Super app: Security issue that you should care in 2023

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Dec. 13, 2022 8:00PM KST

Smartphone applications are becoming more convenient for users, providing multiple services from chatting to shopping in a single operation. However, this trend could be putting users’ personal information at high risk, an expert in mobile security said Tuesday.

“If a traditional application was hacked and 10% of the users’ personal data was leaked, a super application could be left with 80% of their users’ private data exploited. There are more security risks regarding super apps,” explained Ko Bongsoo, leader of the Lifecare Planning Team at SK Shieldus, to The Readable.

A super app is an application that provides users with multiple services including messaging, shopping, making reservations, payments, and more. This could be compared with traditional applications which provide one or two specific services to users. According to Gartner’s report, more than 50% of the global population is expected to be using super apps on a daily basis by 2027.

The trend is fueled by the platform companies that are trying to expand their application services and build their own application ecosystem to attract users. This is also linked with companies’ strategies to keep the attention of their customers as much as possible, making customers use their application exclusively.

“The problem is, as applications become more complicated and linked with multiple servers, there could be vulnerabilities that are hard to trace,” said Ko during his presentation at the SK shieldus webinar about the cybersecurity landscape in the coming year, which was held on December 13.

Compared with traditional apps, super apps have more lines of code. This means that super apps inherently carry more risks and potential vulnerabilities that may put users in danger. Moreover, if a hacker gets access to a single super app service, it is very likely that a domino effect happens, leading the hacker to extract users’ information from other services which are connected with the super app at once.

The expert asserted that the companies should be more alert to security risks related to super apps. “Users can install mobile vaccination services to protect personal information,” said Ko. “However, this does not guarantee that all the hacking attempts are prevented.”

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a cybersecurity journalist for The Readable. She covers cybersecurity issues in South Korea, including the public and private sectors. Prior to joining The Readable, she worked as a political reporter for one of the top-five local newspapers in South Korea, The Kyeongin Ilbo, where she reported several exclusive stories regarding the misconduct of local government officials. She is currently focused on issues related to anti-fraud, as well as threats and crimes in cyberspace. She is a Korean native who is fluent in English and French, and she is interested in delivering the news to a global audience.