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App Security Insights

Mobile App Security: Back to the Basics

Feb 2, 2018 9:00:00 AM / by AppSolid Team

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For developers, mobile application security has become a topic of particular concern in the past few years, especially as the number of high-profile cyberattacks and data breaches has seemingly skyrocketed. Such sensitive industries as finance and healthcare have suddenly found themselves among the most significant targets, jeopardizing both the privacy of users and the integrity of the development teams behind these victimized mobile apps.

In any case, some of the most notable experts in the field have weighed in about the importance of mobile application security, and though they may possess differing approaches with how businesses should apply protections to their apps, they agree about the essential need to embrace mobile application security.

The threats app developers face continue to pile up, and the road to establishing a sound way to protect apps and their users grows ever more complex. Because technology is always evolving, the means of defense must do so as well, creating a scenario in which constant vigilance remains not only wise but necessary.

Thankfully, developers like yourself have more opportunities than ever to fortify your apps and anticipate any threats that may pose a threat sometime down the line. The cost to your business and your users’ privacy is too high to ignore this issue any longer.

So, if you’ve been hesitant to adopt mobile application security measures for any reason, consider this a warning to act as soon as possible. If you’re ready to put your app and users first, let’s review some of the basics of mobile application security.

Time to Strategize

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We’ve alluded to the shocking scope of the danger that hackers pose to mobile apps and the importance of taking action to prevent the resulting damage. However, we’re not here to remind you what you’re facing as much as we are hoping to inspire you to do something about it. To that end, let’s go over a few of the key ways you can eliminate vulnerabilities and safeguard your apps.

  • Protect your source code: It’s the foundation for everything that your app is and does. Naturally, keeping your source code out of the wrong hands should be a top priority. In the best of cases, you will design your security framework with this goal in mind from the beginning, but if not, you can never go wrong with deciding to take steps after the fact. Just ensure that your source code is covered.
  • Enable single sign-on: Authentication should be a vital part of your mobile application security, since this simple tactic has a disproportionately strong effect on minimizing vulnerabilities within your app. Using both a password and a PIN might not seem like a big effort to make, but it maintains the integrated approach that users love without costing them the potential invasion of privacy that a cyberattack would bring.
  • Encrypt your coding: You may consider this one of the most obvious ways to obscure your code from hackers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. In fact, encryption is your first line of defense in many case, and when you couple that with obfuscation, your chances of being hacked after even lower. Obfuscation scrambles the encrypted code, creating a scenario that significantly deepens your security framework.
  • Secure your application: Mobile application security is most effective when you account for it in your app’s design, placing precautionary measures above all else. No matter what methods you use -- email verification, data protection and usability testing are all popular options -- you need to develop an application-wide security policy, one that includes a regular security audit to keep everything up to date and ready for attack.
  • Don’t forget the device: Even if you build up your app’s security to an extraordinary degree, you still need to consider how your app interacts with other apps on a given device as well as with the device settings themselves. This can sometimes interfere with security settings you include within your app or leave it unexpectedly vulnerable. Don’t wait until an attack has happened to embrace a larger view of mobile security.

So Many Benefits

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With mobile apps now the most popular way that consumers connect online, the case for why mobile application security is a good idea basically makes itself. Still, we want to take the time to better elaborate about the many benefits that you can offer your app and its user when you institute in-depth security measures for your mobile app. Then you’ll realize just how much you truly have to gain from securing your mobile app.

  • Stronger technology: Bulking up your security has more aesthetic benefits than you might think. With a firm security plan in place, you can more easily achieve a smoother interface and offer greater usability to your users. The functionality is also improved, as your updated security enhancements keep glitches away and ensure your coding is up to snuff. Better technology only means greater opportunities for you and your team in the coming years.
  • Enhanced privacy: Mobile devices govern so much of the time we spend online. Of course, this continuing trend only makes the need to keep this activity private all the more intense. To make matters worse, users tend to save sensitive data on their devices via these apps, trusting that the built-in security measures will keep it protected. With mobile application security, you can rest assured that user data is in good hands at last.
  • Boost customization: The customer experience is always paramount, but this is truer now than it has ever been. Luckily, mobile application security lends itself to a high level of customization, actually making it easier to create a variety of personalized options to your users. This will only make your customers that much more enthusiastic about your product and more likely to become loyal brand advocates down the line.
  • Better business climate: Due to the increased privacy, your app security helps to contribute to a safer, more fair and balanced business environment for you and your competitors to share. Moreover, the existence of such sharp security options pushes the industry as a whole to do better, causing a snowball effect that elevates everyone across the board in equal measure. What’s good for one app inevitably benefits the rest of them.
  • Beat the competition: However, let’s not get things twisted. We know you still very much wish to rise above the other companies who may offer a similar product. Mobile application security can help you there too. Despite the clear advantage, not all developers will adopt security as strongly or as soon as others, leaving those who possess the wherewithal to invest heavily in security to skyrocket ahead of their peers.
  • Squash the hackers: Cyber attacks are perpetrated by such malicious individuals, the kind that only cares about his or her own interests. The well-being and privacy rights of others is of little concern. Therein lies another reason that mobile application security can benefit you. Whenever you remain plugged in to your security framework, you make it that much harder for cyber-criminals to thrive. With time, such behavior may even be able to choke them out entirely.
  • Fewer legal issues: Accordingly, a dearth of hackers will translate to fewer legal obstacles resulting from the cyberattacks that affect thousands or millions of people. Less litigation means a notable savings and the perception of a safer, more financially stable and more secure (above all else) environment for users to enjoy your product without fear that the company is eventually due for it all to blow up in its own face.
  • Protect the children: The less hackers there are, the fewer cyber-attacks can occur. And the safer the internet is for us all, the far better place it is for children to inhabit. In today’s day and age, the web is so ingrained in our lives that no one -- not even children -- manage to stay away from it completely, with young people increasingly focused on mobile apps for gaming and social media. Securing your app contributes to keeping the internet a safe place (relatively speaking, of course).

Testing Time

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Now that you understand some basic steps to protect your app and your users from a cyberattack, it’s time we run through some of the most notable benefits why mobile application security should be an integral part of your app’s operation. But we’re not through yet. Sure, there are countless tips and tricks we could share (and will, at a later date). For now, we’re going to point out why you need to test your mobile application on a regular basis, as this practice can often prevent a problem from ever happening. Getting into this habit today, in other words, can save you a world of heartache tomorrow.

Conducting a simple and routine test of your app’s system can identify issues that could affect your business performance. Why face hardship when you can avoid it entirely? These problems might even be discovered by the user if you aren’t careful, resulting in damage to your reputation even before hackers have a chance to strike. Moreover, continuous prevention methods such as routine testing might be able to keep your app running smoothly and minimize the chances it may crash, thereby breaking your promise to consumers.

But, of course, the most important reason that you should be testing for our purposes today is that it could help you find vulnerable points that hackers might otherwise exploit. Testing for these could spur the action you need to close up any weak points within your coding before they kick off a chain reaction that dismantles all your hard work. Glitches may run the gamut from tiny inconvenience to pure catastrophe, but it’s not worth gambling your livelihood to discover which is which. With testing, you’ll be ready to identify these early on and ensure that every bit of your system is armed with the latest security measures along the way.

More than just a good idea, testing is an absolute necessity as we battle against shrewd hackers who make it their business to know that spots of an app to hit to do the most damage. The integrity of your app (and, consequently, your pride in it) are at stake. Testing often will not eat into much of your time. Consider looking into it now as part of your mobile application security to keep your app running smoothly and your customers protected against the hordes of cyber-attackers ready to pounce on an unsuspecting mobile app.

No Time to Waste

There’s still work to be done with regards to building awareness of mobile application security and the role it should play in developing any app from the ground up. However, we hope that the above discussion has created some much-needed context for how it works and why it’s so essential right now. Although we continue to take action against hackers and other malicious users, piracy persists in increasingly deft and unexpected ways.

The only way forward is to fight to protect what it yours, including your team’s efforts, your product and your customer base. For every app that launches, there appears countless threats ready to trounce on it. The bar for mobile application security has essentially been raised and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Don’t fall behind and allow your app to become an easy target.

These words of caution aren’t meant to inspire fear but action. The widespread use of mobile apps for just about everything nowadays certainly make them attractive for hackers and those looking to exploit others’ work for their own nefarious ends. Yet, the omnipresent possibility of a cyberattack does manage to keep developers like yourself vigilant and has galvanized the industry into taking concrete steps to counter the ill-intentioned actions of the hacker community.

Before you slip back into the complacency that plagues many of your contemporaries, be sure to immediately take note of what you can do now to guard against attack. It might ultimately mean the difference between a successful, thriving venture and one that spells doom for your future prospects.

Get Secure & Stay Secure: The Unconventional Guide to Mobile Application Security

Topics: Mobile Application Security

Written by AppSolid Team