If your company is creating mobile apps in this crowded, competitive market, having robust security solutions built in and ensuring data privacy could play a big role in differentiating your app from those from others.
An app that isn’t properly secured can be susceptible to hackers who can:
- Gain access to data stored in the app or steal screen lock passcodes
- Intercept sensitive information traveling over the airwaves
- Reverse-engineer a spoof app containing malware or tamper with or copy your app’s code
- Steal intellectual property and private business assets
- Steal customer data and identifiers for identity theft or fraud purposes
So, app developers should be focused on eliminating security risks during the development process and securing app systems.
If you’re a mobile app developer looking for cybersecurity tips, you’re in the right place. This article explains security best practices you can use while building your app.
- Protect the app with code encryption
- Perform a thorough security check
- Secure the back-end
- Ensure secure data storage
- Have high-level authentication
- Have a solid API strategy
- Have extra measures for companies with BYOD policies
- Empower your users
1. Protect the app with code encryption
As a mobile or web app developer, you know how to create a source code, but a minor coding error or failure to test the code can leave room for bugs or weak points in your app. Hackers can use this security vulnerability to tamper with or reverse engineer your code by having a public app copy.
Encryption is a way of scrambling your code text until it’s a jumble of alphanumerics and has no meaning to anyone who doesn’t possess the key. This protects your app code because even if data is stolen, the thief won’t be able to make any sense of it, preventing them from misusing it.
Use code signing practices to harden the security of your code. Obfuscate and minify your code so that it can’t be stolen. Design your code so that it’s easy to update and patch. Regularly perform mobile application security testing on your code for bugs and fix them. Keep your code agile so that it’s possible to perform a real-time update at the user end after a breach to fix it.
2. Perform a thorough security check
Before you launch your app, you’ll probably test it for functionality and usability, but you should also perform a mobile app security testing to detect any vulnerabilities or bugs in the app. Your security team should regularly pen test the app even after its launch to detect and fix any bugs and keep your app secure.
Too often, app and software development teams skip this step to speed up their app launch, but you should keep in mind that any vulnerability in your app can become a potential security threat to you and your app users.
- Conduct code audits and tests to see that the app’s authentication and authorization procedures have no loopholes.
- Check access controls to detect data security issues before they become large-scale problems.
- Use operating system emulators to see how your app would perform in a simulated environment.
Securing your app is a continuous process; these tests should be regularly conducted to detect any threats. You can consult a network security specialist or penetration tester to conduct penetration testing and vulnerability assessments of your network to ensure that your data is well protected.
3. Secure the backend
You might have security measures at the client-server interface, but it’s also essential for you to safeguard your backend servers against any malicious cyber attacks. This prevents unauthorized access and data leaks from the app’s server and database.
Create encrypted storage systems by using containerization to store data and documents. Encrypt data while sending it back and forth between different users and systems.
4. Ensure secure data storage
Data rules and privacy laws will continue to change due to rising consumer mistrust and state legislatures proposing or passing more than 27 online privacy bills. However, many developers still fail to understand the importance of secure data storage.
While creating your data storage systems, keep in mind that no sensitive data should be shared with:
- The application log
- Third parties
- The keyboard cache
- The IPC mechanism
- The user’s device during interaction
Your mobile app’s code and data should be stored locally, not on another web application. Even so, be careful how you store any sensitive data to reduce security risks.
You can store data using encrypted containers or keychains. In addition, you can add an auto-delete feature in your data storage systems so that the data is automatically deleted after a certain period.
Having a “leaky app” can release customer data or cause data breaches.
Encrypt all files, databases, and user credentials through an SQL server, KeyStore, or keychain. Use data analytics to perform a dynamic analysis and note how, when, and where data moves on your application. Make key management a priority by regularly re-encrypting your system with new keys and never storing your key with the data that it protects. Secure the data in transit by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), or Transport Layer Security (TLS) tunnels.
5. Have high-level authentication
Design your app so that it only accepts alphanumeric passwords, and if possible, make it mandatory for users to change their passwords periodically. This ensures that your app has a strong authentication process that acts as a barrier to hackers at the user end.
For sensitive apps like those for banking, you can add another security layer with biometric authentication using fingerprints or retina scans, which makes it nearly impossible for hackers to break through.
Design your app so that it only accepts alphanumeric solid passwords, and if possible, make it mandatory for users to change their passwords periodically.Including multifactor authentication by mandating the usage of a one-time password (OTP) in addition to the normal password.Add an additional security layer through biometric authentication that needs fingerprints or retina scans.
6. Have a solid API strategy
Application Program Interfaces (APIs) flow data between applications, cloud spaces, and different users and are the main conduits for content and data. So, securing your API is essential for mobile and web application security.
Use caution if your app relies on someone else’s API for functionality. This means that you’re relying on their code to be secure. Ensure the APIs your app uses provide access to only the parts of your app that are necessary to minimize vulnerability.
Use a gateway to protect your API.Enable a central OAuth server to safely handle processes like authenticating the user, which requires access to the client information database.
7. Have extra measures if your company has BYOD policies
If you allow your employees to use their own devices (BYOD) for company functions of your app, it can be hard for your IT team to track data movements and regulate data access.
With remote work being the new trend, you might want to give your employees the convenience of working from home. In that case, you can invest in Mobile Device Management (MDM) products to help maintain your app security.
Implement a VPN for your employees to use.Authorize your employees’ devices using a firewall, antivirus, and anti-spam software.Make users’ devices “risk-aware” so that apps attempting to make certain transactions or changes are blocked from doing so.Enable “remote wipe” capabilities to wipe sensitive data from a device that belongs to someone no longer with the company or has been lost or stolen.
8. Empower your users
As an app developer, there’s only so much you can do to safeguard your end users. Ultimately, your users must be aware and cautious of protecting their data and safeguarding themselves online. You should strive to empower your users by educating them about some measures they can take to stay safe online.
Action items for users
- Only download apps from trusted sources, including authorized app stores like the App Store on iOS or Play Store on Android devices.
- Always use a strong password to avoid your account being hacked.
- Use app-locks for sensitive apps in case your phone gets stolen.
- Enable auto-logout features on sensitive apps.
- Never share passwords or OTPs with anyone.
With a solid mobile security strategy and a mobile app developer on hand to help you respond quickly to threats and bugs, your app will be safer and more secure for users and ensure their loyalty (and your assets) for the future.
Hire a mobile app security expert
Mobile app security is a growing concern among app developers and users alike, and an app that isn’t properly secured or is susceptible to data breaches runs the risk of being uninstalled or abandoned by users.
As an app developer who cares about the safety of your own and the app users’ data online, you might be more comfortable hiring an expert professional to help you make your mobile application secure.
With Ndiwano.com, you can hire an expert application security freelancer with the skills needed to quickly and cost-efficiently help you secure your application.