Tips for Developers to Avoid Mobile Application Security Pitfalls

Tips for Developers to Avoid Mobile Application Security Pitfalls

Data security issues have been a major concern ever since the world moved towards digitalization. In 2020, many companies have been accelerating their moves towards
remote working and hence moving to cloud. This situation led developers to focus more attention towards cloud-native deployments and the app security team had to adapt strict security protocols to mitigate emerging threats.

In 2021, companies that have moved towards digital transformation will require expert guidance to develop a foolproof security strategy that could meet-security compliance, prevent attacks, and protect user data. App security is essential so that enterprises can work on developing and improving business with the assurance that applications are secure from potential danger. For building trust in users-software companies needs to not only make software more secure but more resilient as well.

“Through 2022, mobile application security failures will be the biggest mobile threat for enterprises.As per Gartner’s report-Mobile Device Security is not the major source of data fraud or breaches but Mobile Application Security Failure is. Mobile Applications are the primary source of communication between a company and it’s clients and when they run on Any Mobile Devices that means they are built to run on hostile environments-under the control of attackers. App Developers and Mobile Application Development Companies need to address this issue to assure a secured virtual environment to their users.

With growing user awareness on security and privacy, even WhatsApp has to issue a clarification after users started switching from WhatsApp to Telegram and Signal due to WhatsApp’s new data privacy policy. WhatsApp clarified they don’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling, and they don’t share contact details with Facebook. Data privacy issues like these need to be addressed by the laws of the user country. With the help of utterly strict privacy legislation-GDPR, the WhatsApp users in 27 European countries will not have their data shared with third parties.

Application developers may not have the control over the business data policies, but on the App security, it’s the Application Developers and Mobile Application Development Companies who have to take concrete measures to ensure Mobile application security.

Following are some of the main ways Application Developers and Mobile Application Development Companies create a Secure Mobile Application:

1. Threat Modeling Exercise
Threat Modeling Exercise is an exercise where the software development company can gage the potential/obvious threats rather than just follow their checklist and create a secure code at the beginning. These potential threats could be:

  • Sensitive data loss
  • Exposure of infrastructure
  • Fraud 
  • Noncompliance

2. Secure Code
Due to the vulnerable nature of mobile application code, and it’s functionality to run on any device makes it very easy for hackers to reverse engineer the code and use it for their benefit. Therefore, it becomes very important to create a hard code with agile development style-which is easy to patch and update on a time to time basis.
Code Obfuscation techniques like-name obfuscation, control flow obfuscation and arithmetic obfuscation makes it difficult for humans to understand the code and it doesn’t need to undergo de-obfuscation at the time of execution. 

3. Data Encryption
Data Encryption in layman’s language means locking the code in a way that it cannot be read by anyone else without decryption.  For encrypting the code- developer should create a cipher using letters, numbers, and symbols. Once the developer creates the cipher, he will have a “key” to decode it. The “key” is basically a number that describes the process by which the cipher was encoded. Therefore, Data Encrypting is a best practice which every developer should perform in order to save the data from being used in a malicious way.

4. Secured Libraries
While coding, at times the code needs to be taken from third party libraries. Not all libraries are safe and could act as a major source of data theft. Codes taken from these open source libraries should be checked thoroughly before including them in the code.

5.  Authorized API
It is always advisable to use centralized authorization on the entire API while writing code. If APIs are not authorized then it could be a treat for hackers to access information from caches to get authentication on the system.

6. Unwavering Multi Factor Authentication
Unwavering Multi Factor Authentication plays a crucial role while developing a secure mobile application. Adoption of digital transformation in businesses sometimes hampers security protocols through-careless cloud adoption methods, rise of social media and the increased amount of online data sharing-make the need for strong authentication more important than ever. This helps to avoid vulnerabilities in apps. Therefore, developers must use multi factor authentication with strong Passwords and OTP protection methods.

7. Adding Tamper Detection
Tamper detection is a technique by which developers can ensure that a third party or person has not recompiled and published the application under their account name or store without proper and prior consent. This helps safeguard intellectual property. To protect mobile app from hackers to inject bad code, developers  can keep changing the log of code of the application and design triggers that could send alerts when somebody tries to invade.

8. Apply (POLP) Principle Of Least Privileges
This principle of least privileges is created to secure programming access from being shared with non concerned people. By limiting super-user and administrator privileges – developers can protect the mobile app against common attacks, like Privilege Escalation Attacks and help businesses to grow in a secured environment. 

9. Proper Session Management
Proper session management is important because it provides developers extra precaution against data theft. Therefore, it is crucial to use secure web languages like (Java, C#, Golang, Python, PHP) that offer session management, which is well-developed and security tested. Generally, sessions on mobile are longer than desktop. Ensure that the size of the session cookie is sufficient. Short or predictable session cookies make it easier for an attacker to predict, highjack or perform attacks against the session. High-security settings in session configuration and facilities like remote wipe off are some good practices that help protect data of lost devices. 

10. White-Box Cryptography
Attackers having physical access to the user’s device is a likely scenario that can lead to huge data theft. White box term refers to the set of techniques used to hide and protect sensitive application data such as keys and credentials stored in an app on a device. Cryptography plays an important role in securing the user’s data in a mobile environment. iOS Keychain and Android KeyStore ensure that user’s confidential information is encrypted and is more difficult to extract from the device.  

11. Timely Testing and Regular Security Updates
It is quite possible that mobile app is exposed to vulnerabilities at the development stage. Regular updates bring in improved versions and new features in the apps.  Repeated testing helps developers find flaws and potential improvement in the security aspect of the app. Securing Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) has become one of the top priorities and applications should be protected using application testing methods like static code analysis, dynamic code analysis and vulnerability testing. There are different types of testing tools available that developers can use:

  • Functional Testing
  • Usability Testing
  • Compatibility Testing
  • Performance and load testing
  • Security Testing
  • Installation Testing
  • Localization Testing
  • Manual Testing
  • Automated Testing

By using above mentioned techniques, App Developers and Mobile Application Development Companies can not only save users sensitive data in the present but can also act smarter and foresee future threats coming from attackers and safeguard intellectual property.

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