8 Steps to Enhance App Security

Security

In today’s day and age, everyone is connected to the digital world. We rely on the internet for our day-to-day activities such as searching for taco recipes, scheduling an appointment, or paying bills. Meanwhile, a very large percentage of web applications possess some sort of exploitable security flaw or weakness. This happens due to weak authentication and related access-control measures. So, to ensure that hackers and other groups don’t attack your application, you need to protect your app users by following a structured approach. 

App Security Issues: At a Glance

Common issues related to mobile app security include improper handling of sessions, broken cryptography, unintended data leakage, and poor authorization. Among these issues, the most common is data leakage. This is due to storing app data in insecure locations.

Speaking of handling sessions poorly, the issue is commonly observed in e-commerce apps. The developers of these apps allow long sessions – reducing delays related to the buying process. 

How to Prevent These Issues?

It may sound tricky but with the right set of strategies, it is possible to safeguard your mobile application from such security threats. So let’s discuss some major strategies you can utilize to achieve this.

1

Be Careful with (API)

The mobile applications are able to interact with each other through an application programming interface (API). APIs are vulnerable to attacks by hackers – securing them is imperative. Some ways to avoid hacks include:

  • Using authorized APIs in the application code
  • Embedding an API gateway
  • Conducting code reviews
  • Adding a firewall for web apps
  • Using tokens & two-step authentication

 

2

Secure your Network Connections

Secured network connections are extremely important when talking about app security. To avoid unauthorized access, the cloud servers and servers accessed by APIs should be secured. There are penetration testers that can be hired if you’d like to put your app security to the test. The certified professionals in this area can detect any vulnerabilities and offer corrective solutions.

A developer can also rely on containerization for this purpose. This process involves bundling an app with its libraries, dependencies, and configuration files to run in a bug-free manner in several computing environments. This process securely stores data and documents in an encrypted container.

For additional layers of security, it’s wise to encrypt the database through a:

  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
  • Transport Layer Security (TLS)
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN) 

To further enhance security, developers rely on federation, a method that scatters resources across different servers and separates key resources from its users. This is typically doable using encryption methods.

3

Encrypt Local Data

Attackers frequently target data stored by apps on mobile devices. This is why encrypting locally-stored data is a necessity. To avoid affecting the end-user experience, encrypt minimally. With the latest versions of Android OS, users get on-device encryption. For older versions, apps like CoverMe are needed for this purpose.

To encrypt at-rest data, developers use file-level encryption, a method to protect data on a file-by-file basis.

Apps should be designed so users’ sensitive data isn’t stored directly on a device. By sensitive data, we’re talking credit card info and passwords. If an app requires you to store information, make sure it is encrypted.

4

Obfuscate your Code

Obfuscation is a strategy used to confuse a hacker by creating a machine code or source code that’s hard to understand. This can be done manually by removing nonessential metadata and debugging information. As a result, the information available to the attacker plummets.

As a part of manual obfuscation, one can encrypt some or most of the code. Adding meaningless labels to use variable and class names is another strategy. Some developers insert dummy code to the program in such a way that the program’s logic remains unaffected.

Another approach is to inject anti-tamper protection into the source code. When tampered with, the app automatically shuts down or causes random crashes. The developers or other concerned authorities will also receive tampering-related details. 

 

5

‘Possible Threats’ Checklist

Before testing your mobile app for security, it’s good to have a list of threats and weak spots. It gives you a clearer picture and the following steps become easier and more efficient. Here are some common weak spots to include in your checklist:

  • Point of entry
  • Data transmission
  • Data storage
  • Data leakage
  • Authentication
  • Server-side controls

The checklist varies by the nature of the app and industry you are developing for. For maximum efficiency, be sure to involve your entire team while developing this checklist.

6

Test your App (Over & Over)

There is no limit to testing your mobile app. The testing session involves:

  • Examining data security issues
  • Session management
  • Authentication
  • Authorization 

While testing your app, create test cases based on common security threats and challenges – should cover every OS version and phone model. Here are some tips for testing your app’s security:

  • Create a dummy DDMS file and provide a mock location. This helps ensure drivers are unable to send mock GPS locations from their smart devices.
  • Check if the data specific to a driver is visible after login.
  • Ensure all app log files don’t store the authentication tokens.
  • Check if the drivers are able to view data as per their access rights.
  • For web service, check the encryption of the login authentication token.

 

There are also plenty of security testing tools to help analyze your app’s security. Some effective tools include:

  • Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)
  • Micro Focus
  • Kiuwan
  • QARK
  • Android Debug Bridge
  • CodifiedSecurity
  • Drozer
  • WhiteHat Security
  • Synopsys
  • Veracode
  • Mobile Security Framework (MobSF)

7

Use Updated Libraries

One common element prone to attacks is libraries. The risk is directly proportional to the length of your code. When working on your app, to avoid security breaches, use only the latest version of libraries with all available improvements and changes. This is applicable to proprietary code, open-source, or a combination of both.

 

8

Impose Access Policies

Mobile app development must be in sync with the corporate policies of the organization’s IT administrators. Likewise, it should comply with the app stores in which it will be listed – including Google Play and the App Store. Also, by using secure frameworks, it’s possible to reduce the attack surface of your app. 

If you apply every strategy we’ve just gone through, it would be virtually impossible for a hacker to penetrate your app. However, it is just as important to:

  • Stay updated with the latest tools & techniques involving cybersecurity – further shield your app.
  • Keep track of malpractices by attackers for data breaches & threats.
  • Take the support of mobile app development companies & mobile app security experts for the best results.

If you’re looking to develop a mobile app, then you can get in touch with our creative team of developers at Bluestone Apps. With over 23 years of experience, we have your solution. Call us at (615) 209-9680 today!