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Mobile App Security: Ways to Protect Your App in The Future

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Mobile App Security: Ways to Protect Your App in The Future

Learn how to integrate security protocols into your application during the development process, and get a leg up on potential attackers.

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Mobile App Security: Ways to Protect Your App in The Future

The mobile app market has grown tremendously as enterprises bring in innovative products and services for the users. However, malicious hackers are targeting applications with sophisticated attacks. Therefore, the security of mobile apps has become a top-level concern for all stakeholders.

The app market is huge, and in the coming years, it is estimated that there will be almost 2 billion smartphone users worldwide by the end of 2017 and that the app market will be worth $77 billion.

During a research study conducted by HPE, almost 2000 mobile applications from over 600+ companies were tested. The results show that:

  • Around 97% of tested apps access at least one form of private information from that application's user.

  • 18% of applications sent user names and passwords over HTTP; 18% implemented SSL/HTTPS incorrectly.

  • 75% of applications do not use correct encryption methods for the storage of data from the mobile device.

  • 71% of applications failed to use binary hardening protections against cyber-attacks.

Recently, there has been a major shift in the app security field, bringing AppSec to the fore. App security is a big area. Therefore, it is important to know the current trends in AppSec and how well you can align them with the needs of your organization.

Common App Security Threats

The most common security threats in mobile applications are:

1) Threats in App Store Security: The type of platform chosen for the mobile application development does impact security, as nearly 90% of applications on the market have some kind of vulnerability.

In the case of iOS devices, Apple takes app security seriously and allows the users to access the level of the apps used. But Android devices tend to have more app security issues than that of iOS due to Android’s wider range of device type, operating system, and more App Store requirements.

2) Cross Device Threats:App stores aren’t the only place where secure information should be provided, and not only to mobile devices. Many stores allow users to download apps from desktop devices and later add them to mobile devices. This is how cross-device threats occur.

3) IoT Devices: The aim of IoT devices is to collect user data and use that information to make ‘smart’ automation decisions. In the case of Android devices, IoT devices allow connections with many other operating systems making the security of the devices at risk and difficult to control.

4) Usage of Single Devices: Enterprise-level applications contain sensitive corporate information, which has to be kept secure in all possible ways. As most of the employees use a single device for all purposes, sensitive information can get mixed with personal information, thus, risking security.

5) Mobile Malware: Mobile phones are susceptible to Trojans, spyware, and viruses. These can steal confidential data.

6) Unauthorized Access: Unauthorized users can access email accounts, applications, social media networks, and many more details.

Best Practices to Protect Your Application

Let’s look at a few steps for mobile app security:

1) Secure App Code

Encryption is the best method to protect the app code. Stick to modern, well-assisted algorithms that are incorporated using API encryption.

  • Use source code tests to check for vulnerabilities.

  • The app code should be transferable between the operating system and the device.

  • Runtime memory, file size, performance, data usage, etc., should be noted while adding security.

2) Include Authorisation, Identification, and Authentication

APIs, authorization, and authentication add security to the login of an app. Make sure that the app's APIs provide access only to the necessary parts of the app. This minimizes vulnerability.

  • Standard protocol OAuth2 is used to secure connections. Installing this protocol collects credentials and then allows permissions between the end-user and client

  • JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is ideal for encrypted data exchange.

  • OpenID Connect allows for the reuse of same credentials within multiple domains.

3) Apps Should Be Secured From the Backend

Servers should have security measures to prevent unauthorized access and protect confidential data. APIs that access the servers should be verified before passing from the client to the database and an app’s server.

  • Containerization is a method to securely store documents and data.

  • Penetration testing (testing a network/Web application to find vulnerabilities) should be done by consulting with a network security specialist to ensure data protection.

  • Encryption using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), VPN (Virtual Private Network) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) add an extra layer of security to your app.

4) Implement Mobile Encryption Policy

Some kinds of apps release user data without permission. Here, data is protected on a file-by-file basis.

•  Key Management should be a priority.

5) Repeated Testing of App Software

This is the most crucial step in the mobile app development process. While testing your app, make sure that security is tested along with usability and functionality tests. Emulators for operating systems, devices, and browsers let you test how an app performs.

6) Solid API Security Strategy

Solid APIs are the main channel for functionality, content, and data. Ensuring proper security of your API is important. The main security methods in an API security stack are authentication, authorization, and identification.

7) Increasing Code Complexity

Making your app more complex internally can make it difficult for the hackers to attack the app.

8) Protect Internal Resources

A resource that does not require public Internet access should be restricted using network segmentation and firewall rules. Compromising on administration or other resources can lead to extensive damage.

9) Avoiding Catching App Data and Crash Logs

Developers can configure Android and iOS devices by preventing HTTP caching. Also, avoid caching of page data and URL history for any app processes. In the case of crash logs, ensure that released apps are built without warnings popping up and are tested to avoid crashes.

10) Implement ATS (App Transport Security)

Ensure secure connections between the backend server and your app. When ATS is enabled, HTTP connections are forced to use HTTP and any attempts to connect with devices using insecure HTTP will fail.

Many consumer and enterprise mobile apps work on a single device; but, they appear to act independently with different functionalities. However, without proper security built into mobile applications, hidden integrations and data hacking are definite possibilities. 

Some of us think that cyber-attacks happen only to big corporations; however, the reality is that we all are potentially at risk even while doing something as simple as downloading a mobile app to your smartphone. Follow best practices and rely on security experts to keep your app safe from threats.

Find out how Synopsys can help you build security and quality into your SDLC and supply chain. We offer application testing and remediation expertise, guidance for structuring a software security initiative, training, and professional services for a proactive approach to application security.

security ,appsec ,application development

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