The mobile app market has grown large and still continues to expand. However, nearly 97% of the apps access some or the other private information of users, while the security of the app may be compromised due to many reasons. This necessitates app security, and it is no longer a feature or a benefit. Mobile app developers and other stakeholders thus need to understand the common app security threats and focus greatly on protecting the mobile apps from these threats right from the initial stages of mobile app development.
Importance of app security
Enterprise applications and businesses exchange exceedingly sensitive information have a large part of their data on a cloud now, which can be easily accessed through modern apps. So, losing this data due to security errors not only makes them lose their money but also a lifetime of trust of their clients if app security is compromised. Moreover, a large part of life-critical information of the users is out in the air through apps in the present scenario where people are grossly engaged with their smartphones and apps. Lack of security or correct data encryption methods in the apps, makes all user details such as the name, age, gender, address, account numbers, and even the current location to be accessed by cybercriminals.
Major app security threats
- SSL/HTTPS is either implemented incorrectly or not implemented at all in certain applications. Thus, the usernames and passwords are still being sent over HTTP.
- The encryption methods used by many applications on a mobile device do not store data correctly.
- Many applications are unable to use binary hardening protections against cyber-attacks.
- The platform on which the app is built also determines its app store security. Apps built for Android devices report more security issues than iOS apps because of the wider range of Android device types and more app store requirements.
- Many apps can be downloaded on other devices and are then transferred to mobiles, bringing in the cross-device threat.
- Mobile malware such as spyware, Trojans, and viruses may steal confidential data from mobiles.
- With the use of IoT devices having much user data for taking ‘smart’ automation decisions, security of the devices is difficult to control and at risk.
- In enterprises, with employees using the same device for personal and sensitive information handling risks security of data.
Different ways to enhance the security of apps
There has, however, been a major shift in app security and it is being given more attention due to the kind of data and information that is at stake. App security is a vast area, and mobile app developers need to know the trends available and be aware of how to protect their users and clients. Here are the different ways in which mobile app developers can build security in their apps.
#1: You need to make your app’s code secure from the beginning itself
Your app may be vulnerable due to some development error, failure to test the code, or it may be the specific target of a hacker. Attackers try to reverse engineer your code and tamper with it, so you need to encrypt your code from the very beginning, harden it, sign it, obscure and minify it. This prevents its reverse engineering. Repeated testing and bug fixes at regular intervals also keep your apps secure. Your app code should also be agile enough to be updated and patched at the user end after a breach.
#2: Secure customer data and implement an excellent mobile encryption policy
All data exchanged over your app must be encrypted to avoid the data thieves from reading or misusing the data, even if stolen. Encryption is a powerful tool to protect data, and you can use file-level encryption to protect data on a file-by-file basis. The database and connections should be encrypted using VPN (virtual private network), TLS (transport layer security), or SSL (secure sockets layer), to add extra security.
#3: Use authorised APIs and high-level authentication
By using identified, centrally authorised, and authenticated APIs, you can secure a large part of mobile apps. By ignoring these three features of the apps API, you can unintentionally provide a hacker privilege they can misuse gravely. The conduit of data takes place through these APIs between applications and different users, and all of them need to be authorised and verified for using this data. Moreover, the app should be designed to accept strong authentication, such as through strong alphanumeric passwords that need to be renewed every six months or so. Some apps are already using multi-factor authentication that uses a combination of static password and dynamic OTP. Authentication can be enhanced further by using biometric authentication like fingerprints and retina scan, to protect overly sensitive apps.
#4: Secure the network connections of your app on the backend
Servers and cloud servers that your app will be accessing should have adequate security measures to protect confidential data and prevent unauthorised access. Containerization should be used to store the documents and data securely. Federation and penetration testing should be done to test the APIs during data conduit.
#5: Test the software of your app repeatedly
App security is a never-ending process as new threats keep emerging and new solutions are needed. So, when you test your app for usability and functionality, test for security as well. You should use emulators, penetration testing, and threat modelling with each update and fix them with patches as and when required.
Everyone is now becoming more aware of the importance of cybersecurity and organisations, and consumers are taking security more seriously than ever. The list can go endlessly with many new ways to protect your app. We have stated the significant steps you need to take for tightening the security of your app. You can keep your clients and users happy by differentiating and creating a trust value by implementing these security checks.