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Mobile App Security Insights

Mobile Application Security: 10 Best Practices for App Developers

Apr 26, 2017 1:04:33 PM / by Sung Cho

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Developers may be actively looking for a fresh niche within the suddenly crowded mobile application market, but in their search for an exciting new product, many fail to recognize the essential role that security plays. Sure, mobile apps have never been hotter. Yet, along with the decisive upswing of the format’s technology, there comes a greater risk of malicious hackers trying to exploit all the hard work your team has put into creating something special for users.

This growing gap between consumer demand and the ability to properly plan and develop an app with effective security measures is a real problem for the world of mobile application security. However, it’s not one without a solution. Whether you’re about to launch a new app or are years into its life, it’s never too late to implement some key strategies to protect your app from harm. Here are some best practices to get you started down the path to a more secure experience for you and your users.

  • Include security in upfront strategy: No matter how excited you are to get your app live, you’re always better off including security as a key part of your strategy from the beginning. Since it’s almost certain to carry sensitive user data, you should ensure that transmission is secure first. Plus, implementing security measures is always easier if it’s built into the development process. You’ll be able to plan everything much more smoothly.
  • Focus on application analytics: Staying attentive to how users interact with your app is a smart move simply because it will provide a ton of guidance regarding what is working and what isn’t. But analytics can also keep you informed when something goes wrong on your app. Crash logs and other tracking are therefore advised, since such errors can leave your app vulnerable to hackers if not addressed quickly.
  • Implement user authentication: You wouldn’t let just anyone into your home, right? So there’s little reason you would let just anyone access your app. Instead, you need to be sure to authenticate every individual who attempts to log in. To be even more thorough, opt for two-factor authentication. This will discourage hackers from tampering with your app and create a safer atmosphere for your loyal user base.
  • Remember deauthentication too: Just as authentication should play a key role in your app’s operations, you should also take steps to de-identify user data before you even consider sharing it with another party. Inevitably, sensitive user data will pass through your app, but if you remove all identifying details from the data, there’s little to no chance that it will be traced back to your user.
  • Maintain consistent testing: After you’ve launched your app, you may mistakenly think that you can simply monitor its performance and only make updates or changes as needed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since hackers’ tactics are constantly evolving, you’ll need to stay just as vigilant. In particular, keep a close eye on the source code to identify any vulnerabilities early and stay up to date on security testing.
  • Restrict data access permissions: Of course, the goal for your app is to prevent any security issues from ever coming to pass, but to a certain degree, data leaks may still happen. In anticipation of this, only set your app to request permission to access data that it absolutely needs to function. The more data your app touches, the more your user may be at risk if a security event arises. Moreover, asking for too much data access may alienate some users.
  • Make encryption a major focus: Few strategies are as effective when it comes to mobile application security than encryption. There’s a reason it is one of the most talked about ways to guard against hackers. Because your app is constantly communicating with the online server, there’s a ton of risk that this wireless communication can be intercepted by malicious users. For that reason, you need to encrypt all the data transmissions but especially those on the transport layer.
  • Secure from the application layer: While you should encrypt data on the transport layer that lies between the mobile device and web server, don’t forget to employ security at the application layer. Build protection into your app and educate your users regarding the settings they can adjust to ensure they are in full control of their experience and any associated risks they may take.
  • Be aware of mobile gateways: A gateway is the path through which mobile traffic passes through. It’s up to the developer to direct users through the path of least security risk. Install firewalls, content filtering and other security controls to keep user activity secure and their data away from prying eyes.
  • Update on a regular basis: As alluded to earlier with regard to security testing, you should always keep your app up-to-date with the latest software updates. This diligent approach will ensure that user protection is maximized, since older versions of software are often more accessible to hackers. In addition, be ready to act when a software bug or other error is identified, as this could open up an opportunity for hackers to strike.

App to the Stars

Even with everything we’ve explained about mobile application security, we’re certain that some of you are tempted to ignore our advice and move forward with your own plans. After all, mobile devices have now officially become the most popular way that consumers access the internet. So we understand the excitement to tap into this new normal and build a community around your app. But you mustn’t do so without accounting for security risks.

With any luck, the above tips have already helped you develop a greater understanding of how egregious it is to keep your app active without taking the proper precautions. Most of the strategies we’ve discussed aren’t even particularly difficult or time-consuming. So you have little to lose and everything to gain by acting fast and guarding against hackers. You owe it to your users to keep their sensitive data (and your own coding) out of the wrong hands.

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Topics: Mobile App Security

Sung Cho

Written by Sung Cho

Head of Marketing at SEWORKS Co., Ltd.