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Why is Mobile Application Security Important? Best Practices

30 Views | 6 min | Published On: May 12, 2023 Last Updated: May 12, 2023
mobile app security

Mobiles have outshined desktop usage. Consequently, now we have more apps for mobiles than for desktops and laptops. 255 billion apps were downloaded in 2022 alone. Moreover, $4.86 is the average spent on mobile apps in the third quarter of 2022.

Mobile apps have become increasingly popular. This has led to the outburst of mobile app development businesses. Today, we have many futuristic technologies like metaverse, AR/VR, and blockchain to facilitate mobile app development.

However, with the growth of mobile app development, the sophistication to leverage the flaws in mobile application security has also increased.

globe mobile app downloads 2022

In this blog post, we will discuss mobile app security, its importance, common mobile application security threats that you need to avoid, challenges, and more.

What is Mobile Application Security?

Mobile app security pertains to all the technologies and procedures that assist in protecting mobile applications from cyberattacks, data thefts, and other forms of cybercrime.

Mobile app security frameworks come in many forms. While some deal with particular aspects, others offer an all-in-one solution by automating mobile application security testing on Android, iOS, and other mobile platforms.

Weak encryption, poor authentication, and inadequate transport layer protection are some of the mobile app security mistakes to avoid to ensure that your mobile application is secure, reliable, and fully functional.

Common Mobile Application Security Pitfalls

The steps to secure a mobile app depend on the type of security risk we want it to withstand. As the world of mobile application development is evolving, so do the types and forms of security risks and attacks.

Let’s know some of the most frequent issues that instigate mobile app security measures:

security threats mobile application security

1.Absence of Multi-Factor Authentication

Implementing multi-factor authentication in your mobile app is essential nowadays. Failing to do so puts your app at a very high risk of being exploited and manipulated by hackers and cyber criminals.

Multi-factor authentication adds multiple layers of security to your mobile application. The measures that you can take to implement it include prompting for an OTP or SMS, asking the user a personal question, and requiring entering code from an authentication app like Google Authenticator.

2.Inadequate Protection for the Transport Layer

The transport layer is the one that facilitates data transfer between the client and the server. Leaving it inadequately protected can lead to severe security issues like identity theft and fraud.

To up the security of the transport layer, you must incorporate SSL pinning. Furthermore, you can replace regular cipher suites with industry-standard cipher suites.

Other ways to increase the transport layer security include alerting the user about an invalid certificate, avoiding the exposure of the session ID of the user due to mixed SSL sessions, and using SSL versions of third-party analytics.

3.Unsafe Data Storage System

Mobile app security also suffers due to the failure to implement a safe data storage system. Usually, mobile app developers rely on client storage for internal data.

This data in the hands of a malicious user can cause unauthorised access, use, and manipulation of data, which can lead to issues like identity theft and external policy violation (PCI).

The simple solution to tackle this issue is to develop an additional encryption layer over the base-level encryption of the operating system.

4.Flawed Server Controls

The server plays a pivotal role in facilitating communication between the mobile device and the app, thus making it the main target of hackers and cybercriminals.

The vulnerability of a server usually arises due to the disregard of developers taking necessary actions to ensure server-side security. Else, this could happen because of:

  • Lack of knowledge about security considerations
  • Small budgets for implementing mobile app security
  • Vulnerabilities resulting due to cross-platform development

Despite the cause, to rectify this issue, you need to run automated scanners on your server that can detect the vulnerabilities in your apps. You can fix these issues then and secure your server.

5.Unprotected Binary Files

Without proper binary protection, the code of your mobile app is at risk of being reverse engineered to introduce malware. Hackers can also redistribute a pirated application using the code and add malicious code to it.

This can lead to data theft as well as damage to your brand image and revenue generation capability. Deploying binary hardening procedures ensure the safety of binary files.

A binary hardening procedure fixes the legacy code without including the source code. In this process, the binary files are analysed and modified accordingly to ensure their safety against the usual mobile app security threats.

Ensuring security coding for the detection of checksum controls, debugger detection control, certificate pinning, and jailbreaks is important.

6.Unintended Leakage of Data

Another common mobile application security issue is the unintended leakage of data. This happens when critical mobile applications are stored in vulnerable locations on mobiles.

A vulnerable location is one that can be easily accessed by other apps or devices. This can lead to data breaches and unauthorised data use.

To prevent unintended data leakages, it’s advised to monitor data leakage points, which include app background, browser cookie objects, caching, HTML5 data storage, and logging.

Challenges With Mobile App Security

Mobile app security testing is crucial to enforce security in mobile apps against data theft, identity theft and other malicious activities. Failing to perform the required level of security testing of mobile apps can yield the following issues:

mobile application security challenges

1) Device Fragmentation

The detection of device-specific vulnerabilities and issues is an important aspect of mobile app security testing. In addition to different devices, different versions of mobile operating systems should also be considered to discover all the issues that could cause trouble later.

2) Weak Encryption Mechanism

A mobile device is at risk of accepting data from an authorised device when weak encryptions are in place. Implementing a strong encryption standard is necessary to counter cyber attackers and malware looking to exploit inadequately secured mobile devices.

3) Weaker Hosting Controls

In many cases, businesses fail to implement enough app security measures to secure the servers used by their mobile apps. This could facilitate unauthorised user access to critical data.

Ways to Secure Your Mobile App

There are several things that you can implement to ensure a high level of mobile application security. Most of them are apparent once you know the common security issues plaguing mobile app security and the challenges it faces. So, here it goes:

high level of mobile application security

1.Data Storage

One way that you can comprehensively up the data security of your mobile device is the way you use the mobile data storage system. There’s a simple formula, which is: Store Critical Data on Internal Storage and Encrypted Data on External Storage.

Today, we have many data encryption standards, but none is as efficient and commonplace as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). This is the process to deal with storage management in Android devices. The procedure for the same on iOS is different.

Although it is preferred to store data in the memory (internal storage) instead of using external storage or a remote server, you can have two alternatives if storing data locally is your only option:

  • Keychain – Keychain is the ideal location to store small sensitive data that doesn’t require frequent access. This is because data stored on keychain is managed by the OS and not accessible to any other application.
  • Networking security – Apple has App Transport Security that facilitates third-party apps to send network requests over HTTPS.

2.Using Secure Messaging Options Instead of SMS

SMS is one of the most popular ways of communicating with other mobile devices. Most apps these days feature a way to share data with the server via SMS.

But the SMS technology has no encryption by default, thus, it is not safe for app-server communication. SMSs also can be read by any other app on the mobile device. Communication between servers and client apps must be kept encrypted.

Firebase, GCM, Amazon SNS, and Apple Push Notification Service are some of the most popular cloud messaging apps that can be used instead of the SMS service.

Communication over GCM, for example, is authenticated with registration tokens that are:

  • Regularly refreshed on the frontend
  • Authenticated using a unique API key on the backend

Therefore, it is a great idea to implement a secure messaging mechanism to increase your app’s security.

3.Securing Sensitive Data

Many mobile apps across different categories store sensitive data, some for allowing you to meet someone and others that require the same to make payments online.

Mobile apps, especially in the realm of fintech (financial technology) mobile applications, store financial data. Thus, they require more levels of security.

4.Other

Validation of user input, avoiding the need of storing personal information, and using options like ProGuard are among other ways to secure your mobile apps.

Mobile App Security Best Practices

There are several things that you can do during mobile app development and testing the security of mobile apps to ensure a high level of app security. The most important among them are:

  • Creating threat algorithms to back data
  • Ensuring user inputs fulfil check standards
  • Hiring a professional mobile app development company
  • Implementing obfuscation to prevent reverse engineering
  • Running mobile app security audits regularly
  • Using server-side authentication
  • Using strong cryptographic algorithms

Although there is no particular process to ensure that a mobile app will not have even a single vulnerability, keeping mobile application security best practices in mind while developing an app is an effective way to ensure creating a mobile app with the highest level of security.

Conclusion

Mobile application security is evolving with the progress in mobile app development. You need to be aware of the latest happenings in the world of mobile app development to be one step ahead of cyber attackers and hackers.

The more secure your mobile app, the more users will love to use it. You can hire an experienced mobile app development company like Apptunix to ensure that you minimise entry points for cyber criminals in your business app.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q 1. What is mobile application security?

Mobile application security is an umbrella term for all the concepts related to and measures taken to ensure that a mobile application and its data are safe against cyber attacks and incidents of data theft.

Q 2. Why is mobile application security important?

Mobile apps with poor or no security measures can put the user data at risk for a range of malicious attacks. This can lead to losing personal information and data.

Q 3. What are the 5 types of application security?

Application security testing, authentication, authorization, encryption, and logging are the 5 types of application security.

Q 4. How can I make my mobile application secure?

Enforcing secure communication, sharing data securely across apps, storing private data within internal storage, using WebView objects carefully, and applying network security safety measures are some of the best practices to make a mobile application secure.

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