Mobile application security development is one of the fastest growing sectors of the cyber security industry—and with good reason. It’s hard to go a week without seeing a news story about cybercriminals attacking the servers of even the most well-known companies, such as Microsoft, TikTok, and Uber. And as mobile apps continue to progress, cybercriminals will continue to find new ways to exploit users’ sensitive data and financial information.
While there’s no doubt that mobile app security is far more developed than in the early 2000s when one bad LimeWire file could crash your entire computer, it’s essential to look for ways to improve safety for users. Application security must constantly evolve in the face of new cybercriminal threats from across the globe.
What is Application Security?
Mobile app security is a term that describes how apps prevent threats and keep data or code from being stolen or corrupted by outside parties. Application security encompasses a wide range of utilities designed to prevent intrusions, such as software, firewalls, hardware, and procedures. Mobile app security best practices involve actively testing for security weak points and areas vulnerable to attack.
Why Is Mobile App Security Important?
People spend a lot of time on mobile devices, sending emails, shopping, checking the news, logging into their bank accounts, and more. When users log in to a mobile app, their data—such as location, purchase history, interests, dislikes, and more—is used by businesses to improve their products or services. However, in the wrong hands, all of that data can be used to harm the user.
The dangers of poor application security are numerous. The most common threats are malware and hackers gaining customer information such as credit card numbers, email addresses, banking information, and other passwords.
Additionally, cybercriminals may use weak app security to create clones of intellectual property, hack into saved financial information, or blackmail companies into paying large sums of money to regain access to a hacked system.
What Are The Main Types of Application Security?
Many applications are accessible through services such as the cloud, which may increase susceptibility to security risks. Testing vulnerabilities at the network level is key to improving safety within the application. Some of the main types of mobile application security features vital to any app include:
Data encryption, as the name implies, encrypts data so that it is inaccessible without a proper cipher, making it more difficult for criminals to use any encrypted information they might intercept.
Authentication and Authorization Factors
When a mobile application forces users to authenticate their identity, it provides an extra level of safety to confirm that a user is who they claim to be. A system with authorization factors in place validates that a user has the correct permissions to access the account by comparing it against a database of authorized users, limiting access to potential intruders.
Logging data for potential breaches ensures a record of evidence for any intrusions that occur, making it easier to fix vulnerable points in a system and prevent future attacks.
How to Build a More Secure App
So, what can you do to ensure your mobile app is prepared for any security threats that may come its way? If you are wondering how to secure an app, here are a few mobile app security best practices:
1. Always Follow Google’s Mobile App Security Best Practices (For Android App Security)
Android OS applications are particularly vulnerable to the Open Web Application Security Project’s (OWASP) top ten security risks for web developers, so it’s crucial to minimize risk by following Google’s best practice recommendations for mobile operating systems. Additionally, developers should pay close attention to Android updates, which may release patches to fix potential vulnerabilities.
Android devices that have been rooted/jailbroken by the device owner (usually to download apps outside of the Android store or customize their phone beyond the native OS’s capabilities, destabilizing Android’s security features) are more susceptible to attacks by hackers who exploit the gaps in native security features. By choosing options for your mobile application that prevent it from being run by rooted phones, you automatically protect it from unnecessary security threats.
2. Run Threat Model Risk Analysis on Your Mobile Application
It’s important to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie—and which parts of your application need careful monitoring to prevent potential threats from spiraling out of control.
You can gain this information by running threat-modeling exercises to prepare you for attacks. These exercises find any holes in your system and prevent any future data leaks due to insecure firewalls, third-party integration weaknesses, and external scams (typically in the form of malware via text messaging, email, or social media).
3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Weak passwords are a significant source of app vulnerability, so utilizing multi-factor authentication methods provides a cushion of security for users with passwords that criminals easily guess. Multi-factor authentication offers at least two points of password entry (such as email or text message) and prevents fraudulent attempts to hack into an account.
4. Implement Apple PassKey
PassKey is one of the newest features that Apple rolled out with the most recent iOS 16.1 and 16.2 updates. It seeks to essentially do away with easily deciphered passwords, replacing them with more secure passkeys.
Widely considered far superior to passwords in terms of security, this form of user authentication will likely become the staple of security in the near future. In a nutshell, passkeys take multi-factor authentication to the next level. They are saved on a user’s device and create a unique signature that confirms possession of the passkey when signing in to a website.
A passkey is also more secure because it is never shared with other people, unlike passwords, which are often shared with website or app operators.
5. Forced Session Logouts
The longer a user is left logged into an application, the more prone their account becomes to attack, specifically when they have logged into something using a public device. Often, users forget to log out of an app, so your application must enforce incremental logouts to protect their data from unwanted intruders.
6. Consult Cyber Security Analysts
If you don’t already have cyber security experts working on your app, it’s vital to hire a team that can enhance security measures by evaluating your app’s overall security through penetration testing, which is used to check for weak spots in your app’s security methods. And even if you have an in-house team of cybersecurity pros, it’s still a great idea to consider an external review from an outside firm.
7. Use a Secure Database or Server to Host Your Application
A weak server without security features can leave your application vulnerable to attacks. Investing in a secure hosting site or server helps keep your application and visitors safe from threats and attacks.
Your brand’s image is shaped by the public’s trust in your company, so if you don’t prioritize mobile app security, you’ll likely encounter cybersecurity problems. In today’s world, it’s not a matter of if but when.
Application security is complex. Are you concerned that your app is not as secure as it should be or looking to develop a new app following app security best practices? Let’s connect!
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