The growth of mobile app usage has only been an upward graph in the recent years. But as they say, “With great powers, comes great responsibilities.”
And so it is for mobile apps. They can bestow tremendous benefits to any organizations when implemented properly, yet to safeguard those benefits requires a broad set of security measures.
Mobile app security works in a different manner than it does for any traditional application. For example, if you are a developer building a web app, your business logic, and your code pertains to a secure backend web or application server on a cloud or a data center. Whereas, the client side of a website, is a mere user interface, accessing the data and functionalities from these backend servers through the internet.
Time to market is key in the latest mobile universe, and developers building mobile apps more often than not work in a much smaller chunk of the time they would normally take to build a web app. In a rush to put out the best mobile apps, developers often forego the implementation of appropriate levels of security.
That is why we have created this quick checklist that you can follow to secure your mobile apps:
- Source Code Encryption
Much of the code in a native mobile app, resides on the client side providing both the UI components and the local business logic. Mobile malware often eye the vulnerabilities in the code and design of the mobile applications they target. Prior to a vulnerability being exploited, attackers can retrieve a public copy of an application and reverse-engineer the application. Your code can be ransacked and re-published into “rogue apps” which contain malicious code, and are then posted on third-party app stores to trick oblivious users to install them, and compromise their devices.
In organizations and enterprises, developers should be aided with tools to detect and close security vulnerabilities and later make their applications concrete against tampering and reverse engineering. Minimization and obfuscation can make the code harder to interpret but doesn’t ensure secrecy. The need to keep your code secret is a dire need. Encryption provides the most reliable and highest security rendering it completely unreadable.
- File-level and database encryption
Fluctuating connection quality and bandwidth on mobile devices not only implies that more client-side code is needed, but it also implies more data is stored on a device. Unlike the desktop applications which assume a reliable and ever-present connection; mobile apps need to reside on the device itself. The structure of this disparity has a major impact on security, inviting concerns that conventional apps don’t have to compete with. Most developers store the data on local file system or use the mobile database SQLite Database. By default, these don’t encrypt the data, and hence leave a major loophole for vulnerabilities.
Utilizing modules that can encrypt the data and offer file-level encryption can be useful to a very great extent to amplify security. It will also allow enterprises to preserve the user experience by storing data on the device, without ceding security.
- Protect data in transit
Data which are sensitive being sent from the client to servers needs to be shielded to avoid privacy leaks. This might seem like a no-brainer for those familiar with web security, but ignorance is not always bliss. The ignorance of mobile app development implies that most mobile apps out there are not providing the needed level of security. To safeguard the data being sent from a client to a server, usage of either SSL or VPN tunnel is highly advisable, as they protect data in transit from eavesdropping.
Risk-aware transaction execution should be adopted by organizations to restrict client-side functionalities based on policies that regard mobile risk factors (e.g., user location, security of a network, device security attributes, etc.). Even when client-side transactions are permitted, enterprise apps can weigh an enterprise mobile risk to equate risk factors and assess the account from two locations – data access profiles and user access patterns. This outlook prolongs the enterprise’s capability to detect and respond to complex attacks.
- Secure the Device
A mobile application is only as secure as the phone it is stored on. A ‘rooted’ or a ‘jailbroken’ mobile phone means that the phone’s authentic software restrictions have been compromised, allowing root access to file manager. These devices are vulnerable to malware and can pose an execution risk for some enterprise mobile applications. Jailbreak technologies have been evolving rapidly to dodge detection; it is essential for the organizations to cope with these mechanisms and adopt approaches that dynamically measure the security of the device, to keep up with the threats.
By making applications ‘risk-aware’, enterprises can restrain specific functionalities, remove sensitive data, and cease access to enterprise resources. Enterprises are advised not to rely entirely on the native app development platforms. iOS, a closed system, is also not immune to mobile threats and attacks. As far as Android is concerned, it gives more liberty to application developers. It is difficult for hackers to phish the existing codes if the developer is developing on C++; while it becomes considerably easier for the cyber attackers to hack and inject their malicious codes if JAVA is being used for the sensitive fragments of code. Choose intelligent sources and reputed application services that are cutting-edge, in order to keep track of the apps and their associated risks, as they enter the mobile app stores daily.
- Conduct Penetration Testing for your Apps
One of the most crucial ways to avoid security risks is by properly pen testing your mobile applications against various security vulnerabilities. Pen Testing should involve hacking into mobile applications in a real-time environment, simulating various types of both general and mobile specific attacks and replicate the attacker’s actions to retrieve confidential information. As devices start to vary tremendously in terms of features and operating systems, there are unique challenges for conducting penetration tests. This method is a dire necessity to look for loopholes in a system that could potentially give access to the mobile’s data and features. And that brings us to our final point…
Find the Right Cyber Security Partner
Acknowledging your limitations when it boils down to security capacities is the first step in overcoming the issues related to security of your app. You can then eradicate your vulnerabilities and develop effective cyber defenses. The immediate step will be to find a partner — an enterprise or an organization that could bring you threat intelligence from its experience and analysis of your data. Ethical hacking should also be incorporated to feel out the defenses for any vulnerabilities and thus, strengthen your security stance.
Finding the right cyber security partner, both reputable and certified, is crucial to meet your company’s unique needs to secure your mobile apps.