UTCS Colloquia - Eugene Vasserman, Assistant Professor, Kansas State University, "The Usability of TrueCrypt, or How I Learned to Stop Whining and Fix an Interface" ACE 2.302

Contact Name: 
Lindy Aleshire
ACES 2.302
Feb 21, 2013 9:45am - 10:45am

Talk Audience: UTCS Faculty, Grads, Undergrads, Other Interested Parties

Host:  Vitaly Shmatikov & Center for Information Assurance and Security

Talk Abstract: Security software is famously difficult to use and understand. Using widely accepted user interface analysis methods, we examine TrueCrypt, a popular free and open source disk encryption software package, and find that it is far from accessible to ordinary users. Using rigorous interface design principles, we derive and implement several changes to make the software easier to use. We then evaluate the original and altered interfaces through a randomized user study, and find the new interface to be significantly easier to understand and faster to use, especially for novice computer users. We observe not only measurable speed-ups of common tasks, but also improved user-reported ease of use ratings. However, several of our design choices turn out to have been misguided, and we analyze the lessons learned from the counterproductive changes. We conclude with several easy to follow suggestions for developers to apply to different pieces of new and existing security software in order to improve usability for novice users.

Speaker Bio: Eugene Vasserman is an Assistant Professor in the department of Computing and Information Sciences at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in Computer Science in 2010 and 2008, respectively, from the University of Minnesota. His B.S., in Biochemistry and Neuroscience with a Computer Science minor, is also from the University of Minnesota (2003). His research is in distributed system security, privacy and anonymity, low-power and pervasive computing, peer-to-peer systems, and applied cryptography.