Thanks to the advent of technology, the number of mobile phone users are increasing day by day. You’ll be shocked to hear that by 2019, this number will cross the 5 billion mark! While mobile phones may have made our life easier, they have also opened up domains for many cybercriminals who are adapting and using new methods to profit from this rapidly growing number of potential victims.
What’s more, apps are used for nearly 90% of usage on mobile phones and tablets making it the number one source for cyber-attacks. People are using apps to access everything from online banking to shopping and even controlling home devices.
User data is like a goldmine for cybercriminals, as they can access anything from credit card details to email passwords and user contact lists. Users have also been scammed into downloading malicious adware, and at times, they unknowingly subscribe to fraud paid services.
This is why a lapse in any mobile app’s security is a daunting scenario for app owners and developers. According to a study, more than 60% of companies reported that an insecure mobile app caused a data breach, and 44% out of them did not take any immediate action to secure their app against further potential cyber attacks.
So, if you are an app owner or developer, start working towards certain frameworks and tools that provide ease and security to your users. Think about the ways you can avoid the mentioned security challenges and protect your app from cybercriminals.
To make your tasks easier, I have listed some of the mobile app security best practices that will benefit you as an owner and also provide your users with a safe and secure online experience.
1. Security by design
The first step towards securing any mobile app is to start by designing a threat model from the very beginning. Think like a hacker and identify every shortfall of your app’s design. Only then will it be possible to implement effective security strategies. You can also hire a professional security team to play the fake bad guys. It is a great way to test the security of your app as they throw different vulnerabilities at you.
Furthermore, if you are a growing eCommerce business and want to develop an online shopping app that can process sensitive information such as financial transactions and credit card credentials, consider the consequences that will occur if a security breach occurs. Ask yourself: in what ways can user privacy be compromised, and how you can prevent it from happening?
Keeping safety as a number one concern from the very beginning will give you ample motivation regarding security measures for your app.
2. Mobile device management
Online security starts with the device that the consumer is using to access your app. Each mobile operating system requires a different approach for its security, whether it is an iOS or an Android system. Developers must understand that the data stored on any device can drive potential security threats.
This is why you should consider encryption methods like 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard to keep data safe in the form of files, databases, and other data sources. Also, when you are formulating the mobile app security strategy, keep the encryption key management in mind.
In the case of Apple, it has strict policy enforcement practices. Being an app owner, you can restrict any user from installing your app if you feel that the security of the user device seems compromised.
One of the most effective ways to manage iOS devices is to take help of mobile device management (MDM) or enterprise mobile management (EMM) product. There are many vendors such as MobileIron, MaaS360, and Good Technology that offer their services in this regard. Apart from this, you can use the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol as a policy management tool if you are looking for a cheaper and easier to use option.
Android phones, on the other hand, are a bit trickier to manage. Since they are relatively cheaper as compared to iOS devices, they often become a source of a security breach. You should only be using Android for Work (A4W) in the enterprise. This version of Android encrypts the device and separates personal and professional apps into two categories.
With the combination of the right devices, updated mobile operating systems and MDM, you can provide first level security for your mobile app.
3. App wrapping
App wrapping is a term that is used to define a methodology that segments your app from the rest of the device by capturing it in a secure environment. You will automatically get this option if you are taking help from an MDM provider. Just set a few parameters, and you can segment your apps without any coding required.
4. Strong user authentication
One of the most crucial components of mobile app security is to implement strong user authentication and authorization. You never know who is accessing your app. A seemingly simple question, “Who are you?,” can help secure your device against malware and hackers.
User authentication must include all aspects of user privacy, identity and session management and device security features. Try to enforce 2FA (two-factor authentication) or an MFA (multi-factor authentication). You can get technologies like OpenID Connect protocol or OAuth 2.0 authorization framework on board.
5. Hardening the OS
Another way to secure mobile apps is by hardening the operating system. There is a wide variety of methods in which you can do it. From day one, Apple has done a great job in enforcing security within its operating system. You can use these tools for iOS security:
- Read the quarterly reviews of Apple’s security guide.
- Check out the latest code samples at Apple’s developer site.
- Analyze static code using a commercial tool.
6. Apply security to APIs
Make sure that you use APIs to manage all app data and business logic. API is a very useful tool for the mobile world, as they are the crown jewels for any enterprise. All data, whether it is in transit or at rest, should be secured.
For data in transit, you can use SSL with 256-bit encryption. For data at rest, you should secure the origin of the data as well as the device itself.
Remember, each API should have an app-level authentication. Make sure you validate who is using the service and limit sensitive data to memory as it can easily be wiped off.
When it comes to addressing your mobile application’s security, think that all mobile devices accessing the app are insecure and hackers can easily capture the data flowing to and fro from your app. It doesn’t mean that you’re overly paranoid.
These assumptions will help you stay on top of your security game, and you will always look out for new ways to harden the security of your mobile app against the most common security failures.
There are many other practices with which you can toughen up the security of your app, but these 6 tips will give you a basic framework that can be applied to any business, irrespective of its size. Which strategies do you use to protect your mobile app against cyber attacks?
About the Author: Mehul Rajput is a CEO and co-founder of Mindinventory, a mobile app development company. He’s an avid blogger and writes on mobile technologies, mobile app, startup and business.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.