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Avira Scout: Does Usability = Security?, Benutzerfreundlichkeit, Convivialité, Fruibilità

Avira Scout: Does Usability = Security? – Updated Jan. 2017

Update January 2017

The user interface has now been optimized. The changes so far are as following:

  • Radio buttons instead of a dial
  • The modes have been renamed
  • You can create your own custom mode now \o/

We hope to have created an even better user interface the second time around. Please give us feedback !

Original Post

The Avira Scout autopilot has a simple knob which allows you to switch between modes and decide which one suits you best:

“Comfort” or “Secure”

The Avira Scout autopilot has a simple knob which allows you to switch between modes and decide which one suits you best: “Comfort” or “Secure”

What do those settings stand for? 

Right off the bat let us ensure you: both of our settings – be it “Secure” or our default “Comfort” – will get you serious security and privacy benefits.

scout_pilot_small“Comfort Mode”
adds several comfort features and as many security and privacy features as possible without reducing your comfort or breaking pages. We will also collect anonymous user statistics to optimize usability.

“Secure Mode” only adds a couple of comfort features that work very well in accordance with our security and privacy concept. It adds more security and privacy features than the comfort mode and _could_ potentially break some pages. No statistics for usability optimization are being collected. Of course: It’s more secure than comfort mode after all.

I would advise you to test and try both of the modes yourself. Choose the security mode you feel most comfortable with and which does not interfere with your browsing habits. You can switch between the modes whenever you want.

We will always have a simple way for you to check out what settings those modes trigger. Currently said settings are listed at the bottom of the menu.

Transparency and Control

The autopilot will be split into two parts:

  • A short and simple user interface where users can select the current mode.
  • A “all the information you could ever want” part that can be found if you dig a bit deeper into the menu.

“What do I need all the information for if the two security modes are already covering almost everything?” you may ask. Well, transparency is as important as usability. This and getting the user back into control – because it is YOUR computer and YOUR data, so YOU should be in control. The autopilot security modes are optimized for specific use cases which are based on our knowledge about security. But being knowledgeable about security does not make us experts when it comes to your surfing habits.

That’s why we will always display the exact settings our modes come with (though not always on the first screen of the menu, since the number of settings will grow soon). And – to make it worth your while – you will soon have a way to override our defaults if you feel like they do not fit your way of using the internet.

Usability = Security !

Snowden almost failed to see his mission through. Why? Because of usability.

Snowden had to establish contact with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (both are journalists) to get his documents leaked. For that he wanted to use the NSA proof PGP mail encryption. PGP was built for nerds – because almost no other user group cared about mail encryption pre-Snowden.

Back then usability meant: Write some documentation for all those command line switches. That might be perfect for me, but probably less than perfect for many others.

So Snowden created (as an anonymous user on YouTube) a video that tried to explain how to use PGP to Glenn Greenwald. He failed. Greenwald didn’t even manage to finish watching the video! Imagine how different today would be, if Greenwald had given up on Snowden back then just because the PGP mail encryption lacked usability.

We definitely don’t a lack of usability stand in the way of you being able to enjoy our Avira Scout browser,  so perhaps now you can better understand why it is one of the most important security features.

By the way, you can read the whole Snowen / Greenwald story over here. And if you are really interested in this topic take a look at the “dramatic” 31C3 talk “Crypto Tales from the Trenches

Future – What’s up next?

We are already collecting ideas for a third mode: internally we call it “Paranoid mode”. 😉 So stay tuned.

By the way: After you’ve used Avira Scout for a couple of days, we would appreciate it if you could give us feedback by using the link at the bottom-right corner. Thanks!


Simple can be beautiful AND secure

Thorsten Sick


Please note: This article relates to the Windows, Mac and Linux version of the Avira Scout browser.

This post is also available in: FrenchItalian

I use science to protect people. My name is Thorsten Sick and I do research projects at Avira. My last project was the ITES project where I experimented with Sandboxes, Sensors and Virtual Machines. Currently I am one of the developers of the new Avira Browser