September 19, 2022
Mobile App Security: a How-To Guide
Over 80% of the world's population uses smartphones and over 4 million apps! Chances are, you've seen a fair share of the good and bad apps. The bad ones are those with very low security and are vulnerable to cyberattacks that may steal your data and identity. Hence, implementing security measures in mobile applications and using apps with caution is a responsibility both businesses and individuals have to take.
What is mobile app security?
Mobile app security is a measure to secure the mobile application from external threats like malware and other digital frauds. Individuals tend to trust businesses to test their applications for security measures. However, a study by IBM reveals that 50% of companies have 0 budget dedicated to securing the app, and every year, billions of personal data records are compromised by cyberattacks! Here is the type of data hackers get by attacking a mobile application.
Customer information: If you log into an app with your mobile device - like email, banking, social media, etc. - you have put yourself at risk for hacking. But not just your login credentials. Once your phone is infected, the spyware can gather all forms of data from your GPS information, media files, etc.
Financial information: Hackers can access your credit card numbers to make bank transactions, particularly when one-time passwords (OTP) are not required.
IP threat: Another motivation for cybercrimes is to gain the codebase of the app to make a copycat or simply steal intellectual property from the owners of the app. The more popular the app is, the more likely it is to generate clones.
Revenue loss: If the hackers access the app's premium features, especially in utility and gaming apps, it means revenue loss for the company.
Brand Confidence: The business whose app was hacked loses not only valuable user data but also the reputation of the brand.
Loopholes in mobile app security
How do hackers get in? The rise of technology has also created a rise in hackers, who most likely are motivated by making money illegally. They know a thing or two about mobile app security, hence why they can find loopholes and sneak in. Business owners need to keep this in mind when designing their security measures, or else they lose customers or their whole business. Let's go over a few loopholes in mobile app security.
Reverse engineering: Android apps using Java can be reversed with various tools available on the internet. Hackers can use this method to decode multiple devices. The bytecode can be altered and packed again in the form of APK files which can provide details of the login credentials, type of encryption, and more.
Ignoring updates: Not updating your application results in a lack of protection for newly found vulnerabilities. Updates will cover the latest security patches, so make sure to keep your device and application always up-to-date.
Rooted devices: The Android OS lets users root their devices with some warnings. However, not every user understands that now they are exposed to manipulations from hackers and malware. To reduce the risks, developers need to disallow their apps to run on a rooted environment or issue regular warnings.
Jailbreak: This has become a popular term when talking about iOS devices. It means finding an exploit in the kernel that allows users to run unsigned code on mobile devices.
User authentication: iOS devices have specially evolved in how they authenticate users - from fingerprint authentication to Face ID. The company claims this is extremely secure because they use a processor separate from the OS. However, hackers have proven that Touch ID can be compromised using a device called GrayKey.
Insecure data storage: Jailbroken devices can lead to data exposure, which further exposes even the most sophisticated encryption algorithm. Security experts state that insecure data storage is one of the most common vulnerabilities in iOS devices.
Common application risks
What are some common risks that mobile apps face?
Lack of encryption: Encryption is a method of transporting data in a ciphered code that can only be read if matched with the correct secret key. However, nearly 13.4% of consumer and 10.5% of enterprise devices don't have encryption enabled, opening them to cyberattacks.
Malicious code injections: Malicious codes can be injected through user forms. With business apps that do not have a character limit in a field, hackers can put down lines of code to gain access to private information.
Binary planting: Hackers can plant a malicious binary code on a local file system and gain control over the user's device. This can be done with an SMS or link pretending to be the official company.
Mobile botnets: These types of bots that run on IRC networks can infect a mobile device which can send data to a hacker's server if it is connected to the internet. Mobile botnets aim to gain complete control over the device.
Ways to enhance mobile app security
Businesses need to make sure that their launched apps have extensive security implemented to protect users when it approaches them for delicate/individual information like usernames and passwords. Here are five ways you can enhance your mobile app security.
Use encryption: Using encryption is the most ideal and secure approach to protecting your mobile application. It will encode your data and only unlock it when authenticated.
Rigorous testing: Businesses need to take steps to test the application continuously so that security is guaranteed. A portion of testing strategies incorporates regression testing, exploratory testing, and automated testing.
Prototyping: This is an incredible approach to monitoring your progress. By making a smaller version of the application and gradually adding elements, you can understand the application in and out and see clearly where security falls flat.
Use reliable certificates from the device: Specify which devices this application can work on and make sure that you build your application for these smart devices. This way, you can incorporate the source code with the device.
Roll-out updates regularly: To keep the odds of a cyberattack as minimal as possible, keep your application updated with minor fixes to bugs and more.
Mobile app security best practices
There are many ways you can protect yourself from bad security in mobile applications. While this may seem too complicated or time-wasting, it is important that you follow through to secure your data. Some risks that a mobile application faces are data leaks, infrastructure exposure, scams, and legal troubles. If you are a business, you should have developers do a risk analysis by running a threat-modeling exercise. If you are a user, inspect whether the app came directly from the company and not private carriers, who could be hackers in disguise. Other best practices are not saving passwords, enforcing session login, consulting security experts, applying multi-factor authentication, and more.
Now that you understand how important mobile app security is to keep a clear head to protect your data at all costs. If you are a business owner, take measures to protect your user data, intellectual property, and mobile app. At Dirox, our developers always take security seriously when building a mobile application. We design and test the application thoroughly to ensure your valuables are secured. Please get in touch with us, as our expert consultants are happy to help.