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How Does Usable Security (Not) End Up in Software Products? Results From a Qualitative Interview Study


For software to be secure in practice, users need to be willing and able to appropriately use security features. These features are usually implemented by software professionals during the software development process (SDP), who may be unable to consider the usability of these mechanisms. While research has made progress in supporting developers in creating secure software products, very little attention has been paid to whether and how these security features are made usable. In a semi-structured interview study with 25 software professionals (software developers, designers, architects), we explored how they and other decision-makers encounter and deal with security and usability during the software development process in their companies. Based on 37 hours of interview recordings, we qualitatively analyzed and investigated 23 distinct development contexts in detail. In addition to individual awareness and factors that directly influence the implementation phase, we identify a high impact of contextual factors, such as stakeholder pressure, presence of expertise, and collaboration culture, and the specific implementation of the SDP on usable security in software products. We conclude our work by highlighting important gaps, such as studying and improving contextual factors that contribute to usable security and discussing potential improvements of the status quo.

Conference / Medium

43rd IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (S&P '22)

Date published


Date last modified

2022-05-25 10:46:05