What are the Security Issues App Developers Need to Know while Developing Mobile App | By Happy Patel

What are the Security Issues App Developers Need to Know while Developing Mobile App

There is a misconception that data breaches and cybersecurity issues are a problem for only big organizations. The fact is that small businesses are equally susceptible to these security issues.

In fact, it was reported that 43% of cyber attacks are targeted at small businesses. Mobile and web apps are no exceptions. 100% of web applications tested possessed at least one vulnerability, with the median number of vulnerabilities rising to 15, up from 11 in 2017.

The big companies may account for more data and prone to bigger losses, but the small companies are at higher risks.

This makes security in mobile apps a necessity, and not a trait that could be easily compromised. The security measures should be considered during developmental as well as post-developmental steps.

Keeping this in mind, here in this blog, we are going to tell you about the security issues that app developers need to know while developing a mobile app. W will cover the important aspects to keep your mobile app security as a priority during development.

Ways to Build a Secure Mobile App

  • Making sure the code is secure

If there are bugs or vulnerabilities in a code, the attackers find it very easy to break into an application. A weak code is like an open gateway for hacking. 

How do they do it?

The hackers will reverse engineer the code, tamper, and break into the application. They don’t need sophisticated tools for it, just a public copy of your app is enough for it.

According to research sponsored by IBM, malicious code is affecting over 11.6 million mobile devices at any given time. 

This is why you keep the security of the code in mind as soon as you start developing your app. To prevent reverse engineering, you could obfuscate and minify your code.

Also, test it repeatedly to find and fix bugs as they are exposed. Designing  code is also important. Design it in such a way that it is easy to update and patch. To do this, make sure your code is agile so it can be updated at the user end post a breach. You may also consider using code hardening and code signing.

  • Encrypting all the data

All the data of the app should be encrypted to keep it secure. Encryption means transforming the data into a vague form that does not represent anything to someone who doesn’t have the key to decrypt it. 

This means that even if the data is stolen, the hackers cannot access it or misuse it as they won't be able to understand any of it.

Even organizations like the FBI and NSA ask for permission to access iPhones and decrypt chat messages. How would hackers decode messages if even these find it hard? Encryption makes the data useless for the criminals, even if they have it right in front of their eyes.

While developing an app, try and encrypt all the data that is transmitted in the app.

  • Using libraries cautiously

Any mobile app code needs third-party libraries for building the code. Many times, these libraries are not secure. The security flaws in the libraries can act as a trigger and allow attackers to use the malicious code and crash the system, even remotely. If you have used various kinds of libraries, always try to test the code. These security flaws can go unnoticed for several years causing issues in many apps.

Developers must exercise policy controls and use controlled repositories to protect apps from vulnerabilities in libraries.

  • Using only authorized APIs

Loosely coded and unauthorized APIs can unintentionally grant hackers privileges that can be gravely misused. For instance, authorization information caches can be used by hackers to gain authentication on the system. This is why you must always use authorized APIs while coding an app.

When you cache authorization information locally, it helps programmers to easily reuse that information while making API calls. It also makes it easier to use the APIs for the coder.

Experts recommend having central authorization for the entire API for gaining maximum security in the mobile applications.

  • Using high-level Authentication

Many of the security breaches occur because of weak authentication. This has made it extremely important to increase the strength of authentication.

What is authentication? 

Authentication includes passwords and other identifiers that act as barriers to entry. Well, the main part does depend on the end-users of your application, but as a developer, you must encourage your users to be more protective towards authentication.

Develop your app in such a way that it only accepts strong alphanumeric passwords that should be renewed every three or six months. You can also integrate multi-factor authentication that involves a combination of a static password and a dynamic OTP. 

If the app has overly sensitive data, you can also opt to develop biometric authentication like retina and fingerprint scans.

These authentication mechanisms are the most crucial part of mobile application security, as weak authentication could be the reason for vulnerabilities in mobile apps. Being a developer,  authentication must be taken as an important part of a security viewpoint.

  • Deploying tamper detection techniques

Tamper detection techniques set off alerts when a hacker tries to tamper or modify your code by injecting malicious code. It is recommended to have a record of code changes of the mobile app development so that the hacker/ malicious programmer can not inject bad code to your mobile application.

You can also deploy an active tamper-detection that makes sure that the code will not function at all if modified.

  • Providing the least privileges

The principle of least privileges means that code should have access to only those permissions that are absolutely needed for it to run. No more. The app must not even request any more privileges than the minimum required that affects the functioning of the app.

For instance, if the app does not need access to the user’s contacts, it should not ask for it. There is no need to make unnecessary network connections that can risk the security of the app.

  • Managing the sessions properly

Session handling for mobile phones is more difficult as compared to desktops, and this is because sessions on mobile phones last longer than on desktops.

Instead of using device identifiers, you can use tokens to identify a session. Why? Well, tokens can be revoked at any time, which makes them a more secure option if the devices get lost or stolen. In such cases, you can also enable remote wiping of data and remote logging off.

  • Using cryptography tools and techniques

Managing keys is equally important to have encryption efforts pay off. Do not hard code your keys as it makes it easy to be stolen by hackers and attackers. 

Never store the keys locally on a device. In fact, they should be stored in secure containers, safe from attackers. You must stick to the latest and most trusted APIs, such as 256-bit AES encryption with SHA-256 for hashing.

  • Testing repeatedly

The security aspects are hanging day-by-day. This makes it necessary to test the app repeatedly. You also need to be updated with the trends in security if you want to protect your application.

Opting for penetration testing and emulators will get you an idea about the vulnerabilities in your mobile application, thus they can be further reduced. You may also use security patches in mobile applications as and when new updates and versions are launched.

Concluding Remarks

So these were 10 important practices that will help in developing a secure mobile application. As the data is increasing day by day, data breaches are becoming common. 

In fact, even customers are getting more aware these days and incidents like the Facebook data breach won’t go unnoticed. In order to save data from getting hacked or misused, mobile app developers must take strict steps.


Author Bio:

Happy Patel is a digital marketing executive at Space-O technologies, a mobile app development company. She loves to write informative articles and share her knowledge through content marketing. She is an avid reader and likes to read about the latest trends and news in the mobile app industry.

November 22, 2019
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Keval Padia
Keval Padia
9 months ago

I totally agree with you that for any mobile app security is very important. I think you should update your mobile app for its security. Great article!

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