The mobile application industry has seen a massive boom in the last decade. Every day you might witness new mobile apps that serve different objectives like games, shopping, medical appointments, etc., up and running into the world.
According to the statistic gurus at Statista, in 2020, people installed around 218 billion mobile apps.
By the end of 2021, you can safely assume that mobile app downloads will see a sky-rocket jump and can reach up to a whopping 260 billion!
With such an increase in mobile apps, there is one question that might stick to your mind, ‘How safe are these apps?’ Is mobile app security something that is heavily ignored?
Let’s find out.
Why is Mobile Application Security the need of the hour?
Today’s world is full of hackers; a single miss and breach of data can cause harm to your company’s reputation, making all your efforts go in vain and could even burn a hole in your pocket. Thus, protecting your customer’s data must be the first point in your mobile app security checklist and development.
Creating a highly secure mobile app is not a feature anymore but a hard to ignore necessity. Developing a highly innovative, connective, and one of its kind app is sure exciting enough; however, to make that app hardcore and secure considering significant mobile app development security breaches and preventions is equally essential.
Before proceeding, this article is for app developers; however, do stick around if you are curious enough.
Developers know well enough that tirelessly writing hundreds and thousands of lines of code is not an easy task and then making it run with no error is a task on its own. To top it all, you must make it safe and secure! So, cutting to the chase, no matter what type of app you wish to develop, adding mobile app security to your mobile application development determines the success of your app.
All this might sound quite stressful, do not worry, we got you covered; here are the top 12 mobile app security best practices that you can follow to improve safety and provide you with safe mobile app solutions.
12 Mobile app security best practices for developers
● Write a safe & secure code
Writing a safe code is an ice-breaking step in mobile app development. Mobile apps are pretty vulnerable to malicious attacks and bugs. One slip could lead to massive data breaches, and thus you must be extra careful while creating a solid & secure code that is free from backdoors (which in turn could be easily violated by hackers.)
Always keep the security of your code in mind from day zero and make it tough to breakthrough. Test repeatedly and fix bugs as and when you encounter them.
To make your code secure against the standard mobile app security attacks, you can take advantage of various techniques like OWASP methodology, minification of the code, and you can use obfuscation, etc. Mobile app security design structure should be simple for you and a tough nut to crack for any hijacker/hacker.
● Prioritize data encryption
It is the thumb rule to always ensure that the data you will store on the mobile device or one that will transmit between the apps and the back-end server should be smartly encrypted. You must very carefully encrypt every bit of data transmitted to the user’s phone.
Encryption is the technique to convert the data transmitting into a series of jumbled alphabets that has no meaning to anyone except for the sender & the receiver, those who have the key to decrypt it. Thus, even if someone has stolen your data (no, don’t stress), the bad guys will not be able to misuse it.
● Be careful while using third-party libraries
We know it is exciting to use third-party libraries to speed up the development of your beloved mobile app. However, always test your code before you proceed, make sure your code is free of bugs, and you have shortlisted a trusted third-party library.
If not taken careful steps, the third-party libraries can cause your sleepless nights by making your app more prone to hacking activities. Surprisingly, some third-party libraries contain malicious code that their creators often inject into your source code. Always use a thoroughly tried-and-tested third-party library to avoid any mobile app security mishaps. Be careful, ladies & gentlemen.
● Do a Thorough Security Check-Penetration Testing
Penetration testing’s main focus sticks to the client-side security. It is generally good to test your application against new security challenges to strengthen your mobile app development practice. It will provide you with the scope of improvement for cross-platform mobile application development.
While penetration testing, static application security testing or SAST should become your best friend. This test penetrates your main source code and decodes the micros security misses.
There are many tools like Drozer and Androbugs that you can use for the android app security best practices. For iOS, you can use Cydia Impactor, iRET, Myriam for the ios app security best practices.
● Install Proper Tamper-Detection Technologies
Tamper detection techniques are your good friend who helps minimize tampering with your code.
These are the techniques to get an alarm whenever someone tries to tamper with your source code or inject malicious code into your mobile application’s source code.
You can include various tamper detection techniques such as app installer identifications, app signature verification at runtime will help you by warning about the tampering with your code and mobile app security loopholes.
On top of it, it can also help to ensure that the code, if corrupted due to malicious activities, will not function at all, making your app safe and secure. Do make sure to perform environmental checks as well.
● Use the latest Cryptography Tools and Techniques
One of the most crucial data security practices is carefully encrypting your data using rigid and robust encryption algorithms and cryptographic techniques.
Cryptography helps you strengthen your communication techniques and allows only the sender and the receiver to view the content of the message or data passing through.
Numerous algorithms help you encrypt your data with complete control in your hands in cryptography. However, make sure that you do not extensively hardcode your encryption key and store your keys locally, as they are easily accessible to people. Rather store the keys in highly secure containers.
Always use the latest and most trusted encryption protocols and API; to name a few, you can use 256-bit AES and SHA-256 for hashing.
● Use sturdy authentication and authorization.
Using sturdy authentication and authorization are the two pillars of overall mobile app security. Not following high-level authentication and authorization processes can lead to serious security breaches. You can design your app only to accept a solid alphanumeric password, a pattern, etc. For proper authorization, ensure the password has a renewal period, let’s say three or six months. For extensive and secure authentication, you can use a combination of passwords, one-time passwords via email or phone, as well as a series of security questions.
As a developer, it is your responsibility to encourage the user to be more careful about authorization and authentication. It should look one step towards mobile app security rather than a tiresome activity.
Even if you are not creating an app that deals with highly sensitive information, you could still take advantage of the latest mobile app security technologies like the OpenID connect protocol to make your app more secure. Make sure to use the current versions of the tools always.
● Only use Authorized APIs
There are various APIs that you can use to integrate third-party libraries. If not implemented with proper authorization and authentication, these APIs could cause serious harm to your mobile app.
A survey shows that APIs are the most common and fast-paced, growing cyber security threat that provides hackers with multiple doors to access mobile application data.
We all know that caching authorization information on local devices makes it easier for the programmers like ourselves to reuse that information when making API calls quickly. At the same time, it makes the coders’ life easier by making it easier to use the APIs; however, it also gives attackers a backdoor and privileges to hijack your code. Hence, always keep in mind to use a centralized authority to ensure maximum mobile app security.
● Continuously improve your data security.
When your mobile app gets connected to the external network, it is constantly under the threat of getting hijacked if the mobile app security is not seriously considered during its development. The mobile app constantly connects with various internet sources like wi-fi, VPN, cellular network, etc. Thus, take special consideration and precautions to ensure that the data is fully ready and secured to transition from sender to receiver. All the crucial information like passwords, personal texts, and login details are carefully authorized and encrypted.
We all know how Facebook is still facing shame for its massive data breach that revealed the personal details of more than 40 million of its users. To ensure that this nightmare never happens to you, make sure that you take proper measures to make your mobile app secure so that your user’s data remains unharmed.
Feel free to deploy data security strategies and policies that work around detecting & fixing up every possibility of the data breaches
Pro-tip: Ensure that the data is always stored in encrypted data containers and not locally.
● Consider & Analyze Platform-specific Limitations
The best and the most exciting thing about mobile apps is that they work on various devices, operating systems, platforms, and networks.
Thus, it is essential to keep in mind that every platform will have its limitations and specifications that can affect the security of your mobile app; this is also crucial for cross-platform mobile application development.
Do note that these mobile apps will also accept a lot of features of the user’s phone. As a responsible developer, you should be careful about the features and limitations of various devices, operating systems, and networks.
By considering these specifications and optimizing the security based on the platforms and the networks on which people will use your app, you can take your mobile app security design and mobile app security to another security level.
● Install Proper Session Handling
It is a well-known fact that the sessions on mobile devices usually last much longer than those on desktop devices. Thus deploying proper session management becomes quite significant in terms of mobile app security. Especially in case of stolen and lost devices, you should provide your users the facility to remotely log out of their account and clear out all the personal data present on the device to keep their data safe from being used illegally.
Pro-tip: Use tokens instead of device identifiers to identify a session. One good thing about tokens is that they can be revoked at any time, making them more secure in case of any misshaping like lost and stolen devices.
● Test Regularly
Ensuring the security of your mobile app is a never-ending task. And it should be performed regularly and that too quite carefully. Always test your mobile app regularly and fix any loopholes you might find with the release of new updates and versions, and make sure your users don’t suffer in the process while you are testing.
If you are looking forward to hire a mobile app developer, or if you are a newbie who wants to make a mark in the mobile application development services. Always remember mobile app security is not a race; it’s a marathon.
Thus, consistently implement security from the very start of your development. You will be surprised to know how much cost and time you can save while maintaining the trust of your users. Keep jotting down all these points at the top of your mobile app security checklist.