Computer security should be simple

Most people don’t understand computer security. You might know that having it is important, but you might not know how it works or what the most relevant features are.

For the average user, “computer security” means using apps that speak some weird language or perform some strange function. For many people, it becomes a myth as you clean cookies, scan files, and change passwords without actually knowing what you’re doing, actions that ultimately fail to prevent disasters like data theft or file hijacking.

A perfect example of one of these fairly mysterious apps is the antivirus. As far as you’re probably concerned, it’s a program that prevents bad things from happening to your computer. Only when it notifies you is there cause for concern. If you’re on a particular website and the antivirus reacts, normally you’d close the browser and wait for the red flag to disappear. Like some warnings tend to do, however, the antivirus can do more harm than good– as least in theory– scaring you into thinking you’re at risk when in fact, the problem isn’t as dangerous as you’d think.

If your antivirus were to disappear from your PC tomorrow, you probably wouldn’t miss it; it’s a fairly loud and annoying application, and aside from disturbing you, it never actually explains what it’s doing. But if it did explain what it was doing, would you be more likely to use and trust in its warnings? I think so.

Security applications fail to communicate

Computer security isn’t difficult to understand because of its complexity. It’s difficult to understand because it’s poorly explained. Instead of using plain and accessible language, many developers of antiviruses, firewalls, and security programs use jargon like “rootkit” or “port scan” to explain things. Those who don’t learn the terminology are excluded from the conversation, which is quite worrying.

Is anyone able to explain what’s going on in this window?

Instead of reassuring people, antiviruses tend to show constant alerts, along with global infection maps, scaring you with lights and loud noises. Not even the virus classification (supposedly educational) can help you understand what’s happening; when people read “W32 / Trojan.B”, they think that they’re being attacked by an inhabitant of Troy. In short, when it comes to communication, antiviruses and other security apps don’t know how to do it properly.

To be successful, an antivirus has to communicate clearly

There are some people who like the feeling of control that an antivirus or a firewall provides, but there aren’t many. People want security that’s less intrusive. However, an invisible security program just wouldn’t sell. Nobody would remember to renew their antivirus if it didn’t complain every now and again that something’s going wrong, which is why there’s such a large number of notifications and alerts, not to mention in a barely comprehensible language. The assumption is that if security programs communicated more clearly, you might stop using them altogether.

Clean Master (Android) manages to communicate simply and effectively

The question is, can an antivirus be informative and profitable at the same time? I think yes, but only if communication improves. Software developers should strive to create products that speak in a language that’s easy to understand to be able to find complicity with the user. Antiviruses, firewalls and password managers should act as advisors, as well as a guardians. If an antivirus can teach you about computer security while it’s protecting you, then its job will be done.

In short, in order to be reassuring, security programs need to be understood, and to be understood, they have to communicate clearly. The first major security application that does this will surely win the hearts and minds of millions of people.

More about anti-virus

The best free antivirus

How to set up AVG Antivirus 2015 for optimal protection

How to configure Avast 2015 to maximize speed

Original article published on Softonic ES in Spanish.

Follow me on Twitter: @remoquete

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