The UX of VPN. Yes, this exists.
I think many of us have given up on the user experience of IT - either some have lost hope that this will ever happen or simply never thought it was possible.
It has traditionally been difficult to troubleshoot a PC, networks, and connections unless you did this every day for work. You had to think like a computer to be successful. I think this led many of us to believe that someone smarter than us created computers and computing.
The reality is that this isn't true. Computing experiences were originally designed around how the computer worked - what did it need for input to complete a function and programmers determined the easiest way to gather that information (it usually involved the user supplying the data through a keyboard). Now that the basics are in place, we can design better ways for humans to interact with computers, operating it with actions that makes sense for us rather than only providing a computer what it needs through methods that are easier for the programmer to implement.
We sometimes mistake difficult user experiences as intuitive because we are used to doing them. Thy are familiar. But just because it is familiar doesn't mean it's right. It's what we were trained by the computing industry to do.
Mobile and the BYOD (bring your own device) movement have forever changed the UX of IT. We have come to expect more from devices and the computing industry. Also, computing is now so ubiquitous that we each have one in the palm of our hand and expect them to work with the tap of a finger.
I found it most interesting in this paper that Scott Ashdown discusses the cost of forgotten PINs. PINs are the same as a password - they aren't easy to remember and we are always encouraged by IT to use unique PINs for each organization we interact with for security. We are human so we forget what we pick - it's normal. It makes one wonder - and it definitely made Blackberry wonder - why isn't there a better way?
"While a lot of organizations have portals that allow for automated reset of a PIN, inevitably, users forget they exist or refuse to use them. These resets surprisingly cost a fair amount of money when you take into account a cost per call of approximately $20. PIN resets alone mean that legacy solutions can end up with annual operational costs that are the same order of magnitude as the original solution purchase price, which is crazy. "
--Scott Ashdown, Putting the UX into VPN
He also addresses the insecurity of SMS (I was so happy to read about that! I often wonder about these systems that leverage cell phones).
Blackberry's solution is spot on! Basically, they made your phone the old VPN "fob," but rather than using the paradigm of entering a number from the phone, you only need to approve usage from it.
I feel hopeful seeing things like this - the days of remembering passwords and typing codes should be forgotten. It is a gaping hole in security - you can't rely on humans to remember passwords, PINs and keys. There is just too much room for error.
Further, there has to be a better way to validate identity in a world that doesn't have a good model for identity to begin with. I'm glad to see Blackberry thinking about that.