An app is an excellent way for organisations to improve customer experience, but there are plenty of things to consider before you complete the development process.
One of the most critical elements to address is security, with breaches having the potential to impact both financially and from a reputational standpoint.
While cyberattacks can still occur regularly, if you are prepared for the worst from the outset, you will be able to minimise any potential damage.
A study in 2019 by digital security experts Positive Technologies discovered that there were high-risk vulnerabilities in around 40 percent of iOS and Android apps.
The most common threats found included insecure data storage, unsecure Wi-Fi, malicious code, data leaks and cryptography issues.
Although this all may sound like good reasons not to develop an app, the benefits far outweigh the positives if you build a robust app security plan. Read on as we look at the best practices to follow.
Write a Secure Code
Vulnerabilities and bugs in a code tend to be the first port of call when cyber criminals try to hack into an application.
They will attempt to reverse engineer the app after download and will be able to break into it if they find any weaknesses.
It is imperative to design the code so it is easy to update and patch, and needs to be agile enough to be updated at the user end after a breach.
Employing techniques such as code hardening and code signing will help to increase security levels and make the app more tamper-proof.
Secure the Back End
Another hugely important issue to address is the implantation of security controls in the back end to ensure that data isn’t exposed.
The back end is the code that runs on the server and contains the database for the app, and this must include security controls such as firewalls and authentication requirements.
Without these elements in place, the user data that you are storing will be extremely vulnerable to unauthorised access by hackers.
Make sure that you bake security directly into your code, and continuously check the controls you apply to confirm that the data is protected.
Encrypting the data that is exchanged over the app will ensure that even if you suffer a breach, the hackers will be unable to do anything with what they find.
The process of encryption works by encoding a message or file so that it can be only be read by authorised personnel.
It uses an algorithm to scramble the data and then provides a key for the receiving party to unlock the information.
There are several popular algorithms that can be used to encrypt data in apps, including Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA).
Secure Procedures for Identification, Authentication & Authorisation
One of the most significant mobile app vulnerabilities is often located in the procedures for identification, authentication & authorisation.
These are necessary to limit access to your app, but it is common for unskilled developers to overlook this element during the build process.
Many apps have a weak authorisation policy that makes it easy for cyber criminals to work out a user’s password and hack into the app.
The issues can be resolved by applying a multi-level authentication process using codes sent via email or a one-time password (OTP) login issued through text messaging.
Use Authorised APIs
Using authorised application programming interfaces (APIs) to develop your app will make it more difficult for hackers to break in.
For example, a developer may decide to cache authorisation information locally to make it easier for them to reuse this when making API calls.
They may also allow coders to use them as well, but these actions open the door for cyber criminals to seize those privileges.
To ensure that this does not occur, establish a robust security strategy that only allows APIs to be authorised centrally.
Download from Trusted Sources
It might seem an obvious statement to make, but it is crucial to direct people to trusted sources where they can download your app.
Someone downloading an illegal copy of your app that contains malicious code could prove extremely troublesome, both to the user and to the reputation of your organisation.
To prevent this from happening, make sure that people are clearly signposted to download your official app from trusted platforms.
Publish details about these on your website, social channels and marketing materials to ensure that people use the correct app.
Implement Ongoing Test Procedures
Before launching your app, check whether it has been tested for security vulnerabilities at every stage of the development process.
Once you are satisfied that the app is good to go, make sure that you have ongoing testing procedures in place to tackle new threats.
Leading app developers run penetration tests at least twice a year to identify potential issues such as poor security settings or unencrypted data.
Cyber criminals continuously search for new ways to carry out illegal activities, so you must try to ensure that the security on your app stays at least one step ahead.
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