Thanks to the technological evolution, the number of smartphone users is thriving at an accelerating pace.  By the end of this year, their number will reach 3.2 billion, and the same is expected to cross the mark of 3.8 billion worldwide by the year 2021, as per the  Statista report.  

On average, a regular smartphone user  spends 90% of its mobile using time on mobile apps. There are a total of nearly 5 million  mobile applications currently available on Google app store and iTunes store, compositely. The total number of mobile app downloads from all app stores (including Google play store) is expected to reach 161 billion by the year 2023.

Technology has its share of advantages and disadvantages. Along with making human life more manageable, these apps are also a favorite space for cyber hackers. The comprehensive user data available on these apps, such as personal contact info, banking details, and passwords, are a jackpot for these cybercriminals.

The ballooning surge in developers and new apps being launched every day has augmented the risk of cyber threats for mobile apps. According to research done  by Garner, Inc. Enterprise, more than 75% of the mobile applications would fail the ground-level security tests making it vulnerable to security breaches.

Most of the mobile app owners are inexperienced in cybersecurity. Before the launch of an app, the necessary security tests are also done nonchalantly by the developers, who are more bothered about the functionalities working fine than following the deep security protocols. Therefore, this security loophole is a daunting matter for the developers as well as app owners.

How Many Mobile Apps are Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?

HP Security Research team  conducted a study to test the security measurements of 2,107 applications of around 600  Forbes Global 2000 companies. Here are the major findings of that research –

  • Approximately 97% of all the mobile apps tested had privacy issues. They were found to be accessing private data sources, such as social media pages, personal address books, etc.
  • Similarly, 86% of these apps didn’t have any security measures in place to be protected from threats like cross-site scripting, misuse of unencrypted data, and unprotected data transmission.
  •  Out of all, 86% of mobile apps didn’t display proper binary hardening, which is considered crucial for buffer overflows, information disclosure, and overall app performance.
  • Approximately 75% of applications lacked proper encryption techniques while storing data on smartphone devices, leaving unencrypted data like personal info, passwords, photos, chat logs, documents, session tokens, etc. vulnerable to the cyber attack.
  • 18% of apps sent unprotected credentials (user names and passwords) over HTTP. Out of the rest 82%, again, 18% implemented the SSL/HTTPS process incorrectly.

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How to Secure your Mobile Apps against Cyber Security Threats?

Any type of security breach can dither your users’ trust and can be proved fatal for the app owner and the developer. It is, thus, advised that the developers must focus on such  frameworks and tools that provide enhanced security and ease of use to their users. Let us have a brief synopsis on the ways that can protect your app from potential cyber attacks.

1. Security Integration in Code

Developers are highly advised to use a secure framework while coding the application in order to avoid coding flaws. Any loopholes in coding and design can give the attackers access to sensitive/personal user information. The best way to strategize for such design is to think like a hacker. Moreover, safeguard your apps with Runtime Application Protection to prevent and expose cyber attacks in real-time.

You can also hire a third party to hack your app to test how your app will react to possible attacks. Meanwhile, you can also keep on running breach tests at regular intervals to test the app’s penetrability.

2. Reinforced User Authentication & Identification

Grant access to genuine users by deploying secured authorization and user authentication. It is recommended to enforce an MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) or 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) to add an extra layer of security to apps. The risk of vulnerability to cyberattacks can be mitigated by ensuring that the applications accept a strong alphanumeric password.

While developing the app, developers must include all the crucial mobile security features, session management, identity, and privacy points. You can also implement the OAuth 2.0 authorization framework or OpenID Connect protocol to secure apps from malware and hackers.

3. Safeguard the Backend

You can ascertain the security of the app by preventing unauthorized access to confidential data and implementing security on servers. Additional protection can be added by thoroughly testing the APIs that access servers. Some other ways to secure the data are – penetration testing, containerization, and encryption using SSL, VPN, and TLS.

4. App Wrapping

App wrapping is a process of applying security enforcement policies to mobile applications without altering their functionalities and look. This process enables mobile app management administrators to set specific policies to control various aspects of the app as who can download the app, which APIs (copy and paste or file sharing) will be allowed, whether or not the app data can be stored on the device, etc. The best part of app wrapping is that there is no need of coding to segment your apps.

5. Highly Protected Payment Transactions

A secured payment gateway is the need of the hour; no matter, you are indulged in online selling of products or accept online payment for offering services. The security of online transactions can be strengthened through authentication, encryption, and multifactor tokenization.

6. Utilize App Transport Security (ATS)

ATS is a privacy feature introduced by Apple in iOS 9. ATS improves data integrity and privacy for all applications and app extensions. At the same time, ATS also blocks the connections that don’t meet minimum security requirements. The network connections made by your application must be secured by the TLS (Transport Layer Security).

ATS enforces a TLS configuration that meets the following criteria:

  • Applications can make connections to servers that use the TLS 1.2 protocol and provide strong ciphers.
  • Apps can make connections to servers that use PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy).

Image Source: Apple Developer

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7. Operating System Hardening

One of the best practices to enhance the security of your app is – harden the operating system. OS hardening is hugely crucial for data servers that are subject to strict regulatory privacy requirements or web servers that are exposed to the public internet. Some of the ways of OS hardening are:

  • Access Control
  • Firewall Configuration
  • Software Updates 
  • Have Anti-Virus Software in Place
  • Disable Unnecessary Features
  • Data and Workload Isolation
  • Hardening Frameworks

8.  Implement MDM (Mobile Device Management)

MDM and Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) software support, manage, safeguard, and monitor different types of tablets and mobile devices, including Android, iPad, iPhone, and BlackBerry, as well as the apps that run on them. It monitors for malware and allows the distribution & management of apps.

9. Stay Prepared for Unknown Threats

With the increasing usage of mobile devices, the risk of cyber attacks has also spiked. It’s quite easy to deal with the known threats, but identifying and preparing for unknown threats are quite challenging.

By implementing the Open Web Application Security Project, you can reduce the risk of unknown threats to a great extent. Besides this, you can ask users to download and install a mobile security app on their devices and let you know immediately about any security breach happening on your application.

10. Secure APIs

The security of mobile applications begins with secure APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). The safety of APIs can be maximized by using any of the following strategies:

  • Hide all the API Security clues
  • Authentication and Authorization via PBAC (Policy-Based Access Control), RBAC (Role-Based Access Control), or CBAC (Content-Based Access Control)
  • Implement Encryption
  • Implement Proper Validation
  • Use Auditing and Logging
  • Make Your APIs RESTful (Representational State Transfer)
  • Use Resource Quotas and Throttling

11. Keep updating the App

By updating your app regularly, you can protect it from unforeseen exploits and undiscovered vulnerabilities. The updated apps come with new designs, various bug fixes, and advanced security patches and features. An outdated app may provide hackers an opportunity to steal your personal information and other useful data.

12. Hire a Professional Team

With a robust mobile security strategy in place and partnering with a professional team of mobile developers, you can quickly respond to bugs & threats, along with making your app more secure and safer.

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Follow Simple Practices, Protect and Be Safe

Be proactive, and don’t wait for threats to happen. Follow best practices to protect your app from malicious cyber attacks. To  get a mobile app made with minimal chances of security threats, you can get in touch with our experts.

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