There are 3.5 billion smartphone users around the world. As mobile users skyrocket, the dependency on mobile applications increases manifolds.
Different apps are available for online banking transactions, instant messaging with friends, online shopping, and everything one can think of.
These apps also help businesses gather vital information about their customers like location, preferences, contact information, and much more. If this data ends up in the wrong hands, it could lead to risky fraud and cyber attacks. Therefore, the need for mobile app security is paramount.
This article will walk you through mobile app security and the industry best practices to maintain it.
What is mobile app security?
Mobile application security is a phenomenon to secure applications from external attacks like malware and other malicious frauds.
As the mobile apps have access to the personal information of the users, a breach in security can not only leak these details but also give out real-time information related to the location and exact address of the customers.
Impact of feeble mobile app security
Consumers usually, are less informed about the security of mobile applications and are completely dependent on the company to secure their personal information. Companies, naturally, are more responsible for maintaining mobile app security.
However, IBM, in one of its studies, shows contrary results.
Confidential information such as login credentials, bank OTPs and PINs can leak information such as geographical location and bank account details to the hackers. Anubis Banking Trojan is a common example in this category, which enters devices using compromised mobile applications, some of which are even hosted on the official Android Play Store.
Once the malware enters these devices, it can read messages, access contact lists, and request permission to get the device location, making it more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Hackers can easily access debit cards and credit card numbers to make bank transactions that do not require OTPs. Researchers from Kaspersky discovered a banking trojan called the Ginp, which can steal user information like credit card credentials from the device. Its ability to control banking functions via SMSes can be very dangerous and lead to major financial losses to the customers.
Hackers get the code from the app to create illegal clones or simply steal the company’s intellectual property that owns the app. The more successful an app is, the more duplicates it is likely to attract to the app stores.
Revenue loss to the mobile application company
Trojans and malware can also access premium utility features from the app, which are generally paid for by the customers, and can be a major source of revenue for the app.
Common flaws in mobile applications security
Mobile applications are not created to securely exchange information over the Internet; rather, it focuses on providing a smooth interface for customers for a specific purpose like banking or messaging.
Therefore, installing another application, maybe an antivirus app, may secure the network and prevent cyber attacks. Still, it cannot protect against weak passwords or sub-standard design of the application.
>Improper Platform Usage
>Insecure data storage
>Poor quality of the code
Common threats faced by all mobile applications
A) Lack of encryption
Encryption, in layman terms, means anything that is locked, protected, or secured and needs a key to decrypt or decode. Using high-level encryption would ensure safe data exchange.
B) Malicious Code
Hackers can easily inject malicious codes into mobile applications via user forms and access the server data. For example, some online forms do not restrict the type of characters a user can input in the field of these forms. This allows hackers a free entry to inject malicious code and access confidential information.
C) Binary Planting
Binary planting is when an attacker puts a binary file containing malicious code or trojan on a local file system of the device and gain control over it. Binary planting can be carried out via phishing links, forcing users to click and compromising their device’s security.
D) Mobile Botnets
Of course! The concept of cyber-security is incomplete without mentioning how bots can breach them.
Mobile botnets aim to gain complete control over the device and send emails, SMSes and even make repetitive phone calls to access private data such as photos and contact lists.
Best practices to mitigate mobile app security threats
These best practices ensure that mobile applications are risk-free and do not give free entry to hackers. While developing the app, it should be made sure that all security checks are tested and performed before the app is made public on any platform.
Apps that are public-facing and are the main source of communication between the customers and organizations are often the soft target for hackers. These apps are built keeping in mind that they need to be compatible with all types of devices. This approach, however, makes the app more vulnerable to malicious attacks and manipulation.
Developers should focus on creating watertight applications and maintaining a more stringent filter mechanism to mitigate any type of cyber-attacks.
Following is the list of best practices app developers can use to create a secure app for their users.
A) Analyze the risk thoroughly
Developers can run a threat-modeling mechanism to zero in on a specific threat. For example, data leaks can occur via applications having porous firewalls. Once the firewall is breached, personal data can be accessed, and malicious code can also be injected into the application and the device.
More such examples of risk can be infrastructure exposure, where APIs are required to exchange data and carry out various functions. If not monitored carefully, these vulnerabilities can lead to server-level security and user information breaches.
Developers should make sure these and other common security threats are checked for and tested before the final rollout of the mobile application.
B) Selecting the right architecture
Developers should first consider whether the application will be released on a commercial platform or disseminated through the organization’s channels. It is no secret that the applications released via private media are less likely to face security threats like reverse engineering.
Currently, there are three types of architectural options available for mobile application development, Native, Hybrid, and Pure web-based. These have their advantages and disadvantages and either compromise security or performance.
A jailbroken device, for example, can make a mockery of an application developed on a Native platform. Developers should be careful while choosing among these architectures and focus on getting the best results in terms of functionality and security.
C) Setting up minimal application permissions
Permissions give applications the freedom and power to operate effectively. However, they make the application more vulnerable to attacks and misuse. Developers should ensure that their applications do not seek permissions beyond their functional area.
D) Safeguarding sensitive data
One way to do this is to cut down the amount of data stored on the device and minimize the risk of reverse-engineering codes and malicious attacks.
E) Not saving passwords
Most applications, including banking apps, request users to save passwords, which can be easily stolen in the event of cyber theft. To mitigate this risk, developers should save passwords on the server instead. This would allow users to change the passwords via servers even if their device is not working.
F) Enforce regular session logouts
It is often observed that users tend to forget that they need to log out from websites or apps they are using. For financial apps, this could be harmful, and therefore, it is important to end the session for the user at regular intervals for increased security. Developers should keep this in mind for all customer-centric apps, even if the audience is highly educated and literate.
G) Multi-factor authentication is a must
An added layer of security for all your digital activities like email or applications can save you from malicious attacks more times than you think and cover-up for weak passwords. Multi-factor authentication requires a secret code and the password that must be entered to log in. This could be an email, SMS, or phone call.
Unless businesses and mobile application development teams understand that the impact of weak mobile app security goes above and beyond the loss of data and revenue and impacts the overall brand reputation, cyber-attacks would be a common phenomenon.
In this article, we learned about the different types of threats and vulnerabilities a mobile app can face and how it impacts customer experience and security. It is important to find app development services that are secure and safe for customers and businesses alike.
If you’re looking for secure mobile app developers, our team can assist you! Get in touch with Copper Mobile now.