As part of Computer Security Day, we are focusing our attention on software localisation and the role it plays in international, cross-organisation data security.

What is software localisation?

The term software localisation refers to the adaptation of software to both the culture and language of end users. This could be anything from the units used for measurement to icon usage and website layout. Website content must be translated and localised for its target audience, but design and UX changes may also be required to ensure the software looks and feels natural to the end user.

Software localisation involves so much more than simply changing the language to ensure users can understand the software. Localising software goes so much further – and deeper – than that. It involves discussions about the design elements of the software, it may even involve changing code in the backend of the software for those in different locations.

Why localise your software?

One of the best things about technology is that it allows us to communicate across international boundaries. For software developers, globalisation means there is a potentially unlimited market for any new program or application.

However, as you specify your product or service for its target market, you can also potentially make it less accessible to other markets. One of the ironies of building a highly tailored, customised product for your local market is that it can become too specific, making globalisation more difficult.

The localisations that you build into your product, which appeal to your current customers, might be the very things that cause issues in other markets. Even your choice of images can be controversial in other cultures, for example an owl in the UK and USA can be used to represent learning, but in Asia the owl represents stupidity. Using an owl to launch an educational product in Asia would thus be a costly mistake.

Localisation meets security

We have considered how the localisation of software can help your brand, but did you know it can also improve your computer security?

We rely on software to make our computers and data secure, but a computer is only as clever as its programming. If we focus for a second on e-mail security, we all know that the language used on phishing e-mails is specifically written to deceive or dupe a recipient into clicking a link or completing a transaction. It should come as no surprise to learn that language can also trick a security tool into thinking an e-mail is legitimate.

The complexity comes when you attempt to teach a computer to understand the intent or tone of voice used in phishing emails – or other messages with malicious intent – compared to the way a person normally corresponds.

One of the most common ways of ‘teaching’ computer software is to utilise Natural language processing (NLP). NLP is a blend of linguistics, computer science, and artificial intelligence which deals with the interactions between computers and human language. Specifically, how to programme computers to process and evaluate substantial amounts of natural language data. NLP helps developers programme computers to analyse natural language, commonly by exposing them to a large volume of data. The desired outcome is for a computer to be capable of ‘understanding’ or at least decoding, documents, including the subtleties of the language within them.

Limitations of natural language processing

NLP has limited scope for e-mail and data security, so it needs additional programming to ensure it understands specific jargon or colloquialisms, as well as more recent terminology that hadn’t been invented when the computer was first programmed.

Adding an additional language requires the computer to learn all over again, and NLP only works on the regional languages it has been trained on, which means it is not commercially viable to teach the technology to work in all smaller markets.

So, in a world where business has big expectations, what options are there? There are now specialist companies which use language localisation to help software learn and understand its market. These technology powerhouses turn to language specialists like Albion Languages. Our team’s considerable linguistic talent has allowed us to work with technology companies on software localisation projects, playing our part in achieving international, cross-organisation data security.

Computer security attacks are becoming more targeted and more convincing by the day. Targeted social engineering and spear phishing with advanced translation tools bombard companies daily, in all languages. If your business is struggling with data or computer security across languages and cultures, then speak to the experts at Albion Languages.