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Beautiful Code by Andy Oram, Greg Wilson

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Usability Is the Key

Email privacy software often requires users to jump through too many hoops, so very few bother to use it. Usability is critical to the success of any security solution, because if the system isn't usable, it will end up being bypassed or used in an insecure manner, in either case defeating its whole purpose.

A case study of the usability of PGP conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in 1998 pointed out the specialized challenges of creating an effective and usable interface for email encryption and found that of 12 study participants, all of whom were experienced at using email, "only one-third of them were able to use PGP to correctly sign and encrypt an email message when given 90 minutes in which to do so."[30]

I saw Cryptonite as an interesting project in terms of designing a secure, reliable, and efficient email system while achieving a very high level of usability. I set out to create a web-mail system that would embed OpenPGP security into the very structure of the email experience, and help even casual users to effectively utilize OpenPGP to achieve communications privacy. The webmail format was chosen specifically because it could bring powerful communications privacy technology to anyone with access to an Internet café, or a cellphone with a web browser, not just to the few able to run desktop email encryption software on powerful computers.

Cryptonite was designed to make encryption a normal part of everyday email, not by masking the complexities of ...

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