to design and communicate your security features.

2. Provide a Setup Map

If you want somebody to get somewhere efficiently, give them a map that shows their progress.

Setup wizards are a great way to indicate a user’s progress toward a fully complete setup within your app. Adding predictability to your setup process will increase a user’s confidence that they’ve done everything right, and will also indicate (visually) any steps they’ve missed.

3. Reinforce Behavior with Microinteractions

Microinteractions are product “moments” that revolve around a single achievement—they represent the completion of one small task.

We use them every day. When we “like” something online, we’re rewarded with a heart, when we plug in a device we see a lightning bolt, etc.

These microinteractions are useful to users because they’re a steady stream of reinforcement that they’ve done everything right. In terms of security, these can be short explanations of password requirements, notes about how long setup will take, or more advanced visual animations that inspire confidence in your product.

4. Reward User Participation

As people complete actions that increase their security, congratulate them and succinctly explain how this step decreases their risk of a breach of their personal or professional information. Subtle rewards like that can go a long way in raising their cybersecurity edification.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Integrate

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is partner with someone who’s already crushin’ it.

Chances are, there is already software out there that your enterprise can integrate to achieve key goals while meeting your security and usability standards—no need to reinvent the wheel.

Take for example HelloSign, where we’ve created software to increase efficiency in an overly-papered world without sacrificing on security.

By utilizing everything from SSL encryption to world-class secure server infrastructure to on-site physical security, HelloSign keeps each user’s profile and documents private and safe.

But don’t forget that the real magic happens when security meets usability! HelloSign easily connects with services your enterprise business already uses like Gmail, Salesforce, Slack and more. No wonder we’ve won recognition for ease of implementation!

Security and Usability Can Live Together Peacefully

Now that you know that higher adoption leads to higher security, will you focus on weaving security measures into product design as well as integrating with best-in-class apps that have already made this a part of their mission?

If your plan includes some of the latter, we recommend you check out HelloSign’s enterprise-ready eSignature workflow management software, view the more technical features of the HelloSign API at work in this great video from team informatics, or set up a time to speak with one of our security experts today.

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