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With every passing year, there is an exponential increase in the usage of mobile apps. There are more internet-connected mobile devices now than there are humans in the world, and mobile apps in the US alone account for 86% of the internet usage!
Mobile apps are usually available through online app distributors such as Google Play Store, Apple App Store, Windows Store, etc., and are the dominant form of delivering content and value to mobile phone users around the world. Organizations and global enterprises have also embraced mobile apps in order to improve employee productivity, while aligning themselves with a younger, more connected workforce.
Mobile Application Security - The Need of the Hour
To frame it as simply as possible, most people aren't even thinking about mobile app security when using their phone to pay for a coffee at Starbucks, or playing the latest game while commuting, or even while performing online transactions on their mobile banking app.
Here are some stats -
100% of the top 100 paid apps in the Google Play Store have been hacked till date
56% of the top 100 paid apps in the Apple App Store have been hacked
The amount of malicious mobile malware infections increases by a whopping 163% year upon year
These numbers are even more alarming when you consider that most organizations today follow a BYOD (Bring your own device) policy which allows their employees to merge professional and personal interests together into a single mobile device. 84% consumers in the USA use a single device for both their work and private work, thereby reducing the ability of the company's IT department to confidently secure access to confidential enterprise data.
Hacked and cracked mobile apps create the potential for -
Major revenue loss
Unauthorized access to critical enterprise and user data
Intellectual property theft
Therefore, as an application developer, the biggest question you need to answer before you decide to publish your app should be - How do I secure my app against any malicious intent?
You can start off by going through our carefully compiled mobile app security tips which will provide you with a framework to address the security challenges faced during the creation and deployment of a mobile app.
10 Mobile Application Security Tips
The way mobile apps are developed and delivered to the end user is quite different from a normal software development cycle. Our mobile app security tips have been compiled by seasoned mobile app developers, testers, and hackers and will help you secure your mobile apps for better end user experience.
Source Code Encryption
Mobile malware often taps bugs and vulnerabilities within the design and source code of the mobile application. Recent reports suggest that malicious code infects more than 12 million mobile devices at any given time, and the most common way attackers do it is by repackaging popular apps into "rogue apps" and publishing the same.
Understand Platform-specific Limitations
If you are developing for multiple mobile operating systems, it is better to understand the security features as well as the limitations of the platform, and then code accordingly. You should also take into account different user case scenarios, encryption support, password support, and geo-location data support for the OS in order to appropriately control and distribute the app on your chosen platforms.
Make Provisions for Data Security
When a mobile application accesses enterprise or other confidential data, unstructured information generally gets stored within the device storage. Mobile data encryption can be effectively used to secure the data in a sandbox, and can this can be done by using SQLite Database Encryption Modules or by offering file-level encryption across multiple Operating systems.
Support Integration with MAM/MDM
MDM (Mobile device management) and MAM (mobile app management) solutions are now being supported by various organizations to mitigate app and device related threats. With the help of MDM and MAM, organizations can create enterprise app stores for regulated distribution, wrapping employee apps within multiple security layers, remotely wipe app and device data, etc.
By providing inbuilt support for various MDM/MAM vendors such as Good Technologies, AirWatch, Apperian, etc. you can ensure your app security always remains of the highest order.
Secure the Data-in-transit
Sensitive information which is sent from the client to backend servers needs to be protected in order to ensure zero privacy leaks and data theft. Developers can easily ensure that user data remains behind strict security measures by employing support for VPN or SSL tunnels, thereby protecting data from eavesdropping and theft.
Secure the Backend
A large number of backend APIs assume that only an app which has been written to access it can interact with it. The truth, though, is far from it. Backend servers should have security measures in place to safeguard against malicious attacks. Therefore, ensure all APIs are verified based on the mobile platform you intend to code for, since transport mechanisms and API authentication can differ from platform to platform.
Prevent Unintended Data Leakage
When a user interacts with your app, they agree to certain permissions, which allow brands and businesses, and even you to glean crucial personal customer information. By ethically implementing advertising and using secure analytics providers, you can ensure that your user data never gets unintentionally leaked to hackers or malicious business vendors.
Use the Latest Cryptography Techniques
Most popular cryptography algorithms such as MD5 and SHA1 have proven to be insufficient for modern day security requirements. Therefore, it is imperative that you always remain updated with the latest in security algorithm technology, and whenever possible, use modern encryption methods such as AES with 256-bit encryption and SHA-256 for hashing. At the same time, you should also perform manual penetration testing and threat modeling on your app before it goes live, for fool proof security.
Minimize Storage of Sensitive Data
If possible, make provisions such that the confidential user data never gets stored within the device or in your servers. This is because unnecessarily storing user data adds to your risk levels. If you do have to store data and there is no way around it, use encrypted data containers or key chains, while using cookies for stored passwords. Finally, minimize your reliance on logs, and make sure they get automatically deleted after a set interval of time.
Perform a Thorough QA and Security Check
As the last security tip for mobile apps, never hesitate to test your application against randomly generated security scenarios before eventual deployment. If your budget allows, you can even hire a hacker who could help you identifying security backdoors within an application you thought was sound enough. Many companies such as Google and Microsoft hold Hackathons where hundreds of hackers try to find security issues within their apps for prize money.
If you are an independent developer, then make sure you read up documentation and seek outside help to find out hidden backdoors within your app. Always remember that a stable, secure app can lead to significant end-user satisfaction, ensuring better business prospects for you.
Choose Flatworld Solutions for Secure Mobile App Development
Flatworld Solutions (FWS) has been a prominent and well-respected mobile app development service provider for the past 16 years. We have developed numerous successful apps for iOS, Android, and Windows, and our experienced developers take mobile app security very seriously.
Throughout the development phase, our developers take appropriate measures to mitigate risks, evaluate and remove vulnerabilities, and ensure the mobile app they develop has hard-baked security features from the get-go.
Contact us now and experience the benefits of a highly secure and robust app, which works seamlessly across multiple platforms.