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Mobile App Security Insights

Common Missteps in Mobile Application Security

May 4, 2017 10:13:00 AM / by Sung Cho

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“I have an app for that!” This refrain is becoming increasingly common, and yet, despite how ubiquitous mobile applications are becoming in nearly every aspect of our lives, some developers still fail to place the necessary emphasis on security. Even if your app is tricked out with every feature imaginable and emerges leagues ahead of its nearest competition, all of that effort and ingenuity will go to waste without the protection to keep your users and your coding safe.

In some circles, mobile application security is being treated with the deference it deserves. However, while some are rightfully making this aspect of their app a priority, others are either neglecting it entirely or remain guilty of some fatal errors. Since hackers are especially resilient these days, we thought it wise to review some of the most popular mistakes developers make in how they tackle security, in the hopes that you can avoid them yourself.

  • Encryption is key: While it might seem like common sense to most developers, some still neglect to properly encrypt their apps. For example, if you’re still using HTTP as your foundational protocol, it’s time to switch to the secure version, HTTPS. With the breadth of options out there to provide a secure user experience, there’s no reason you cannot at least take this most basic step to protect your app and all of its transmissions.
  • Don’t stop testing: If you’re still under the impression that testing is something that only precedes the launch of a new app, let’s clear that misconception up right now. Hackers are always evolving their attack methods, and as such, your site should never stop evolving. This means that security testing in particular should remain ongoing as long as your app is active. After all, few targets are as easy to exploit than those that are using outdated, ineffective security measures.
  • Guard against vulnerabilities: In keeping with our insistence that you never stop testing your app’s security, you need to stay on top of the latest vulnerabilities to emerge as the most prevalent threats to your app. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), for instance, maintains an industry-standard list of the Top Ten vulnerabilities. We heartily recommend not only staying updated on these but taking them into account during the development process as well.
  • Security slips behind: Devising more effective and innovative ways to serve your users is admirable, but it shouldn’t mean that security takes a backseat. Yet, all too often, that is precisely what happens in the world of mobile app development. Even if you have other concerns regarding your app’s future, be sure that protecting your coding and user data remains at the top of the list. Always. Otherwise, all your other efforts may be undermined by one simple vulnerability in your app.
  • Plan for a platform: Apple, Android and Windows are all major players in the mobile space, and when you’re developing an app, consider building it around one or all of these platforms. Each one presents its own distinct set of benefits and drawbacks alike. As such, iOS often has very different security risks than Android. Whichever platform you opt for, anticipate how where you publish your app will affect the soundness of its security.
  • Configure it out: Remember that your configurations decide what data is transmitted from your app to the hosting server. So when you turn your attention away from this aspect of your app -- as many developers do -- you run the risk of needlessly sharing sensitive user data. Such data leakages make it quite easy for third-party users to access this information and leave your users incredibly vulnerable. Ensure that your app remains configured properly to control what data is transmitted where, and you’ll be that much more effective at keeping hackers at bay.

Watch Your Step

Security may not be a particularly exciting element of a winning mobile app, but it is an essential one. Without it, hackers and other malicious users might be able to twist and contort your hard work for their own ends. This can result in irreparable changes to your coding or even the sale of your users’ sensitive data. Either of these can result in catastrophe for the long-term prospects of your app, and without the proper security measures, it’s only a matter of time.

When a user downloads your app, they’re placing an implicit trust in your hands. To leave their sensitive data open to cyber-attackers is a blatant violation of your supposed devotion to the user base without whom your app is doomed to failure. By this rationale, mobile application security is no longer a luxurious pursuit but one that you owe to both your customers and your team. As mobile apps continue to grow in prominence, the threats against them will only increase. Prepare now to secure your app’s future.

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Topics: Mobile App Security, Application Security

Sung Cho

Written by Sung Cho

Head of Marketing at SEWORKS Co., Ltd.