How to Avoid Mobile App Security Risks: A Handy Guide
November 03, 2022
8 min read
The necessary сondition of comfort is safety. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, safety is placed almost at the foundation. In mobile development, it takes the same crucial position.
<medium>Since smartphones have turned into our wallets, photo albums, and medical cards, mobile app security is becoming more and more important.<medium>
Let's figure out what to look for while developing a mobile app today.
What is mobile application security?
A new episode on Netflix, a fitness app to keep up a workout plan, a map to find a nearby good pub, or Google Pay for shopping — smartphones have become deeply integrated into our everyday lives. As mobile app development gains momentum, the <medium>mobile threat defense market is expanding its horizons.<medium>
The connection is obvious — handy applications open up a lot of great options, yet they also make our personal data more vulnerable.
But there's no reason to worry about it, <medium>for every vulnerability, there is a cybersecurity solution.<medium>
Securing mobile applications is about <medium>safeguarding<medium> a user's digital identity. It encompasses the best practices for <medium>protecting data from hacking,<medium> malware, and other malicious manipulations.
The concept also implies <medium>detecting potential vulnerabilities<medium> within the mobile app. The primary purpose is to avoid cyber security threats and prevent cases when personal data falls into the wrong hands.
However, not only mobile app users take damage from the data breaks. First and foremost it results in <medium>both reputational and financial losses for the service provider.<medium> Users are keen to stop using an app if their privacy expectations are not met.
Therefore, <medium> ensuring data security most likely tops your to-do list<medium> if you are looking to develop a mobile product from scratch or scale up your existing mobile application.
No one is safe from cyber-attacks. But our task is be informed about risks and timely prevent them.
The threat agent types described below range from an adversary who could use your stolen smartphone to malicious software, viruses, and botnets.
Mobile Top Ten Risks has been re-categorized and updated since the list was created. Today, it is more focused on mobile applications rather than servers.
Let's take a closer look at the ten mobile security pitfalls by OWASP.
1 Improper platform usage
This risk is associated with misusing platform features or ignoring security controls, including Android intents, TouchID or FaceID, Keychain, platform permissions, and other mobile security features.
2 Insecure data storage
Storing data on the client-side doesn't guarantee 100% security. The most famous mobile app security breaches have resulted from insecure client-side data storage. The golden rule for mobile apps safety is to avoid storing data unless absolutely necessary. Another essential rule is to implement the best Android and iOS practices and adhere to the OWASP recommendations listed here.
3 Insecure communication
Communication within mobile apps is firstly about technologies used to transmit and receive data. This includes the device's internet connection (WiFi or other), connection to the mobile network, Bluetooth, NFC, and more. Unfortunately, this wide array of possibilities provides ample opportunities for attackers.
4 Insecure authentication
Threat agents often conduct automated cyberattacks using sophisticated tools to exploit authentication weaknesses. Once attackerі understand weaknesses in the authentication process, they can bypass or fake it by submitting service requests to the mobile app's server.
5 Insufficient cryptography
Exploiting this vulnerability, the hacker's key tasks are 1) to understand weak encryption algorithms or encryption process flaws 2) to return encrypted code or sensitive data to its original unencrypted form. This attack results in the unauthorized retrieval of sensitive data from the mobile device.
To protect sensitive data, OWASP recommends applying strong and trusted cryptographic standards, following the NIST guidelines, and minimizing the storage of sensitive information on smartphones.
6 Insecure authorization
Attackers exploit authorization flaws by logging in as a valid user and confirming authenticity. This submission process is usually done through malware on the mobile device or hacker's botnets.
7 Client code quality
Poor-quality mobile code often leads to security vulnerabilities. These issues are commonly exploited through malware or phishing scams. Typical types of such attacks exploit memory leaks and buffer overflows. For example, buffer overflows within older versions of Safari led to jailbreaking risks.
8 Code tampering
Code tampering occurs when an attacker alters a mobile app's code to create a fake version. Hackers often use malicious versions of programs hosted in third-party app stores to modify code. Phishing tactics may also be used to trick users into installing the modified app.
9 Reverse engineering
This data threat is about "dismantling an object to see how it works", but in the digital space. Hackers typically download the targeted app from an online store and analyze it within their local environment. They use specialized toolsets to analyze the final core binary and find the original source code, libraries, and other crucial assets.
10 Extraneous functionality
In this scenario, cybercriminals search for hidden functionality within the app not directly exposed through the user interface. They may retrieve hidden controls (API keys, account credentials, etc.) to directly exploit backend systems without end-user involvement. For example, a developer accidentally includes a password as a comment in a hybrid app or disable 2FA during testing. Preventing this vulnerability requires a comprehensive manual secure code review, including an examination of all API endpoints and log statements.
Why does mobile apps safety matter? Business impact
According to a recent survey of global mobile consumers, 45% of iOS and Android users would cease using a mobile app and recommend their friends to do the same if the app failed to protect their data and the usage.
That's why proficient mobile developers prioritize software design to deliver a seamless and secure user experience.
Simultaneously, users and app owners share the responsibility of safeguarding the digital products they use or offer, remaining vigilant about mobile security risks and their mitigation strategies.
A comprehensive analysis of threats, risks, and appropriate solutions is essential. It is a holistic process rather than a one-time action. Investing time in ensuring security within your mobile app can help you avoid dealing with problems later on.
Now, for the good news. Robust mobile app security ensures:
-> avoidance of all the previously mentioned unpleasant outcomes -> seamless business processes -> lack of frustrations and facepalms -> client trust and loyalty ❤️
How to create a secure mobile app?
A good mobile app guarantees swift and secure communication. While this might sound simple, many businesses encounter challenges during implementation.
Integrating mobile app security is a complex process, not just a two-factor authentication setup. The mobile app development plan encompasses a range of security solutions and industry best practices.
Starting the discovery stage of your mobile development project, it is crucial to identify the appropriate security level for your app. Security doesn't have a one-size-fits-all solution; businesses must address new cyber risks and continuously upgrade their security measures.
Listening to experts' opinions is key. If you develop a complex product, consider engaging cyber security experts with domain expertise. Try always to keep abreast with security regulations and relevant technologies.
Throughout the mobile development project, our goal is to identify and classify mobile security risks, offering relevant developmental controls to mitigate them.
Here are some key questions that help you to discover features needed to ensure the security of your mobile application.
To meet customer expectations, businesses must rethink the importance of mobile data protection and privacy. Ensure that your team develops a mobile application that fulfills all security requirements.
That's why our team dedicates special attention to achieving an ideal balance between app security and user-friendliness, without compromising either. Freshcode mobile development team is always ready to have a little talk about suitable mobile solutions for different business. You can book a free consultation or contact our COO on Linkedin to ask any info you need.
Elevate your business with an impressive mobile application – not merely 'secure enough,' but truly 'super safe.'