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We are working on a financial related desktop app. The user can commit their money in an escrow for a period of time, and the user must be online about/within 24hrs before the expiration of the escrow or their money could be at risk.

We need a way to alert users that it is about to expire and they need to come online. The only problem is that we must do this in a way where the alerts don’t depend on our software being benevolent. The user must get alerted even if we have been hacked/malicious.

We wanted to link a user’s phone number and send an SMS to tell them to come online, but if we were hacked we wouldn’t send that SMS. And an SMS messaging service like Twilio isn’t appropriate because the hacker would just disable or cancel that service.

An email is okay but I don’t think it is urgent/visible enough. Some people don’t have emails set to notify them on their phone or desktop, or don’t even have emails set up on their phone at all. And same problem as SMS, if we were hacked we would not send the email.

One possible route is through calendars. If the user linked their mobile phone calendar in some way such that upon creation of the escrow it creates an event in their calendar (like creates an .ics file for them to download), they would be notified to come back to the app regardless of if we have been hacked or not. The notification would come from the user, not from us.

Is this a good practice? I think it has similar problems to emails - some users won’t have calendars set up or linked between devices, or won’t want to give us access to it.

Is there some other way that would be better that I have not thought of?

  • My first instinct is that if you've been hacked to the point you're describing (e.g. spotting that you use Twilio and disabling its services) then there won't be anything for them to come back to... – TripeHound Aug 29 '18 at 9:39
  • The protocol does not give us control of user funds, so if the user comes back before their escrow expires they will be able to regain control of and withdraw their funds, regardless of if our software has been hacked or compromised. If they let the escrow expire, then they are open to attack as well. – James D Aug 29 '18 at 13:19
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financial related desktop app

This tells me the end-user will already have your application installed, meaning parts could work functionally without connection to a server. You could consider integrating the operating system's native notification features. These can be time-based and work even when the application itself is closed or if disconnected from the internet.

Windows - https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/campaigns/windows-dev-essentials-action-center-notifications-and-toast

Mac - https://developer.apple.com/notifications/

  • Thank you for your answer. Yes desktop/OS notifications will be good for if the user is sitting at their machine with the app not open. We will be using those for that purpose - I meant to put that in my question. But what about notifying the user when they are not at their desktop? – James D Aug 28 '18 at 19:54

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