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UX Security Principles: Designing Secure and Trustworthy User Experiences

Design
12 min
Dec 22, 2023

The security aspect of product development is rarely associated with user experience (UX) design. However, the myth that designers are responsible for the aesthetic side of the platform should no longer be believed. Along with other team members, they are accountable for protecting users’ data.

The key consideration when designing a user-friendly and secure product is combining simplicity and safety. But even though the precaution measures seem so complicated, they can be implemented in an easy-to-navigate design. In this article, we have collected the UX security principles that help create a safe user environment. Go on and find out what they are.

Why Is UX Security Important?

The number of cyberattacks organizations face is 1248 a week. Discovering the root of the malicious actions takes more than a month. But we live in a fast-paced world where every minute is at stake. So, instead of working with the consequences, preparing for any scenario is better.

The Conception of UX Security and Its Role in User Data Protection

There is a perfect saying “Forewarned is forearmed”. This is the main idea behind user experience security measures. Since designers create users’ routes, they should lead them toward the safest path. This is obtained through different methods that, together with the high usability level, create an outstanding combination of aesthetics and usefulness.

The Responsibility of UI/UX Designers for Implementing UX Security Principles in Their Projects

By the scope of work designers perform, you may assume there is no place for applying preventive measures. However, it is also in the designers’ interest to make users comfortable. So, warning customers about possible issues, setting rigorous safety standards, and making them noticeable create that “cozy” place where there is no need to fear providing personal information.

Security Design Principles

The following are the key UX security principles by implementing which you will be guaranteeing your users’ data protection.

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Principle 1: User Input Validation

One of the first steps in protecting sensitive information is to validate it before processing it. Proper input validation helps to reduce the risks of unauthorized access or information disclosure.

The Importance of User Input Validation to Prevent Malicious Code Injection and Data Manipulation

The key benefit of implementing user input validation is that it works like a shield from injection attacks. During the injection attacks, the cyber-attackers input malicious code into the field input and then can get access to your application data. This can result in data loss and data breaches.

Methods of User Input Validation

To prevent your and your users’ data, you can apply these methods for user input validation:

  • Input filtering. This refers to rejecting input if it doesn’t meet the established criteria or contains any suspicious links. When you enter a website, almost every one of them will display a filter through which you have to pass. This is how it looks from the UX side.
  • Input sanitization. During input sanitization, the input data is checked and transformed into a harmless one. This is similar to filtering. You can set specific criteria for the input to match. For example, in the field where an email address is required, the input should contain the character “@.”
  • Input masking. This is setting restrictions on what users can input. They won’t be able to type something that doesn’t correspond with the mask. In this procedure, different types of input masks are applied.

Principle 2: Error Handling and Providing Constant Feedback to a User

Once something goes wrong — the user should be the first to know. However, the error message is useful for an end user and a development team. Quick error fixing is the priority, especially when it comes to security.

The Importance of Error Handling and Providing Users with Feedback in UX Security

If there is a potential threat, it is important to inform users about it. In such a way, they can retry the action or contact you for further instructions. The error message doesn’t have to display all the technical stuff on the website. For internal communication, you can set up error logging for debugging to process the issues quickly.

How Clear and Informative Error Messages Can Help Users in Sensitive Interactions

According to 10 Usability Heuristics by Jacob Nielsen, the error message has to help the user recognize, diagnose, and discover errors. Here are some recommendations on how to prepare an error notification:

  • Visibility. The error message should be placed close to the error place; it has to be emphasized with indicators; it has to be displayed according to the issue’s severity: for example, a notification that is useful to know should not occupy all the users’ attention.
  • Language. The message should be of high readability; it has to concisely describe the issue; it has to offer solutions and doesn’t have to blame a user.

Principle 3: Least Privilege and Access Control

The principle of least privilege (POLP) is a security measure within which the users have access only to the data and information they need to perform specific tasks. Without applying this technique, designers and developers risk providing over-privileged access.

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The Concept of Least Privilege and Its Role in Limiting User Access to Sensitive Information

The method of granting limited access for users allows them to read and modify only certain resources of the platform. Enabling access to critical data can be moderated by time limits. This approach allows users access to sensitive information within a particular time and based on specific users’ configurations.

Strategies for Implementing Access Control Mechanisms Such as Role-Based Access Control

Role-based access control (RBAC) grants access to sensitive data according to the users’ roles. That means that employees will have access to the information necessary to perform their jobs. For example, there is no need for the customer support team to have access to the sales. As well as for the sales team, collecting customers’ details is unnecessary.

Principle 4: Data Encryption and Secure Storage

Data encryption methods existed long before the technologies emerged. The kings could pass sensitive info to their soldiers by using codes. The concept of data encryption has not changed. However, with safe data collection, it is essential to provide secure storage.

The Importance of Data Encryption and Secure Storage Methods to Protect User Data

The data encryption approach makes it nearly impossible for cyber attackers to access sensitive information. This is because any data input on the platform gets coded into ciphertext. The only way to encode it is with the help of the encryption key, which only certain people possess.

Once the data is gathered, the next task is to protect it. Secure data storage is a method of storing confidential information and making it enabled only for authorized users like developers or managers.

Encryption Algorithms and Methods for Secure Data Storage

Data encryption is performed via various algorithms. Usually, developers choose among Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA), Blowfish, Triple Data Encryption Standard (DES), and Diffie–Hellman key exchange.

For secure data storage, the following methods can be applied:

  1. Disabling unnecessary devices
  2. Applying updates to the software regularly
  3. Using storage and data redundancy
  4. Deploying network security
  5. Informing users about security politics

Principle 5: Secure Communication Channels

Communication between users and servers is performed via data transfer. To make it safe, it is important to secure communication channels. This can be achieved using protocols such as HTTPS and TLS.

The Importance of Secure Communication Channels in Protecting Data Transfer between Users and the Server

The communication is secure if no third parties are involved. So when users provide their data on your platform, they should be guaranteed that it goes to a server directly and no one can steal it. By default, communication is not secure. To ensure it is safe, different prevention methods should be applied.

HTTPS and TLS Protocols for Safe Data Transfer

Hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) stands for secure communication between web browsers and websites. It provides data encryption when sensitive data like passwords or bank account information is input. Transport layer security (TLS) protocol performs the same function. It is a more updated secure sockets layer (SSL) version and is used under HTTPS.

Principle 6: Vulnerability Awareness and Patch Management

Even if the app seems to work flawlessly, it doesn’t guarantee it is safe. So, testing your software for “weak points” in security should be done regularly. That refers to vulnerability awareness. Once the issues are found, they should be fixed. This process relates to patch management.

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The Importance of Staying Informed about Security Vulnerabilities and Implementing Patches Quickly

Vulnerability awareness and patch management are closely connected. The importance of including them in common security practices can prevent issues before they appear. Vulnerabilities happen when the application has errors that don’t make it resistant to potential cyber-attacks. Thus, the quicker the issues are found, the quicker they can be dealt with.

Vulnerability Management and Incident Response Strategies

The strategies to approach vulnerability management and incident response are numerous. The most effective ones are building an incident response plan; creating an incident response framework consisting of preparation, detection, elimination, fixing, and evaluation; recording patch management in playbooks; and forming an incident response team.

Principle 7: User Training and Awareness

According to the IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report, in 95% of cases, data breaches happen because of poor user awareness and ignorance. And we all know how tempting it is to skip any additional info on the website, even if it delivers important messages. So, teaching users to be cautious is a winning decision for them and your company.

The Role of User Education in Increasing Cybersecurity Awareness and Preventing Human Error

No matter how hard you try from your side to transfer the data and keep it safe, if your customers are not aware of the potential threats and actions to prevent them, you can end up being cyber-attacked. That is why educating users about cybersecurity and recognizing malicious actions is crucial.

Methods of Increasing User Awareness

The first step you can take toward higher user awareness is to create a security policy that indicates your company’s approach to security. Also, the signals of a risky environment work well in keeping users informed about threats and teaching them how to deal with the danger.

Conclusion

Design for security has to reach the balance between usability and safety. This can be done by following UX security algorithms and personalizing the methods to fit your platform’s theme. However, this task doesn’t lie on the shoulders of designers only. Creating a safe environment unites the whole team of developers, design specialists, and risk managers.

The future of UX security leads us to believe that companies have become more aware of how to manage risks with the help of design and how to teach their customers about security so they are eager to learn.

by Ivan Klyzhenko
UX Startup Advisor, Uitop

FAQ

What is UX security?

It is a design that makes the platform safe to use. It is a combination of aesthetics and usefulness. UX security is the topic that gathers the team of designers, developers, and security engineers to think about preventive measures and how to share them with customers.

Why is UX security important?

Properly implemented UX security principles can prevent users and your company from getting cyber attacks. For example, with code encryption, gaining access to the information is impossible as it gets encoded only with an encryption key.

What are the principles of user experience security?

There are seven main UX security principles: user input validation, error handling and informing users, data encryption, access control, secured communication channels, vulnerability awareness and pitch management, and user training.

Is it possible to create a safe product that would be attractive as well?

Surely. You can combine design principles with security and make the best of this combination. The myth that providing safety warnings or training customers means something difficult no longer exists. And even the most complicated things can be designed engagingly.

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