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App Security Insights

The Biggest Security Dangers For Mobile App Developers

Dec 29, 2016 10:13:55 AM / by Sung Cho

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Mobile app developers face an increasingly challenging development environment. Not only are there more apps than ever to compete with; a virtual army of hackers endeavors to destroy what you’ve created with an array of security dangers to your mobile apps. From stealing customer data to hacking your servers, your app exposes you and your users to a seemingly infinite array of threats.

You can’t fight a battle if you don’t know what you’re fighting over. To protect your app, your business, and your customers from today’s security dangers for mobile apps, you must first know what those dangers are. Here are the five biggest threats your apps face.

Insecure Data Storage

Even simple apps often house piles of sensitive user data. From credit cards and bank account information to birthdays and passwords, a hacker who gains access to sensitive data can do a world of harm with it. Because many customers use the same password across devices and accounts, a hacker who gains access to a single password may be able to access dozens of accounts. You must counteract this by ensuring data is stored securely.

One of the simplest ways to prevent hackers from gaining access to sensitive data is only to require consumers to share data relevant to your app. Collecting excessive information about your users puts their privacy and security at risk. Once you have gathered their information, linking with source code and binary protection helps to keep this data safe.

Of course, most apps need at least some information, and many require financial information. Critical data should not be stored directly on the device. If it is, it should be securely encrypted.

Partnering With the Wrong Developers

No one wants to do work they can outsource, particularly when the work feels pointless or redundant. So it’s no surprise that so many app developers outsource some portion of the app development, analytics, or marketing process. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you choose the wrong partners, yo can endanger your users and your data.

Third parties who don’t know how to properly secure data can leak sensitive information all over the place, or make your app more vulnerable to hacking. And some nefarious actors even seek out development contracts specifically to gain access to sensitive consumer or company data. Some hackers even drop apparently helpful code on the web, in the hopes that exhausted developers will use it and inadvertently insert malicious code into their own apps.

Server-Side Security Holes

Hackers aren’t only interested in sensitive user data. They may also want to target your operation. Server-side data allows them to easily gain access to both. The servers on which app data is stored are ripe targets for malicious actors, so make sure they are secured. This becomes especially important if you store sensitive consumer data on your servers, or if your servers are home to potentially lucrative in-development apps. Only authorized users should be able to access your servers, and any servers on which app or user data is housed.

Leaky App Data

Hackers aren’t the only people interested in consumer data. Government entities have reportedly used data from apps such as Angry Birds to spy on users. And consumer data gives corporations, health insurers, and life insurance company access to information that can affect marketing and service decisions.

This means you need to be very careful about the analytics providers you select. Leaky data is a real threat, and if your analytics providers leak your data to third parties, consumers have a very real reason not to use your app.

Login Issues

Few users relish having to repeatedly enter a password every time they use an app. So most save their passwords, and many never log out of their apps. This convenience poses serious risks if the device is stolen or hacked. A criminal can access thousands of pieces of data by accessing a single device.

Circumvent this danger by causing applications to time out after five to 10 minutes of disuse. Customers might dislike having to re-enter passwords, but they’ll be grateful for this security control if the device is ever stolen.

Allowing users to remotely log out, and even to wipe data from their apps, can help them control data leakage if a device is lost or stolen. Build these protections into your app to offer the greatest security. And remember, consumers are increasingly security-conscious, so greater security means a greater potential share of the market.

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Topics: Mobile App Security, Security Threats

Sung Cho

Written by Sung Cho

VP, Growth & Strategy