Cybersecurity and User Testing: How Are They Connected?

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

There are few events quite as exciting as launching a new product or website. However, all of your dreams can be quickly dashed if you do not take the proper precautions to ensure that your investment can last the long haul. Enter user testing, which is a crucial step in every product launch.

This process involves testing and providing feedback on anything from the presentation of an app to the speed of a website. However, one of the most important uses of testing is to find cybersecurity weaknesses. Studies show that a data breach in 2019 can cause a company an average of 8 million dollars, and that doesn’t include the potential loss of customers. Understanding this valuable connection now can save you a ton of headaches in the future.

What Is User Testing?

At its core, user testing is the process of finding individuals to view and use an intended product during its creation and implementation. This could be as simple as having testers review a paper sketch of a program’s interface for visual flaws or as complex as having users try to “break” a system to test its durability. Ideally, this testing will take place with people from your intended audience. So you might test a social media app with a group of millennials or a mortgage app with potential homeowners.

Depending on the budget, companies have the choice of finding their own testers or using a service. There are user testing companies for just about every industry, and they will give valuable advice regarding which aspects you should test. In either case, you want to find people who will have experience with this type of program, and that will give you honest responses.

To gain this useful feedback, at least five testers should complete the same process so they can get an average of errors or issues. The answers obtained will help the developers improve customer experiences and conversion rates. When it comes to cybersecurity, it is important to remember that hackers can always find new ways to infiltrate a system, and user testing could put a spotlight on product weaknesses you didn’t even know you had.

The Threat Is Real

Many businesses believe that cybercrime cannot affect them, but the fact is that hackers have breached at least half of the small businesses in the United States. Just a few years ago, a group of Russian cyber hackers were able to steal more than a billion usernames and passwords from 420,000 websites. These sites included everything from major retailers to personal websites.

As time goes on, advancements are coming around that can better combat these issues. Currently, artificial intelligence technology is getting smarter at understanding potential threats and closing loopholes before hackers can breach. Still, cybercriminals are continually evolving their behaviors and finding new ways to infiltrate weak systems. Because of the constant threats, user testing is essential for closing as many of those gateways as possible.

Start with the basics. One of the most common hacking techniques is the use of phishing emails, which appear to be legitimate communications but usually have a link or attachment that, when clicked or opened, can allow unwanted visitors to waltz right into your infrastructure. A good way to combat this possibility is to have user testing tied with phishing simulators, which create a simulated phishing email and then provide feedback for improvements, so your product is not a victim of the real deal.

Other Testing Methods

There are many other ways that you can user test your systems for security flaws. One way to see an all-encompassing view of the system’s vulnerabilities is to try a cyberattack simulation. Essentially, this is a program that you would run on your system to find potential hacking scenarios with a simulation that would see the impact that damaging attacks.

Password testing should also be a priority. Most people make hacking too easy by using weak passwords that cybercriminals can often obtain by looking at a user’s history or by utilizing password cracking tools. Once they are in the system, the sky’s the limit to the damage they can cause, from stealing information to modifying the text on your website. Testers should create complex passwords that have a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters and then try a hacking simulation to see if they can be cracked.

If you are especially concerned about cybersecurity, then you can even have experienced hackers try to break the system with penetration testing. This is where the “user” would attempt to penetrate your system through potential entry points. This type of testing should occur during the building of your new systems, as well as after any major upgrades or office changes.

When you look at the world of cybersecurity today, the connection with user testing is clear. You absolutely must identify all unprotected areas of your new or updated systems, or your company could be a victim in the next big breach. 

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