Mobile Application Security: Checklist for Data Security and Vulnerabilities
As we see, mobile applications are the epicenters of technological development trends nowadays. All the work, from basic to the most important ones, are now taking place on mobile apps. The usage of these applications is increasing with each passing moment.
Some people are downloading these apps for personal use while publishers are busy developing applications to get them into the market. Along with the advancement in this field, the threat is also growing. There is not a day that goes without hearing about some digital fraud, be it in the form of hacking, malware, or some other manipulation.
So, there is an absolute need for security of your data in mobile applications to secure them from vulnerabilities present out there. These apps are a significant channel of online threats to the user’s safety, especially when they are connected to a business or some critical service.
When consumers do not adopt proper mobile security practices or download an unauthorized application, they are an easy target for the criminal elements. Developers pay a lot of attention to design the application to provide us with a smooth and clutter-free experience. Often, users install the app without due consideration to the security aspects and furnish personal information without giving a second thought.
Without any protection against the lawbreakers seeking profit, users stand at high risk of being a victim to these frauds like:
- Their credit card details getting into the wrong hands
- Personal information like login credentials getting stolen
- Identity thefts
- Their gadget become a host to spread malware to other uninfected devices
- Their SMS or text messages getting copied to search for personal information
- Hackers getting access to business linkages
- Disclosure of IP address
These are some of the most common threats we see and hear about each day. Mobile applications place a lot of personal information out there on the internet. Security is essential for both the developer and the user. Without proper protection, they both are at a loss.
The consumer will lose their personal data. At the same time, the trust they had in the company or service will also be lost. This would be a huge disadvantage to the application developer. One attack is all that takes to ruin the reputation and the trust earned.
Hence, both the user and the creator must follow some industry-standard app security practices to keep the data safe and secure. Here is a mobile app security and vulnerability list to go along:
#1. Go for A Code Signing Certificate
Are you wondering what code signing is? Well, Code Signing Certificate is a digital signature that is applied to the code of a mobile application to protect it from being meddled with. It usually uses a sophisticated mathematical formula to attach a digital identity of the author who wrote or distributed the code. This guarantees the code authenticity and builds the user’s trust in the developer or distributor of the software.
This certificate is associated with a distinct private key. It produces a unique signature for every code sample and assigns a signature to the “hash” of the code. When the user runs the application, their operating system (android, IOS, windows, etc.) verifies the password and allows the application to install and execute.
The most important question that arises is – “Why is it needed?”
The idea behind all the fancy UIs (user interfaces) and the services offered by any developer can be summoned up in one word – “code”. Code happens to lay the groundwork of all electronic gadgets, starting from the most basic applications to electric cars. It controls what and how of all functionality. Nowadays, the applications are no longer static; new software updates are being released to keep them up to date.
The code written by the developer of any mobile app gets distributed all around the globe. Customers put their trust in the publisher. But how does the distributor ensure that the end-user receives the same code? The answer is via a code signing certificate.
While signing the software, the creator must make sure that he/she is using a code validated by trusted Certificate Authority and is not a self-signed certificate. Also, one of the most critical practices to follow while implementing your code is not to share your private code signing key.
Also, as an end-user, you need to ensure that your data remains safe and secure. What if someone introduces some malware or the code you receive is meddled with? The solution to ensure this is by using and installing only those applications which have a code signing certificate. This certificate lays a foundation of trust and guarantees that any third party has not tampered the code.
Therefore, code signing is one of the most critical steps towards the security of a mobile app.
#2. Encrypt your Data
One of the processes that take place while using any mobile application is communicating with your server and storing the data on the cloud. How do you keep your customers and app information secure when it is in transit?
The developer Should use SSL Certificate to secure the user’s data transmission. The creator is responsible for proving security to the consumers. Protection from MITM (Man in the middle) attacks and data loss when their systems get compromised need security.
SSL (secure socket layer) encrypts the data and transfers it so that no person who gets hold of the information can understand it and make sense of it. It is the most cost-efficient and easiest way to encrypt the data while being transmitted. If you thinking to buy SSL Certificate and want to install it hassle free, then you can find many options around you like resellers and certificate authorities like GlobalSign, DigiCert, SSL2BUY, Comodo, etc.
#3. Cryptography and Libraries
Cryptography (encryption and decryption) works along with the SSL discussed above. The developer must know that they should never place your local keys at a spot where they may get disclosed. These need to be managed with the utmost secrecy as the app uses them for SSH transfers or API connections.
Along with this, the libraries that are not trustworthy must not be used. Though these may make the process of development easy, it is not worth it as the security gets compromised. In addition to this, staying up to date with updates is also necessary. Make sure you only work with the ones who stay on top of the latest security threats and send regular updates to patch known vulnerabilities.
#4. Implement the Principle of Least Privilege
When users install any application, and it asks for permissions like access to photos, contacts, etc., the privileges seem tempting, and everyone is more than happy to press “yes”. But what if some of them are not needed?
According to the principle of least privilege, the mobile application must allow the code of the application to work with minimum permissions.
Asking for more than needed is a recipe to get in trouble. Stay away from requesting more privileges than required for secure app functioning.
#5. Trusted APIs
The mobile apps developers must use service APIs, some from Google and well-known partners, and sometimes from your services. The key is to ensure authorization, which can be tracked and trusted upon. No open APIs must be used, which may seem easy to consume, but then, you have no guarantee on security or performance. The users trust the developers for their safety, so you owe it to them to not to disappoint them.
#6. Strong Passwords
As a developer, you must have the best password policies possible. Impose strong password phrases. One of the good ways is using a “non-dictionary” combination of upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters. The app must not allow the use of personally identifiable user id and password combinations – also, see if you can send them some token to validate occasionally to ensure they still own the device. Lost devices are the most significant security threats and saved passwords from killing the protection goal once the device changes hands.
So, here it is, the essential key pointers to developing and using a secure mobile application without getting hurt by security vulnerabilities.
Being a developer, know that the ways of unleashing online scams are continually evolving, and the methods you use might become outdated. So, keep replacing them with more sophisticated and better security techniques. Also, make time to check for new weaknesses in your applications.
In this situation, having strong security checks in your application not only enhance the trust of the consumer, but it also boosts your company’s reputation action can understand it and make sense of it. It is the highly cost-efficient and simplest way to encode the data while being transferred.