In the race for making mobile application development more agile and iterative, and above all cheap, app security is always the one aspect that’s overlooked. In some cases, it’s intentionally skipped over in an effort to meet tight deadlines and costs.
Security and data breaches in mobile apps are not only costly financially, but it’s costly in terms of lost consumer and employee trust. In case of a breach, it’s always the targeted company that gets the blame, because the users trusted them to safeguard their sensitive data.
The State of Mobile Security and its Costs
In its analysis of more than 400,000 mobile apps, NowSecure found that 25% of all mobile apps have at least one high risk security flaw. It also found that business apps were three times more likely to lose its users’ credentials than other apps. Other worrisome finds were that 35% of all communications sent by mobile devices were unencrypted and 11% of all apps tended to leak sensitive data over the network.
According to Ponemon Institute and IBM, the average data breach can cost around a staggering $3.5 million in terms of lawsuits, damage to brand image and loss of the customer’s trust.
To bring things a bit more into perspective, IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Report calculates a single lost/stolen record can cost a company $136.
How to Safeguard against Mobile Security Breaches and its Costs?
How can you as an app owner ensure the app’s security? For starters, you hire app developers that make a conscious effort to build security into their development life-cycle. Next, you can educate yourself about the best coding/development practices that can improve an app’s security.
As a developer, how can you make sure your app doesn’t end up being one of the statistics in studies such as NowSecure’s?
Whatever hat you’re wearing, app owner or app developer, you need to make sure your app is following these simple yet effective best practices that build security into your mobile solution from the get go.
1. Automatic Application Scanning
Application scanning tools and software analyze the source code in real time, as and when the developer writes the code. Such tools can identify a number of security issues, such as those defined by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
They provide instant feedback to the developer about the security vulnerabilities that might be introduced into the app due to a certain line of code they’re writing.
Implementing these tools from the start of the development cycle means security testing isn’t left for the end of the development phase; it becomes an iterative process.
However, these tools should be seen more as aids, than as solutions because there’re many security vulnerabilities they are not equipped to identify.
Some popular source code analysis tools include OWASP SWAAT Project, IBM Security AppScan Source, VeraCode etc.
2. Implement Already Vetted Architectures
If you’re aiming to build a complete mobile solution, then it’ll need to access real time data on-the-go and perform different transactions. This will require strong and safe integration to the cloud and other onsite systems. In short, you’ll need to make sure your server-side controls are fool-proof and efficient.
So, how can you ensure the security of these gateways? By using and implementing 3rd party architecture (middleware) that have perfected their art, instead of building your own custom mobile gateways.
3. Always Encrypt Sensitive Data
Turning your sensitive data into an unreadable, protected, format seems like a no-brainer, but sadly as highlighted by NowSecure in its report, 35% of all mobile applications don’t encrypt the sensitive data they send over the network.
Add another layer of security by building the habit of never saving your sensitive data like credit card numbers in the app or the mobile device itself. OWASP has deemed insecure data storage as the second biggest security risk for mobile devices and apps.
Including data purging algorithms into your apps which deletes the user’s sensitive data automatically, goes a long way to maintaining the app’s security.
The threat of cybercriminals hacking into mobile applications is real. However, in this age, mobile application security has needlessly turned into the proverbial boogeyman for enterprises, app owners and users.
App security isn’t as difficult as its being propagated. More often than not, app security can be a very simple process if you follow the best practices in every phase of the app development process.
There are countless other, logical, security strategies you can integrate into you app development apart from these 3 simple ones. But, starting off with these is a surefire way to get started on the right path.