Mobile App Development

Mobile App Security Threats and Best Practices

Sep 01, 2020

Raman Sama

According to the recent estimates revealed online, one out of the 36 mobile phone users have installed high-risk applications that are bound to be targeted by the hackers thereby posing threat to security. Since the use of mobile apps within the smartphone users has grown in the past few years, it is highly necessary for the application developers to consider their security aspects so as to avoid any kind of threat to the user information and data.

As per the latest data, more than 71% of the fraud transactions have been recorded from the mobile apps as compared to the web applications while the statistics have been increasing by 16% every year.

Hackers across the world are striving on the data gathered from the mobile applications and meticulously using the personal information of users for extracting money. The developers while developing the mobile applications need to be extra cautious when it comes to implementing the necessary security protocols.

The application threats may include tapping into the camera, location, microphone and other elements of the smartphone as well as the app cloning used by the hackers to gain access to personal information. Since the hackers around the world are now excessively creative when it comes to hacking the applications, the developers must confirm the app security before launching it on the Android or iOS platforms.

What is Mobile App Security

Mobile app security is the process of securing the mobile applications from external threats like malware, spyware, hacking, phishing and many more digital frauds that risks the personal and financial information of the users.

The customers are dependent on the organization offering the applications on the App store when it comes to ensuring the safety protocols for meticulously phishing data. Though, the statistics from IBM offer insight into something unique altogether.

According to IBM insights, more than 50% of the organization lacks the budget to ensure the safety of the applications they are developing. In addition to this, the statistics also point that more than 40% of the app developing companies don't test their code for vulnerabilities while more than 33% do not test their app altogether before launching it on the app stores.
The statistics also reveal that more than 13 million devices across the world have been affected by malware though, the organizations are not yet keen on making their apps secure for their customer base.

Thus the weak application with little or no security parameters attracts the hackers thereby offering them leverage to gather the customer information, financial information, IP theft and more. This, in turn, can result in the disastrous brand image for the organization or the product.

Be Extremely Specific While Outlining The Task

To focus properly on the top priorities for your growth, it is important that everyone in the organization can relate to the work being done, Don’t give out vague instructions on how to achieve an end goal. Instead, be more specific and give concrete achievable targets and instructions. At the same time increasing the number of goals does not convert to a more productive team.

Loopholes in Mobile App Security

Usually, mobile applications are designed to offer a seamless interface as well as a well-planned functionality to its user base while the anti-virus applications have been designed with the sole purpose of preventing the security threats on the networks and servers. However, every mobile application that has a poorly designed interface or is protected with weak passwords cannot be saved by the anti-virus application itself.

Here are some of the common security lapses that are ignored by the application developers over time:

  • Improper operating system
  • Android intent sniffing
  • Ios keychain risk
  • Data storage risks
  • Touch id risk
  • Improper data transmission
  • MITM attacks
  • Insecure communication and authentication
  • Improper encryption
  • Insecure authorization

Here are some of the app security threats to know of:

1. Lack of Multifactor Authentication

Since many of the developers are keen on using the same passwords for multiple apps, they are the major threat to the overall security of other applications as well. If an organization via any means hacks the password used by an organization, they are bound to use it for other apps as well thereby imposing a threat to entire organization data.

In this case, multi-factor authentication comes to the rescue. Adding a triple layer of authentication such as asking for an SMS code or biometric or even a security question before giving in the access can, in turn, save data worth millions.

2. Improper Encryption

According to the statistics, more than 13% of the user devices and 11% of the enterprise devices lack proper encryption. This usually means that if a hacker tries to get access to the data by hacking into the mobile phone via an application, the data is available in the plain text which is easy to use for practising malware.

It is important for the organizations to determine how easily one can track their data and information due to lack of proper encryption on the code. Some of the adverse effects that can be tackled with improper encryption might be code theft, ID theft, privacy violations and more.

3. Reverse Engineering

It is one of the most common threats that the developers need to be aware of. Reverse engineering can easily allow the checkers to get access to application functions. For instance, the amount of metadata that has been added to code for debugging purposes can be easily understood by a hacker thereby helping in reverse engineering.

The hackers can thus access the encryption algorithms at the back end, change the source code and more, imposing threat to the overall application information.

4. Code Injection Exposure

Since the applications these days offer the users to comment and offer their feedback with the help of forms, they are some of the most common ways of adding a malware code injection.

For instance, if an application doesn’t prevent the user to add only a minimum number of characters into the login form, allowing the use of characters such as equal to or a colon, the attacker can easily add the code into the form for accessing the server data.

5. Data Storage

Insecure data storage is another threat to application security. Many applications can insecurely store data in the form of cookies or in the SQL databases which when accessed by the hackers can allow them to access funnel information thereby posing threat to security. A developer must make sure of proper procedures to handle the app cache that includes the data, images, key presses and other information.

Mobile App Security Best Practices

1. Use Server-Side Authentication

Multi-factor authorization is one of the best practices to avoid the threat to security on the applications. The access to the data is only provided by the server-side once the authentication is approved. If the data is stored on the client-side, proper credentials and authentication must be used before offering access.

2. Use Best Cryptographic Algorithms

One of the best practices to prevent security attacks is to use the best cryptographic algorithm that cannot be encrypted by the hackers. Though, another smart way would be to avoid saving passwords or keys onto the device. The encryption algorithms should always encrypt the keys whenever they are transferred to the servers. Don’t try to use your own security protocols and avoid using algorithms that are disapproved by the community.

3. Validate Sanity Checks

In order to prevent the hackers from adding a malicious injection into the code for extracting information, the developers must ensure that the application validates every input that has been offered to it. For instance, if the application requires the user to add an image, the image extension must be of known image format, particularly accepted by the application. This way no hacker can add in a malicious code by justifying that it is an image.

4. Build Threat Models

A well-informed threat model must be designed by the developers to ensure proper and secure functioning of the application. It can help them understand the problem at hand as well as other issues relating to it. The models can further help them to devise strategies to deal with the issues. A threat model must be able to understand how different operating systems and other functionalities work by transferring and storing data.

5. Code Obfuscation

It is the process of application protection by implementing code obfuscation techniques. It allows the developers to create a code that is difficult for hackers to understand. It involves encrypting the entire code, removing the metadata to prevent reverse engineering and renaming the classes as well as functions so as to confuse the hacker from the very beginning.

Raman Sama