Mobile App Security: 10 Best Practices for Developers
Mobile app security is among the most important factors influencing product success in the long run. Both companies and common users need a secure working environment. That is exactly why software developers and companies should place a great deal of focus on this factor.
It is especially important now when mobile apps penetrate all areas of electronic services, including financial, bank transactions, personal data storage and transfer, and others.
In this article, we will list the best mobile app security practices which are important to adhere to in order to minimize the risks associated with data protection. You can use it as a checklist during the app development process.
1. Think of The Security At an Early Stage
Along with app usability, security should be one of the top priorities for software developers when creating a mobile application. Having made a verification checklist at the initial stages of your work, you can reduce costs in the future.
The most efficient way to improve development security is to implement the so-called software development life cycle. This process divides the development routine into separate stages, each of which includes a security audit. This approach allows detecting vulnerabilities at earlier stages.
2. Ensure Reliable Data Storage
Data can be lost or leaked for various reasons, including users’ trivial carelessness. For example, some users can sell their phones to someone else, forgetting to delete their personal data. As a result, buyers receive both the device and access to the sellers’ personal data.
Important data should not only be password protected but also stored in a secure place. It is best to use a remote server for this purpose. However, you can also consider local storage as an option if you take care of additional protection measures using passwords or biometric identification.
3. Protection Against Data Interception
Most mobile apps are client-server based. Therefore, they constantly send and receive large amounts of data. Intruders can intercept confidential data during the exchange session.
Using an SSL certificate (https protocol) is one of the security methods. However, if capabilities allow, you should resort not only to a secure communication channel but also to some other security measures to protect your data.
4. Strong User Authentication
While using mobile apps, the main reason for many serious security breaches is a weak authentication level. You can increase the minimum complexity criteria by forming a combination of letters and numbers for a password.
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However, a more reliable way to increase security is to use biometric, two-factor, and multifactor authentication technologies (2FA and MFA). It is especially true when it comes to products dealing with financial transactions, for example, banking apps.
5. Caution With Third-party Libraries
Open source components are an integral part of almost every application. Unfortunately, developers can skip tests and security research when they embed such components, thus impacting app security as a whole.
If you want your app to be well secured, it is crucial to properly use third-party open source components.
6. All Data Encryption
This approach allows you to be sure that even if the data is stolen, abusers will not be able to “read” it or use it for their own agenda. Neither an application nor a server should be allowed any possibility to decrypt users’ personal data without explicit need or user permission. Users should always be sure that their personal data is unknown to anyone but themselves.
7. The Principle of Least Privilege for Code
The essence of this principle is that a process should have only those privileges which are minimally necessary to perform its functions. In this regard, a certain component of the code is launched only with certain permissions which are absolutely necessary for it and nothing more. If you do not need access to the user contacts, never request it.
8. Background Protection
When an application goes into the background (is minimized), it should immediately display a security code input window overlapping the application screen if the app is password protected by a user. This feature prevents the possibility of obtaining personal data in case the device was stolen and the application was still running minimized.
9. Take Preventive Measures
Send the user a notification of suspicious activity or atypical attempts to access data (for example, from another geolocation). Developers can block components when they try to go beyond their intended access or perform specific transactions. In addition, it would be a good solution to make device authorization the necessary condition to launch a specific application on the device.
10. Test and Verify Security on a Regular Basis
There are many security testing tools which work automatically and allow scanning the code for threats without delay. The advantage of this verification method is its speed. Nevertheless, this system does not provide complete security. Consequently, the combination of automatic and manual testing is the most optimal verification option.
Regular mobile app security testing allows developers to quickly identify and fix issues, minimize potential risks, and avoid financial and reputational losses.
When developing a mobile app, you should keep in mind that the data which the app operates may be of some interest to third parties. The more valuable this data is, the higher the level of attention to its security that is required.
To introduce additional protection measures in an already operational application, developers may require significant time investment and effort. Therefore, it is worth taking care of security in the very early stages of development.
We hope that the practices described in this article will help you to efficiently solve the tasks of adequate mobile app security.
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