Mobile app security practices: How to Outplay the Hacker?

Neglect of protective app security measures may lead to the loss of money and endangers the business in general.

By the end of 2016, mobile malware will grow to 20 million modifications. The main aim of attacks is mobile payment systems, more than 30 % of total malware amount is intended for stealing financial information. The apps that collect personal users info, request for location and rely on remote servers for managing and storing customer data need to have an improved security for protection mobile apps from cyber attacks and vulnerabilities.

Solving the security problem is quite simple for users. There is a variety of antivirus apps for mobile phones, choose the most advanced with automatic updating and you’ll be achieving mobile security. For startups, developers and entrepreneurs the best mobile security level is much harder to reach.

Hacked mobile apps cause many risks for entrepreneurs:

  • disbenefits and revenue loss as a result;
  • an unauthorized access to critical data may cause application failure;
  • a theft of intellectual property, illegal copying of app code, interface, features;
  • frauds may cause the collapse in confidence of the target audience;
  • bad influence on user experience and customer disloyalty as a result;
  • brand damage and loss of business.

Unfortunately, Google Play and Apple iTunes are not immune from hosting malicious apps on the stores. Correspondingly, the customer data is not protected by 100 %.

Evidently, the developers should apply security technologies in app development process in order to reach stability and immunity from hacking attacks. Application security risk management should contain three main aspects of mobile app development lifecycle:

  • at the development stage: the mobile application code should be tested for security vulnerabilities, that should be detected and closed by developers;
  • at the QA stage: the completed app and back-end services should be tested for security vulnerabilities;
  • at the application launching stage: upgrade and harden the application security system, test risks after publishing to the app store.

Development stage

The most fundamental thing for a secure application means testing for vulnerability throughout the whole development lifecycle. The first rule is to keep the code secret, use the encryption, obfuscation and minification can make the code unreadable, so it will much more difficult to interpret for hackers. Encryption provides the most reliable security rendering. The encryption should be applied for the same purpose to the database and file level storage of an application.

The static analysis should be making throughout the app development process. Analyze all the potential threats that may lead to vulnerable attacks. The tester should think like a real hacker to make the qualified analysis. There are ten main risks that may occur in a code and they should be tested and fixed before the release of a product.

Quality assurance stage

Before uploading the new application to app stores the dynamic analysis should be made, based on the results of interactive assesses to app code by conducting automated testing.

The automation testing may identify vulnerabilities that are not visible during the static analysis.

Automation test has a similar algorithm for Android and iOS apps, but also it has some conceptual differences. We recommend you to read the informative article about Android automation testing and about iOS apps quality assurance.

Mobile apps may be exposed to new vulnerabilities in back-end services. The completed application should be tested on a device emulator or on the device itself in order to check back-end services accuracy and efficiency.

To reach the highest level of security protection in an app development it’s better to use both the static and automation analysis. Furthermore, there are risks that can be revealed only by programmers analyzing the source code. Combining all mentioned methods of analysis, you will be able to build the application with high-security level.

The launching stage

Don’t disregard the fact that mobile apps may meet new risks and attacks in app stores. Don’t rely on third-party stores for the apps, because the hacking rate is out of control there. Nevertheless, at Apple iTunes and Google Play you are not ensured in safety for you app. The only solution against hacking attacks is to build a reliable and secure application.

The most popular hacking trick is to download the app from the store, decompile its code, insert malware and publish them back in app stores, so, as a result, the published applications looks like similar to the original application, but it comes malicious.

Malware may cause different problems. It may provide access to personal or even corporate data for hackers, which may bring high financial losses or full-scale crash for business. Only invulnerable apps with strong security system may resist to a variety of malware and hacking attacks.

To gain success for a mobile app both outstanding user experience and high level security must be provided. Defining a proper app security strategy demands heavy research of tactics and high degree of proficiency. And not all businesses are capable of implementing solid security measures, however there is always the option of consulting with teams with the expertise in app development.

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