Mobile apps are everywhere. In today’s world, you can find an app for almost anything you need to do. Want to order pizza? There’s an app for that. You’d also definitely find an app that reminds you to move after a long time sitting or offers you essential health tips. In fact, you may actually find it hard to choose a particular one from amongst the sheer number of options out there.
However, in the midst of all these, there’s a massive hitch: the issue of security. Cybercrimes are on the rise and mobile app companies are taking the hit. With cybercrimes happening every other second, it is very important that you secure your app to avoid becoming a cybersecurity victim. The slightest security breach can cost you millions or billions of dollars. You could ask Facebook about that.
But how do you boost the security of your mobile app? We’d find out in this article. Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?
Top Mobile App Security Risks
Before you hop right into developing a mobile app, it’s important to know the top mobile app security risks and which ones to watch out for. This way, you can easily secure your app and avoid any major breaches. Here are some of the top mobile app security risks to avoid:
The typical mobile app involves an exchange of data between the user and the server. When data is transmitted from the user to the application, the data transverses or travels through the internet and the device’s carrier network.
During this short window where the data is traversing, attackers may take advantage of any security vulnerabilities and then intercept sensitive user information or data.
There are several threat agents when it comes to insecure communication. It could be a seemingly insignificant malware on the user’s mobile device. On the other hand, it could be a malicious person who shares a local network with the user.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to ensure that communication of data is secure during mobile app development.
Lack of input validation
Wondering what input validation is? It is the process of assessing input data to ensure that it has been properly formed. In most cases, malformed data may trigger malfunctions in the app and cause it to glitch or stop working entirely. At this point, you’re probably wondering how this issue is a security risk. It’s simple.
When the mobile application does not validate input properly, there’s a high chance that attackers may put in malicious data and subsequently gain access to sensitive information or data.
To avoid this, input validation should take place the minute data is received from an external party or system.
Insecure data storage
Insecure data storage is just like a many-headed Hydra. It can occur in so many different places within the mobile app: from SQL databases to binary data stores and even cookie stores. In fact, there’s a huge chance that the app you’re developing right now does not have secure data storage.
Here’s one question most people ask: why is data storage so important? Well, when you use insecure storage, there’s a huge chance that it would be compromised or bypassed through jailbroken or rooted devices.
Attackers may easily circumvent your security protocols and gain access to the app’s database. In most cases, this security risk results in identity theft, privacy violations, fraud, and Intellectual Property (IP) loss.
Poor code quality
Poor code quality is one of the most notorious security risks associated with mobile applications. In fact, 6 out of 10 security breach cases are associated with poor code quality. Wondering why this security risk happens so often? Well, it’s simple.
A lot of mobile app developers often depend on automated tools to find security threats or memory leaks. Although these tools are efficient, they are not entirely trustworthy. In most cases, they may not identify all the threats in your app.
As such, it is advisable to use manual methods to review codes instead of relying solely on automated tools.
Here’s one thing you should know: authentication requirements for mobile apps are quite different from the requirements for web applications. This is because, in mobile apps, users don’t necessarily have to be online all the time during their sessions. While this may seem like a good scenario for users, it poses a huge security risk for developers. Poor authentication schemes can give attackers leeway to perform certain actions that may result in data theft or modification. In some cases, it could lead to a total compromise of backend services.
Remember how villains used to be killed with their own weapons in your favorite childhood movies? Well, the same scenario occurs in coding. Only this time, you’re not getting killed. Your code will simply be used against you.
Once an attacker is able to read your code, they can devise new means to attack and compromise your application. With reverse engineering, attackers can interpret the backend functions of the application and then modify the source code. As such, your very own code can pose a huge security risk if you aren’t careful.
What Can Hackers Do to Your Mobile App?
What exactly happens when a hacker gets access to the database of your mobile application? Just in case you don’t have a full grasp of the implications of getting hacked, here’s a quick breakdown of what hackers could do to your app:
- Tamper with the code of your app: Hackers could tamper with the written code of your mobile application and then present a false or fake version of your code.
- Intercept sensitive information: They could also gain access to sensitive information and intercept it.
- Jeopardize your company’s security: Hackers could gain access to your IP address and steal your intellectual property before you even realize what’s going on.
- Inject malware into the app: In some cases, hackers may inject malware or viruses into your app in order to gain access to data or keystrokes.
How to Increase App Security during Mobile App Development?
Now, it’s time to get to the question you clicked on this article in the first place to know the answer for. How can you increase security for apps?
The first thing you should know is that the development stage is the best time to boost the app’s security or make any adjustments. This way, you can push out a perfect, glitch-free application into the market. Remember the old saying that goes: “Make hay while the sun shines”?
Well, you have to make your app secure while the sun shines as well. Let’s find out how to do this.
Secure the application code
If you’ve ever watched a gory movie, you’d realize that killers often aim for the heart or guts when stabbing their victims. That’s exactly how hackers work too. When a hacker wants to attack, he aims for the heart of the app: its code.
The code is the core foundation of any mobile application. As such, its security is of the utmost importance. Mobile apps are more vulnerable to attacks since they exist completely on the user’s device. These vulnerabilities may be caused by an error in coding or a lack of proper code testing.
To avoid this, it is important that you secure the app’s code. For starters, you should encrypt the code to make it harder to read for attackers. You should equally test the app thoroughly to reduce the risk of attacks from hackers. To make the security process smoother, the code has to be easy to update.
However, even though security is important, the performance of the app might decline during the process. As such, it is necessary to keep factors like battery usage, performance, file size, and data consumption in mind.
Secure the backend
Whether your application’s API is accessing your own server or an external one, it is important that you put adequate security measures in place to prevent any breach of data. You have to use only trusted and verified APIs in order to protect your users’ sensitive information.
It is advisable to hire a network security specialist that would test for vulnerability regularly. This way, you can rest assured that your app is in top-notch condition.
In the same vein, try as much as possible to add extra layers of security such as VPN, SSL, and TLS to your database. This would help to reduce the chances of attackers gaining access to your database and then stealing sensitive information.
Multiple app testing
Even though this tip typically comes at the end of the list, we had to put it close to the top because it’s so important. It’s not enough to test your app just once or twice before pushing out. Imagine if engineers merely glanced casually at the engine of a plane that’s about to take off and then approved it for flight. There’d be more plane crashes than there are fishes in the sea.
Test your app multiple times to detect any vulnerabilities or errors in the code. If you aren’t sure what errors you should test for, start by carrying out penetration testing to ensure that there are no weaknesses in the system. Also test authentication, authorization, and issues concerning data security to ensure smooth functioning.
Check out our SDK Guide to find the best testing tool for your app
Focus on authentication at the early stages
When it comes to mobile app security, weak authentication can be the app’s Achilles’ heel. As such, it is a huge cause for concern. That’s why it is important to incorporate authentication at the early stages of app development. This way, you can avoid the risks and threats associated with this factor.
With authentication and authorization, developers can increase the app’s layers of security and make it harder for attackers to penetrate the database.
Pro Tip: Use JSON Web Tokens to ensure maximum security during data exchange.
Use data encryption
Achieving foolproof security isn’t exactly easy. However, you can achieve this by integrating data encryption into the app during its development. A lot of mobile apps out there are more vulnerable to data breaches because they need to store data locally in order to adjust performance.
If you’re looking to achieve maximum security, you can start by using file-level encryption. This way, hackers would not be able to read the data even if they managed to get their hands on it. If your mobile app has access to users’ sensitive information, ensure that it is stored in a secure server rather than on the device’s storage system.
Use only trusted third-party libraries
Usually, a lot of developers tend to integrate third-party libraries into their apps. Although this practice is quite popular, it’s not exactly the safest option out there. These third-party libraries come with a certain level of risk and may lead to security breaches.
If you have to integrate a third-party library into your app, ensure that you test its code thoroughly to prevent any future breaches or vulnerabilities.
When it comes to developing an app or building an android security app, it is important that you implement all the appropriate security measures. This way, you wouldn’t have to worry about breaches and your clients would feel safe when they use your app. Now that you’ve learned the best tips for boosting mobile app security, welcome to the club of secure mobile apps!