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Mobile App Security Insights

What Is The Difference Between Obfuscation And Encryption?

Jul 14, 2017 2:00:00 PM / by Sung Cho

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By now, most developers of mobile applications should be well-versed in the art of encryption. After all, the process is so key to protecting various facets of your business -- from the codes to web server communications -- that comprehensive encryption is no longer even enough to establish a security system that effectively keeps hackers at bay.

The use of mobile technology has continued to proliferate, and hackers have become more proficient in their ability to hijack data transmissions and leak sensitive code and user information to further their own malicious intent. They’ve gotten so good at it, in fact, that obfuscation has become a common practice to complicate matters for those wishing to do harm.

Considering the interconnected nature of encryption and obfuscation, it’s understandable for the precise nature of each to become entangled together. Yet, if you’re ever going to make the most effective use of the tools you have at your disposal and ensure that your app’s security is optimized for peak performance, it’s essential to tighten your grasp of both obfuscation and encryption. Encryption keys are far easier to access without obfuscation on your side. So let’s delve into both concepts in a bit more detail.

The Importance of Encryption

The very nature of a mobile app entails that data is constantly transmitted from either a server to a user’s device or from one device to another. That leaves a lot of opportunity for hackers to intercept incoming and outgoing transmissions, especially if your app has a social function as many do these days.

Encryption is the most common way to thwart data infiltration and prevent the simplest hacks from taking hold of your app. While it is by no means a guarantee, encrypted data at least provides a modicum of safety that discourages malicious users from attempting wrongdoing.

Of course, such efforts are more easily overcome when the encryption keys are outdated. So be sure to keep your encryption fresh and stay up to date on the most popular tactics that hackers are using to circumvent it. For every protective measure, there is inevitably a way around it.

So take preventative measures to make it more difficult for hackers to worm their way into gaining access to the sensitive data contained with your app’s digital walls. Encryption is in many ways your first line of defense against external threats. Even if you fail to obfuscate your encryption keys (more on that in a moment), there’s no reason to overlook the importance of encryption.

Where Obfuscation Comes In

So you’ve encrypted your data and you are already staying updated on the latest, most effective ways to protect your app from hackers. However, though encryption is a key ingredient in a winning security plan, its strength is greatly enhanced by the deft use of obfuscation. Essentially, this approach involves creating a puzzle or other challenge behind which the encryption key itself lies.

Before hackers can even hope to gain access to encrypted data, they must first conquer the obfuscation method you implant into the encryption framework. Again, this isn’t an absolute guarantee that a cyber-attack won’t prove effective but it significantly reduces the possibility that a hacker will prove successful.

These days, obfuscation is accomplished effortlessly with any number of automated tools, whether that means scrambling the encryption key or otherwise masking it. In this way, encryption and obfuscation go hand in hand as dual protective measures that work together to keep your data secure and your app away from those who wish to exploit it.

In its most common application, obfuscation doesn’t prove to be an effective method without encryption first being in place, but if you’re hoping to keep your app safe from hackers for the foreseeable future, we highly advise that you use both encryption and obfuscation on an ongoing basis.

A Collaborative Effort

In tandem, encryption and obfuscation may not be the be-all, end-all solution you’re seeking to keep your app safeguarded from cyber-attacks. However, when encryption keys are meticulously buried beneath levels of obfuscation, the end result will certainly provide a starting point from which you can build out even more sophisticated security measures.

Regardless of how you approach your mobile application security, be mindful of the recommended best practices, and ensure that your app is exploring all possible options to deliver a safe environment for your users.

As always, this entails keeping a close watch on the latest trends within the mobile space and consistent evolution of your security practices, but with updated encryption methods and obfuscation to support it, you’ll be more equipped to handle and incoming threats with relative ease. In the end, it’s the long-term success of your app and the experience of your users that matters.

A data leak can wreak havoc on your business prospects and reputation. So don’t allow such an attack to take place, especially if some basic security measures can largely evade it in the first place. You’ll be glad that you did so the next time a hacker decides to target your app and finds the objective of cracking it far trickier than they anticipated.

The-Developers-Guide-To-Mobile-App-Security

Topics: Encryption, Obfuscation

Sung Cho

Written by Sung Cho

Head of Marketing at SEWORKS Co., Ltd.