Building A Secure Mobile App With React Native

Sophia Martin
Nov 11 · 9 min read
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With the total global mobile app revenue estimated to amount from $365 billion in 2018 to $935 billion in 2023, undoubtedly mobile app development has become one of the thriving sectors for investors in 2020–21.

Every business has understood this fact that to stay competitive and rooted in the thriving market, they need to get aid from the ever-evolving technologies and create a digital presence of their business. However, to some extent, companies are looking forward to investing in the app development services accompanied by the low development cost and overlook the security aspects of the app.

If you are also planning to invest in mobile applications, before looking for the cheap solutions, it is worth understanding that applications are not just about coding the features and adding functionality to it.

The app contains critical information of the users, so app security is the optimum element, especially while dealing passcodes, touch ids, account names, credit card information and more. Many of the businesses opt to hire software development companies to make sure that they develop highly functional and feature rich apps. But they often overlook the fact that how secure their app is.

So How to Secure and Maintain your React Native App in 2020–21?

Now many of you are wondering why we have chosen React Native Apps?. Well, the fact of the matter is React Native has become a choice of 42% of developers and globally recognized yet trending app development framework that enables you to develop highly flexible and feature-rich cross-platform app solutions.

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Before discussing the tips to secure and maintain React Native Apps, it is better to have a brief idea of React Native and how it works.

About React Native and Its Popularity

React Native is an open-source, cross-platform framework of JavaScript that allows developers to write and develop native embedded apps for iOS and Android. It has been launched and supported by Facebook, ensuring swift mobile development and efficient code sharing across multiple platforms including iOS, Web and Android without compromising on the application quality.

As far as its popularity is the concern, React Native is being watched by 3.7K users, received 91k stars and has 20.1k Fork on GitHub.

Why Should You Use React Native For App Development?

React Native is based on JavaScript programming language, which is the most significant factor contributing to its increasing popularity. Despite being one of the oldest programming languages, JavaScript is considered as the 4th most popular, loved and demanding PLs for developers and holding its importance in the mobile app development process.

Apart, here are the few reasons to choose React Native for your next app development project:

  • React Native apps are written using different structures like JSX, HTML/XML, etc. and ensure app development flexibility.
  • Cost-effectiveness is the best selling factor of React Native, as it allows you to develop cross-platform apps that seamlessly runs on multiple operating systems with “Write Once Run Anywhere” capabilities.
  • React Native ensures you smooth app development experience as components are reusable.
  • Easy synchronization of application and interface status.
  • Easy App routing and templating systems.

With so many features and qualities to leverage with React Native framework, many businesses are looking for RN mobile app development solutions to accelerate their business growth. But, despite being using a feature-rich framework, app security is one of the most critical concerns of the businesses. So let’s learn how React Native apps work and where it is required to enhance the app security?

Let’s begin the game!

How Does React Native Apps Work?

In simple words, two major threads are running in each React Native app and bridging a gap between the app and the targeted platform.

One of them is the main thread which is commonly running in other native applications as it handles displaying the elements of the user interface and processes user gestures. At the same time, the other one is related to the React Native that helps in executing the JavaScript code in a different JavaScript engine.

In technical terms, the source JS files are compiled into one single bundle file which is known as an “entry-file”, and in the development mode, this file is bundled on a local server and fetched by the application.

Whereas for production, the source file is bundled in a single file usually “index.android.bundle” or “index.ios.bundle”.

All these bundle files are present in the “assets” folder, as like Cordova. So we can assume React Native apps as containers that run JS code and are implemented in “expo”. And “expo” can run different business logics in a single app, following certain limitations.

So whether you are developing a traditional native app or a cross-platform app, a common thread that runs through every app is mobile security. And this is something that can no longer be taken lightly.

So to protect every sensitive data in the mobile app, we have divided this blog in 3 significant sections:

  • Securing App to Server Connection With SSL Pinning
  • Securing Local Data
  • Advanced Data Integrity Between Device and Server

1. Securing App to Server Connection with SSL Pinning

When it comes to securing your app, network security is one of the prime concerns of the developers. Usually, mobile applications communicate with the backend server via APIs and always use SSL encryption to protect network traffic.

Basically, SSL encryption protects mobile apps against the requested data being read in plain text in the gap when it leaves the server and before it reaches the client. SSL encryption will ensure that your endpoint will remain secure, as it makes it started with https:// instead of http://. However, the security game is not ending here.

To further secure your connection, you need to pin to server certificates as https endpoints could still leave your data unprotected and increase the chance of interception. So along with https, the client will only trust the server that is pre-installed with the valid certificate signed by the concerned authority.

But again, an attacker could take advantage of this by installing a fraud Certificate to the user’s device and the client would trust all certificates that are signed by the attacker and leave the risk of app insecurities.

So that’s where SSL Pinning is required!

App security is greatly depending on Certificate Authorities (CA) and Domain Name Servers (DNS) to validate domain’s TLS (Transport Layer Security). But SSL pinning can be used to migrate the risk of installing the unsafe certificates on the user devices. Commonly we use “FETCH” API or libraries like “AXIOS” or “FRISBEE” to consume APIs in React Native apps, but these APIs and Libraries do not support SSL pinning.

Here are the plugins available for React Native iOS and React Native Android:

For iOS Version

For iOS versions, there is a popular native library called “TrustKit” for SSL pinning and cookie handling. For this library, you will have to bundle the certificates inside the app. But, to handle critical errors, it is essential to implement it in the older app that takes care of certificate expiry. The app needs to be updated with the latest certificates before certificates expire. However, to get started with this library, you need to go into the React Native project’s “SRC/iOS” folder and add “TrustKit’’ entry to the Podfile.

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Make sure to do a “Pod Install” so a library can easily be linked to your project.

For Android Version

Integrating security libraries on the Android side is much easier by using OKHttp under the hood for network calls. This library comes with the official SSL pinning support.

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To deal with this, you can hire mobile app developer that has sound experience in developing apps with React Native and able to increase the app security by using the right security tools.

2. Securing Local Data With Keychains and Keystore

Sometimes it is necessary to store sensitive information securely on the device. Well, React Native apps indeed have AsyncStorage API for storing data on the device. But keep in mind that nothing is 100% secure on a mobile device, especially when it has root accessed. The determined party can easily access any data as they have full control of the device and can easily crack any security or encryption.

Here are the few solutions available for Android and iOS platform:

  • Keychain Services for iOS versions: It allows you to store small parts of sensitive data of the users securely. Majorly it provides you with a secure platform for storing certificates, tokens, passwords, and any other sensitive information that doesn’t belong to AsyncStorage.
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  • KeyStore for Android Version: This library lets you store cryptographic keys in a container that make it highly challenging to extract the information from the device.
  • Shared Preferences For Android Version: This library is widely used for storing persistent key-value data. The data in Shared Preferences is not encrypted by default. However, encrypted Shared Preferences wraps the shared preferences class for Android and by default encrypts keys and values.

In order to use iOS Keychain or Android Secured Shared Preference services, you can also choose to write a bridge yourself or use a library that wraps them for you and provides a unified API.

Here are some libraries that you can consider:

  • RN Secure Store
  • React Native Keychain
  • React Native Sensitive Info

3. Advanced Data Integrity Between Device and Server

Aside from the typical threats, there are threats related to the network requests as applications are running on multiple devices. Apps are not services that run on an ecosystem and remain under control, therefore, you have to be aware of this and understand how to protect your app from the threats.

  • SafetyNet: Protect Your App Against Security Threats

SafetyNet is an Android-only APIs, a Google Play Services that ensures you a safe environment to run your application and helps in detecting rooted devices and bootloader unlocks. This security tool provides you a set of services and APIs that help protect your app against security threats, including bad URLs, device tampering, potentially harmful apps and fake users.

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  • JailMonkey: This allows React Native apps to identify jail-broken or rooted for iOS/Android. Apart from that, it can detect if mock locations can be set using “Developer Mode”.
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To get started with the leading practices to uplift the React Native App Security, you can also visit the official guide and eliminate the risk of having errors. But what if you are not from a technical background? Then in that case collaborating with the best react native mobile app development company can be a simplest solution for you.

What to Look For While Hiring the React Native App Development Company?

With the availability of thousands of software development companies, choosing the best service providers is one of the most challenging tasks.

So we have listed all the major parameters, that you’ll need to consider to evaluate the profile of the software development company:

  • Diversification of the company profile
  • Experience, expertise and knowledge of developing applications with React Native
  • App development pricing and project quality assurance with money back guarantee
  • Track record of project delivery and client retention rate
  • Following NDAs for the app idea security
  • Project transparency with clients
  • Methodologies and technologies they integrate in the app development process
  • Global presence of the company
  • Key clients of the company and their satisfaction level
  • Ratings and reviews of the company on leading B2B platforms

These are the few major things that help you get the best mobile app development solution that perfectly syncs your business needs.

Conclusion

With this blog, you have an idea about securing and protecting your app from the attackers and keep your sensitive data safe on the app. While there is no bulletproof way to protect your app from the security threats, with the integration of the right APIs and libraries, you can increase the security and reduce the likelihood of a security breach in your app. In addition, you can choose to hire best mobile app development company to ensure app security.

While there are a number of users and the damage a hacker could do when they got the access of your app, but always remember, it’s significantly harder to access the information if your app is protected with the leading security practices.

JavaScript In Plain English

New JavaScript + Web Development articles every day.

Sophia Martin

Written by

Tech Lead and Technical Content Writer — Xicom.biz | Write on Trending Technology | Tech Geek, Passionate Writer, Business Consultant. 13+ Years of Experience.

JavaScript In Plain English

New JavaScript + Web Development articles every day.

Sophia Martin

Written by

Tech Lead and Technical Content Writer — Xicom.biz | Write on Trending Technology | Tech Geek, Passionate Writer, Business Consultant. 13+ Years of Experience.

JavaScript In Plain English

New JavaScript + Web Development articles every day.

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