Secure by Design: Application Security Framework in UX

Yash Mestry
Engineering Team
Read Time
5 min read
Published On
October 13, 2022

Attractive pages, elegant fonts, perfectly placed buttons, meticulously selected colors, smooth scrolling, and an enthralling digital experience; It sounds like fantastic creative work with little to no danger to the app Security to design the user interface.

However, Security is an essential component of user experience and interface design; it is neither a fad nor a marketing gimmick.

It is possible that the same folks that allow their UX designer to freely plan their program without considering the security consequences also have undiscovered security flaws. A skilled UX designer should be well-versed in Security, and know how to transfer, access, store, and display data in each component of an application. They use this understanding to create and design a secure application with little to no security risks. With the increasing demand for UX design and the increasing use of low-code/no-code tools, the need for integrating Security is of utmost importance.

A wonderful user experience includes Security

The design of an application can balance Security, quality, and usability. Ensuring that security requirements are met is one approach to improving user experience. With knowledge, the user can utilize the application without being concerned about possible threats to their personal data. The issue arises when usability and Security are frequently framed as tradeoffs in design, where if the Security is less the UI is easy to use, and if the UI is difficult to use it is more protected.

This tradeoff is a myth. With the right practices and methodologies, we can design simple and secure design interfaces with compromises in quality. Design and Security should always go hand-in-hand.

Following relevant regulations like PCI SSS and HIPAA ensures the technical teams behind digital products create criteria for security features, to which design teams must adhere. This allows for a streamlined process and paves the way to a better and more secure product.

Security Vulnerabilities and Risks in UX

Woefully inadequate user authentication

The identity of the person who connects to a network or application is confirmed by user authentication. Unauthorized access is avoided by authenticating the user (using passwords, facial recognition software, or a similar method). Unauthorized access occurs when someone enters a network, endpoint, or other areas of an organization without authorization. Probably this is the most crucial component of a secure user experience.

Businesses are more frequently using cloud-based platforms for routine business operations, which means they are with data. But not all of this information is available for public viewing. With user authentication, a good UX should be able to differentiate between different user experiences with varying degrees of authorization. There are some best practices for UX designers to ensure secure user authentication:

  • Validating user inputs like whether the email format is correct in the email field
  • Enforcing the user to use Strong passwords
  • Alternatives like Biometric authentication

Although, even these methods can sometimes be a benefit to the attacker. For example, if we do not avoid spelling out the requirements, it can be used by the attackers to fine-tune their attack vectors to break into the application.

The best practice here is to integrate multi-factor authentication(MFA) and on-device authentication to enforce app security. It will not only guarantee Security but also enable designers to implement a more engaging user experience.

Hastily built app navigation

A well-designed application means you are less likely to be a victim of security breaches. The easier the users can navigate through the app and know what to do, the more they can do it properly. Most users expect the navigation and experience of an application to be exemplary on all devices across all platforms.

The less complex the application, the easier it is for the user to understand the end goal of the actions. Furthermore, making the user know where their data is used and why it is required will achieve transparency and help the user understand the app and its need. In turn, it helps the Security of the user experience. Defining options that are easily understandable, requirements for passwords, and intuitive navigation helps the user use the app in the way it’s intended to. To achieve this, conducting regular tests on the UI helps. Static and dynamic tests can reveal bugs and any issues after a code or design change during updates. It ensures that all features of the application do what they are intended to do.

Poor UX leads to more Spoofing and Social Engineering Attacks

Applications and websites with poor branding, grammatical problems, or inflexible content come off as of low-quality. They are also much simpler to replicate because users can find it difficult to distinguish between the genuine and phony versions. To effectively eliminate spoofing and malicious phishing, each program should have an unmistakable user experience (UX) and a distinct brand identity.

Phishing, which most frequently occurs via emails, uses social engineering techniques to intimidate, coerce, and confuse individuals into disclosing personal information and hard-earned money. Designers can establish security forums that enable users to report spam and issue advisories to other users to defend against phishing attacks. They can also deploy popups or messaging inside their app to warn consumers of known phishing efforts.

Additionally, educating users about phishing attacks might help to increase UX security. One of the methods to alert people to what they should be aware of without interfering with their experience is a subdued popup.

Bad session handling

Cookies track how frequently and how long a person uses their device. Every time a person uses the network, a short text data fragment is sent that uniquely identifies them.

Setting timings for automatic log-outs (for instance, after 24 hours) may aid in ensuring application security. The two concepts of breaking into the device and the application are distinct. Hackers may be able to repeatedly access a device with an application that has a log-out timeout. But they might not be able to access the program unless they also have access to another method of doing so.

Different applications demand different levels of protection. Specific business logic and use cases serve as the foundation for the design, flow, and administration of applications. Before development begins, it is crucial to acquire a thorough grasp of the objectives of the application because correcting UX issues after launch can cost up to 100 times more.

Find out more about the difficulties in incorporating threat modeling into your SDLC to understand such security considerations and vulnerabilities.

Want help building secure apps with great UX? Let’s get in touch and build applications that are secure by design!