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Mobile App Security: How do we Build Secure Mobile Apps

09 March 2022
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Security is always the #1 priority for every business. But as true this fact is, we also can’t ignore that at some point all mobile devices are insecure and all of our data can be compromised. We are not paranoid but making these security assumptions let us optimize our mobile apps for the highest levels of security.

A single data breach or hack can cause significant damage to your organization. Security breaches not only affect the financial structure of the organization, but also the reputation.

This is the only reason why we are creating this guide. Firstly, we would explain some common security flaws for mobile apps. Then we would discuss the measures you can take to build secure mobile apps.

Security threats to mobile apps

As the popularity of mobile apps increased, we saw a tremendous increase in demand for mobile apps, which further increased the hunger for data and simultaneously data threats.

Mobile app security threats are even more recurring than you would first anticipate. According to statistics by Nira.com, around 70 percent of internet fraud comes from mobile devices.

Here are some of the common security threats that you need to be aware of:

1. Data Leakage

Every mobile app has a pitfall when it comes to data security. Hackers and cybercriminals are well aware of this fact and take complete advantage of the same. Due to the same fact, the frequency at which cyberattacks are done is also increasing.

Source: As digital data spread to the cloud, so do breaches | PaymentsSource | American Banker

According to this graph by American Banker, major mobile security risks revolve around sensitive data being retrieved by hackers. Payment card exposure, weak authentication, new account fraud, and account takeover makes up the majority of the global mobile security risks.

The mobile apps installed on our devices have complete permissions to access your data. So, if a hacker can penetrate the mobile app, they'll gain access to the sensitive data beyond their primary use case. This way the hackers can gain access to the passwords, digital wallets, and what-not.

2. Malware and Spyware

Similar to computers, mobile apps also have a threat of malware. According to the stats represented below, an annual number of malware attacks increased exponentially till 2019, and saw a downfall in 2020, owing to an increase in awareness around integrating security measures in mobile apps.

Source: Number of malware attacks per the year 2020 | Statista

Some devices are more susceptible to spyware than others. According to a study, Android devices are 47 times more likely to carry malware than iOS.

The reasons are quite obvious because androids support third-party apps, but iOS doesn't. This is where developers need to add a little more security precautions while building android apps.

3. Outdated operating systems and software

Mobile security vulnerability arises when we fail to keep our devices, software, and OS up to date. As the hackers and cyber-attacks become more advanced, outdated software is no longer enough to detect them.

Many mobile apps and mobile devices software updates contain security patches. So, if people are not regularly updating their devices, they are more prone to security threats.

4. Phishing

Phishing generally occurs when hackers send fake emails, text messages, and malicious links to retrieve passwords or private information.

A weekly "special offer" phishing campaign saw a steep rise in a few months, as represented in the graph below:

Source: Phishing emails double in November in the run-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday - Check Point Software

Phishing has become so prominent that most of us have come across such experiences at least once in our lifetime. For instance, you get some malicious links on your mobile phone claiming it to be Apple or your bank to reset the password or update an experienced credit card.

To your shock, nearly 60 percent of the people claim that they can’t detect social engineering attacks and 40 percent of them say that it’s smart to reply to these attacks.

5. Gaps in encryption

Most of the mobile apps these days come with end-to-end encryption, and the biggest example of the same is WhatsApp. This is one of the most crucial and effective methods to prevent cyber-attacks yet is still overlooked.

Any data that is being transmitted from one device to another can be encrypted so that hackers and cyber-criminals can’t exploit these holes and steal valuable data.

10 App security practices

Security threats are undoubtedly one of the greatest nightmares of every app developer and business owner. With proper security algorithms, you can eliminate security flaws. Here are 10 App security practices to ensure that you build secure mobile apps:

1. Get security team on-board

If your app is built on the right platform, you can stay at par with some of the major security threats. Some of the best-known app builders incorporate security features into their system architecture.

If you are planning to develop the mobile app yourself with an in-house development team or a third-party agency, you need to take extra considerations about your app’s security. You can add SSO and custom registration to add an extra security layer to your app, which helps prevent unauthorized access to the app.

So, when you are looking around and comparing different development options, you must prioritize app security over other things.

2. App Security Testing

Application security testing is an important part of the mobile app development journey. Testing should be done regularly. According to a report by TechRepublic, nearly 60 percent of developers lack confidence in the security of their code.

Quality Analysts play a vital role in ensuring the security of the app. You can identify security potholes by constantly reviewing code and fixing it before making the app live. It should be ensured that your application adheres to support regulatory changes such as GDPR, CCPA, ADA, HIPAA, PCI, and other security standards.

3. Understand the attacker's intent

To build secure apps, you must think like a cyber attacker. Understand the potholes the attacker might search for in your app by asking the following questions:

  • What vulnerabilities are easily exploitable?
  • Do you have gaps in in-app security?

Penetration testing or pen testing is a great way to ensure that you apply the right security standards. This involves preventing ethical hacks from your team members as well.

4. Keeping software up to date

Failing to update software means that you won’t be able to integrate the highest security algorithms that can fight off the latest mobile threats, malware, and malicious code.

Updating your software helps to protect sensitive data and also fill in the outdated security gaps. For this, you should go for the right app development team, so that you don't have to worry about any updates from the backend.

5. Integrate user authentication

Integrating User Authentication credentials is an excellent way of ensuring that you are preventing unauthorized access is crucial if your app contains sensitive information. Adding login credentials add an extra layer of security to the mobile apps.

Building mobile apps that support custom registrations to OAuth, SSO, and social logins improves the user experience without compromising on app security.

6. Prioritize Data Encryption

Data encryption prevents common mobile app threats, so it becomes important to integrate these security practices into your mobile app.

You must have the right security tools to protect your data, but adding data encryption secures your data to the next level. Even if someone can lay hands on your sensitive data, he would need an encryption key to use the same.

7. Secure data transmission

VPNs, SSL, and TLS encryption help in secure data transmission by encrypting it between the sender and receiver channel. Organizations should make sure that their data is being securely transmitted to prevent spoofing or intercepting.

8. Use tokens to handle sessions

Tokens help you to handle user logins so that you can easily keep a track of user sessions. Using tokens not only ensures app security but also provides a great user experience because they are user-friendly.

Some of the best methods for securing and simplifying logins are OAuth2, JSON web Tokens, and Open ID Connect.

9. Eliminate Unnecessary Permissions

Keep a check on what permissions you need from mobile app users, and try not to collect any confidential data. If your app needs to access the data, only then ask for it.

The more permissions you collect, the more you are exposing the app to cyber-attacks. Using the zero-trust approach helps you build secure mobile apps.

10. Implement tamper protection

Tamper protection is a must-have feature for Android apps. Copycats on Google Play have been fooling millions of users for ages, and to avoid them implementing tamper protection becomes imperative.

There are several ways to protect your Android apps, and you should apply the method best suited to your needs to protect your users and their reputation.

Final Words on App Security

If you are planning to develop your app with a traditional app development team, you would have to give an extra effort to look out for security vulnerabilities. While building secure mobile apps various factors need to be protected and taken into consideration.

Building mobile apps with a robust app development organization like Debut Infotech is a safer choice. Not only do we help you build faster and easier apps, but also customize them according to your budget requirements.

Hire our mobile app developers now.

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Debut Infotech A Top-Rated Web, Mobile, & Blockchain App Development Company

Debut Infotech is a global mobile app and digital product development company that leverages Blockchain, IoT, AI, and other cutting-edge technologies to help SMEs, startups, and global enterprises harness the incredible power of modern digital products to drive their online businesses to unwavering new heights. 

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