December 28 – National Download Day has precisely explained the importance of apps. Mobile apps form a standard and fundamental component of any business. It makes the purchasing process easier, hustle-free and helps build a lasting relationship with the consumer.

Moreover, they provide another source of advertising and marketing for any business. Thus, having a well-functioning mobile app that could easily handle all the business’ actions and users is necessary.

Mobile application security risks

Larger the ground, the higher the chances of hacking and data breaching. Larger organizations have more chances of being targeted by hackers seeking to profit from companies and employees who regularly use mobile devices but do not engage in proper mobile app security processes. Hence, mobile app security is a priority for many businesses.

Maximum employees are now accessing corporate data through their smartphones; thus, securing sensitive information from falling into the hands of wrong hands is difficult for many businesses. With the estimated cost of a corporate data breach standing at an eye-watering USD 3.92 million, the cost of not protecting confidential data remains high.

The top five mobile application security risks that every business and individuals need to take care of are as follows:

1. Ensuring server-side controls

The server is the medium of communication between an application and the user outside the mobile device. Thus, by default, the server becomes a center of attraction for cybercriminals.

However, a more serious problem can occur if an application developer does not implement traditional server-side security measures.

Here are some common reasons reflecting the same:

  • Low-security budgets and a lack of cybersecurity knowledge
  • Overdependence on the mobile operating system for security updates and responsibility
  • Vulnerabilities that occur due to cross-platform development and compilation

Solution –  Hiring a cybersecurity specialist or implementing specific testing tools and following some usual measures can help save the servers from hacking.

2. Lack of safe data storage – 

The lack of secure data storage is another mobile device security loophole. For developers, a common practice is to rely on the client for data storage. But client storage, where data breaches are unlikely, is not a sandbox environment.

As the app is live and in use, the data can be easily exploited, manipulated, and used at the time of mobile acquisition by anyone other than its owner. This can lead to identity theft, reputational damage, and violation of external policy.

Solution – While sharing data with other app processes, it is vital to consider using a content provider that asks specifically for read and write permissions to other apps while accessing data.

Practicing to encrypt local files that contain sensitive data with the help of the security library can be the best alternative. The other way out is decreasing the number of permissions that every app requests. Limiting access to sensitive data permissions significantly reduces the risk of exploiting those permissions, making every mobile app much less vulnerable to attackers.

3. Easy authorization and authentication – 

Easy and inappropriate authentication processes allow hackers to anonymously run a mobile application or access an application’s back-end server. This is prevalent because of a mobile device’s input form factor, which encourages small passwords that are usually centered on four-digit PINs.

Mobile application users are not required to be online during their sessions, unlike traditional web apps, where mobile internet connections are not as stable as conventional web connections. Thus, there might be chances that mobile applications can also need offline authentication. This offline requirement can establish security loopholes that developers need to consider when building or executing mobile authentication.

Solution – Server-side should only be the one authenticating request, and it is only after successful authentication, mobile devices will receive the data. Thus, the data will be loaded only after successful authentication.

Using encryption to protect that data and securely obtain it from users’ credentials at the client-side data storage is essential. Using the data stored in back-end systems to implement robust authorization schemes and verifying authenticated users’ roles and permissions can be the right solution.

Additionally, using multi-factor authentication such as one-time-password (OTP) and security questions to validate a user’s identity can be one of the easiest methods.

4. Broken cryptography – 

Cybercriminals may decrypt and modify data in its original form or even steal sensitive data by leveraging its vulnerabilities. Due to complete reliance on built-in encryption processes, the use of custom encryption protocols, the use of vulnerable algorithms, and other reasons, broken cryptography may occur.

Improper key management, such as storing keys in easily accessible locations or hard coding keys in the binary, may also prove beneficial for cybercriminals.

Solution – Implementing modern encryption algorithms that are accepted as strong by the security community is essential. Using only those encryption APIs (Application Program Interface) available within the mobile platform should be practiced.

Implementing encryptions in layers so that those attackers who try to decrypt the data have to unfold multiple layers, making it a complicated task. Also, it is critical to store these encryption keys securely.

Wrapping up

Building a wholly secured app is difficult, but there are ways to make apps more resilient against the attacker. Protecting user data is always the top priority, and ignoring it can lead to serious problems. Implementing the best practices mentioned above can help avoid common security risks, thus allowing the creation of safer applications.

Considering the following points are essential while building an app –

  • Collecting only the data that is actually needed
  • Possibly using only those higher levels of APIs provided by the OS
  • Securing storage manually on less-secure OS-versions
  • Storing sensitive data such as credentials and certificates in the keychain/Keystore
  • Avoiding to build its own encryption mechanism
  • Using HTTPS for any communication between client and server
  • Consulting the second party to validate security concept

Now you are fully aware of securing your app environment, check out our latest whitepapers on security to find more tools and gems to secure your servers.