5 things you should know about mobile app security


In the digital world of 2020, two topics eclipse most others for companies. These are mobile apps and security. Today there are more cyber threats than ever to companies and keeping company and consumer data safe is of the utmost importance. Also, as employee and consumer behavior continue to evolve, mobile apps have a larger and larger presence in all aspects of business. As Digital Authority Partners points out in their mobile app development guide, more than 70% of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices. While keeping mobile devices themselves, systems and networks secure is something companies spend a lot of time and money on, securing mobile apps can sometimes lag behind even though it is of equal importance. Here are 5 things you should know about mobile app security. 

  1. It starts with coding

The way cybercriminals attack a mobile app most often is by taking advantage of bugs or weaknesses in the coding of the app. If your code is not secure, it allows bad actors to get into the backend of your app and create havoc. According to the cybersecurity company Tripwire, malicious code is affecting over 11.6 million mobile devices at any given time. This shows you exactly what a huge problem it is if the coding of your app is not spot on.

There are certain very technical steps you can take to combat this but the general idea is coding in a way that makes it as hard as possible to break into or reverse engineer. The non-technical steps your company can take to ensure this is to test the app as many times as you can before release to ensure that there are no bugs. When bugs are discovered, the app should be designed so that these bugs can be fixed quickly and easily. Also, after release, the app’s coding should allow for quick and efficient updates so when a problem is found, it can be solved before it turns into a major breach.

  1. Make it black and white 

There are two main ways to test the security of an app your company is developing. These are white box testing and black box testing. Ensuring that your app is tested in both of these ways cannot guarantee there are not any security flaws in your app but it will go a very long way to making sure as many of the vulnerabilities are fixed before release. Black box vs white box testing your app takes two different approaches to find security issues.

The major difference between the two is that white box testing, which may also be called Static Application Security Testing (SAST), uses informed security professionals to attack the app and look for potential weaknesses. Black box testing mimics an uninformed attacker using various common methods to attack the app as would happen in a real-world scenario. There are strengths and weaknesses to both these strategies but using them together will produce the most secure outcome for your app.

  1. Know who the user is

A key to securing an app is to make sure the person who is supposed to be using the app is actually the one using it. This may sound easy to do but if your app only requires a username and password to sign on, the potential for a third party to gain control of someone’s legitimate account is high. The best way around this for mobile apps is with two-factor authentication. This sign-in system makes it much harder for someone to sign in to an app without physical possession of the mobile device.

Two-factor authentication, as the name suggests, makes signing into an app a two-step process. First, there is the standard way of entering your username or ID and password. While this should be secure and unique, we all know that is not always the case. The second step though is something that you have to have physically present to use, making it impossible to hack from afar. These are things like a single-use PIN number or secure passwords sent directly to your mobile device or your fingerprint. 

  1. Use the latest and greatest encryption 

They say that the criminals are always one step ahead of the security. In many cases, developers in charge of security features like encryption do not even think of the latest security measure until a cybercriminal does something that calls for it. While this means your app may always be vulnerable to an innovative hacker, the best you can do to make sure you are using the latest and greatest encryption and cryptography available for your app.

If your app’s data is not encrypted, that needs to be remedied immediately. If it is, you need to make sure you are using the best tools and techniques. According to the developer community DZone, using the best protocols for encryption, like AES and SHA256, will help you be as secure as possible. 

  1. Training is key

Just like in the worlds of physical security or general internet security, the first step to creating more positive outcomes in knowledge and training. Making sure that users understand the threats that exist when using mobile apps. In 2020, many if not most people understand the possible issues that can come when visiting websites. However, many people can be lulled into a false sense of security when using mobile apps. If your company’s employees use mobile apps for work, training them on the dangers that exist in this world is the easiest and most effective step to making sure that if a security threat does arise, it will not become a major, organization-wide problem.

This step can be more difficult if you have a user-facing app but doing as much as you can in this arena is important too. Giving consumers or users a clear of what to expect when using the app, what would be abnormal, and how to report an issue can create a legion of “IT people” working to keep your app secure instead of just your employees who will never have the time and manpower to identify threats that an entire community does.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, there is no one way or even multiple ways to make your app 100% secure. If you know the 5 things in this article though, it will go a long way in making sure your app is as secure as possible and will continue to be in the future.

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Sr. SDET M Mehedi Zaman

Currently working as Sr. SDET at Robi Axiata Limited, a subsidiary of Axiata Group.

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