CUA of the Month – March, 2013

Sergey Sinyakov
"Whether you do anything with CUA training or not, you get a healthy understanding of what usability is and how it affects the whole product design cycle."
Sergey Sinyakov
Senior UI/UX Architect

Enter Usability in Stopping Identity Theft

by Jim Garrett

A topic that is coming more to the forefront these days is identity theft and cyber attack. Whether is it attacks on companies for their product and customer information or attacks on individuals for their personal information, it is happening and it’s happening big time.

One such company, CSID, is in the business to protect companies and individuals from these breeches. With CSID’s enterprise-level solutions, businesses can take a proactive approach to protecting the identities of their consumers all around the world.

For these tools to be effective, they must be efficient and effective for the user. This is where our Certified Usability Analyst of the month Sergey Sinyakov enters the picture.

Sergey is Senior UI/UX Architect at CSID.

Your company, CSID, deals with identity theft protection that has become so prevalent in the news lately.

This has been a problem across industries but our company was one of the first ones that started doing something about it. I think it is going to get only bigger from now on because information is really a commodity now. There’s no real way of avoiding going online or using the web-based applications, so more and more information is going to become at risk. You have to share information that you wouldn’t do otherwise and you don’t have full control over how it’s stored or protected.

What is the risk of sharing information?

When you go online and they ask you to share information, you don’t know how it is protected. You don’t know if the merchant, or whoever is accepting your information, whether they have the skills to protect your information. There’s a big market out there, a black market that is growing rapidly that deals with personal information--anything from identity information to financial information. That threat is growing rapidly as more people go online and certainly the thieves are out there. Twitter was just compromised a couple of days ago.

So you build products for companies to help protect their clients, their customers from identity theft?

Pretty much. We analyze and store a lot of data and we also build applications that allow people to monitor their information online.

Can you give me an example?

One company we work with basically guarantees that they’ll protect your identity, that nobody will be able to open credit cards or bank accounts in your name. Most of the tools and the information that they’re actually selling is maintained and developed by our team. Although our company is in the background, we interact with the subscribers pretty much directly. Not only do we provide services that the companies resell, but also the applications that we build are the ones that customers use, whether it’s under our partners’ or our company name. We actually build the interface and connect it with the applications themselves so the information that we store is sort of powering the tools that users get access too.

Does CSID deal with cyber attacks?

We have developed the products as well that have to do with the cyber breaches. When a company gets compromised and they lose their user base and confidential information, they often partner with us and offer to the users services that are developed by us in order for them to keep an eye to see if their information will pop up anywhere.

We built special tools where users create a profile and enter certain information that they want to keep track of. For example, their email, phone number, bank account, credit card and we have systems that continuously crawl the web to check online everywhere for the usage of such information. If we come across, for example the social security number, we run it against the database of our users and if we find a match we alert the user that their information was used in such and such a place and what steps they need to take to prevent identity theft.

Wow! That’s very interesting. Where does usability enter into this?

We basically build tools on both sides. One side allows the companies to customize the applications and maintain and update information and whatever the settings that they have. On the other side, the user side is where subscribers actually log in and review their profile to update their information and keep track of it.

In addition to monitoring, there are different tools that will actually allow you to stay more protected and track a lot of other information for you. This can be perhaps registered sex offenders in your area, or if somebody changes your home address. This is one of the common ways where identity theft takes place. Thieves go to the post office and change the delivery address from the real owner to the perpetrator. With this tool you will get instant alerts so you will know what’s going on with your information.

What do you think was the most significant thing you learned in the HFI CUA training?

I had a smooth transition into it. I had a small business in the past that had to do with market research. A lot of information that I took from CUA training had tons to do with surveying users, analyzing the data and putting it to use. In that sense I actually was able to complement whatever I already knew with what I was learning. What was really key was making the leap between the book knowledge and the actual practical application of that knowledge. The classes gave me that confidence.

What is the flow of your usability work?

I’m part of the engineering group but we do have a product design team that consists of product management and designers. I’m sort of the connection between the engineering and the product team. When we review the product and when we come across usability issues, I’m the one that usually works with the team to address those issues and propose the solutions. A lot of it is on the higher-level of product design which is great because it’s much better than correcting all those issues in product redesign, which we inevitably have to deal with as well. We build amazing applications, with a great level of complexity. Sometimes customers may get overwhelmed with it or may not see all the capabilities at first. Being able to think from the end-user point of view is what allows me to see the areas that may need improvement.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of taking the CUA training?

I personally encourage everybody to take it. I even recommended it to a couple of people in the company, because whether you do anything with it or not, you get a pretty healthy understanding of what usability is and how it affects the whole product design cycle. Quite often a lot of product design is being done by project managers, marketing, and even engineers. All those people are looking at different aspects of it. Marketing looks at something that they can sell, engineers love features and designers sometimes get carried away with the consistency of the elements, even when it makes no sense whatsoever. Making sense out of it and getting in the mind of the end user, that’s a big mental shift. The HFI CUA training will give you that.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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