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How to Protect Your Mobile App from Attacks

July 13, 2016 | mobile apps security

According to a study done by Gartner, more than 75 percent of mobile applications would fail basic security tests.

Many companies mistakenly believe that mobile apps are immune to attacks. As a result, many businesses overlook the risks and skimp on security when it comes to mobile app development.

If you don’t think mobile app security is important, than you probably haven’t considered all of the potentially damaging outcomes that a security breach could create for your business. The truth is that mobile apps need to be secured just like any other web application.

According to a study done by Gartner, more than 75 percent of mobile applications would fail basic security tests. In addition, enterprise employees routinely download and use mobile apps that have few to no security assurances.

Recent research from Arxan also found that:

  • 90% of 126 mobile health and mobile finance apps tested had at least two critical security vulnerabilities
  • 50% of organizations have zero budget allocated for mobile app security

Despite these alarming findings, it seems that most mobile app companies still aren’t taking the necessary steps to secure their apps against potential vulnerabilities. Mobile app security breaches can seriously damage the reputation of your company and may also lead to lost revenues. In fact, some major mobile app companies have already experienced these negative consequences for failing to take security seriously.

In 2014, Snapchat admitted that the phone numbers and usernames for at least 4.6 million accounts had been stolen by a third-party website. The website gained access to the data as a result of an “illegal” third-party app which allowed users to connect to Snapchat’s main services.

While Snapchat attempted to calm the fears of users with PR and security updates, the third-party website attacked Snapchat stating that the company knew about the data scraping vulnerability when it failed to respond privately to Australian researchers at Gibson Security, the team who initially discovered Snapchat’s security problems.

For a company that is still struggling to achieve profitability, this security failure was particularly damaging to Snapchat because it ultimately resulted in the company having to reach a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for deceiving customers with promises about the “disappearing nature of messages sent through the service, the amount of personal data that it collected, and the security measures taken to protect that data from misuse and unauthorized disclosure.”

In a digital world where active users are the keys to the success and profitability of your app, app security can make or break your company. App users automatically expect that your company will protect their personal data and that your app is secure. If you want to earn their trust and loyalty, your business must be proactive about mobile app security.

Here’s how to protect your mobile app from attacks so that your business and your customers are secured against potential threats.

What Are the Risks of Mobile App Attacks?

Small businesses are often the companies that are most affected by mobile attacks. However, mobile app security breaches can severely impact businesses of all sizes.

The major risks of mobile app security breaches are:

  • IP Theft. Proprietary information, including business processes and code, can be inspected and/or copied.
  • Privacy Violation or Identity Theft. Mobile app data could be exposed, opening your company to lawsuits from angry customers and potential regulatory action from government entities.
  • Data Breach. Sensitive data, such as proprietary company information or personally identifiable customer data, could be made available to hackers.
  • Piracy. Premium mobile apps could be made available for free via torrents and other illegal download websites.
  • Theft of Services. Mobile app license checks may be circumvented allowing thieves to use your service for free.
  • Advertisements. Mobile apps can be modified with malware that leads customers to websites that are designed to steal identity and financial information. 
  • Counterfeiting. A mobile app may copied and sold in the public app marketplace by a third-party that is not the real owner of the mobile app. This misleads customers and hurts your company’s reputation and revenues.

How to Protect your Mobile App?

In order to defend your mobile app against all attacks, you need a multi-faceted approach to securing your app.

Integrate Security Into the Code

If your app development process does not include the right security frameworks, then hackers can easily find loopholes to gain access and control over your app. This puts users at risk for theft of their personal information that is stored within the app, as well as, direct attacks on their personal mobile devices.

Runtime application protection is a secure technology that should be built into your app’s runtime environment to ensure that attacks are detected and prevented in real-time. You should also regularly conduct breach tests to determine if the app is penetrable. Having a third-party to hack your app as a test is really the only way to know how your app will respond to an attack.

Secure the Data

To ensure that your users’ personal data is secure, you should address weaknesses in configuration management and cryptography, and enable user authentication and authorization.

Secure Payment Transactions

Depending on the nature of your app, the need for transaction security will vary. However, the payment system and sensitive client-side transactions should be secured with multifactor authentication, encryption, and tokenization.

Secure the Device

While jailbroken devices can make apps vulnerable to attacks, jailbreaking is not a requirement. To ensure that your app only runs on mobile devices that are secure, make sure that your app includes compromised device detection.

Deal With Evolving Threats

As mobile threats evolve, it is simply impossible to prepare for all of the unknowns. However, you can stay on top of the latest mobile threats with the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

You should also encourage users to install a mobile security program on their devices. By having users’ assist in maintaining the security of their own devices, you can significantly reduce the chances of a widespread security breach. In addition, users may even be able to alert you of a potential breach as it occurs.

Finally, minimizing the amount of personal data that is required to use your app is one of the best ways to make your app less attractive to hackers. If there is nothing to steal, then hackers are less likely to target your app in the first place.

Security is one of the core tenants of the mobile development services offered by Achievion. Feel free to reach out to learn more about our development process.

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