Business, Fundamentals Friday December 4, 2020

What is Mobile (and Web) Application Security? – Detailed Guidelines for App Owners

Mobile applications have become an essential element of all businesses to maintain online presence. Mobile and web apps allow businesses to improve market reach by accessing a larger segment of the market. This makes Mobile app security a major concern in today’s world.

The mobile applications have access to a pool of sensitive user data that must be protected from unauthorized access. Due to this vulnerable data, the need for mobile app security has become inevitable to application owners.

Do you know what security threats your application is surrounded with? And how to analyze risks to secure your mobile application?

In this article, you will get a detailed understanding of what mobile and web application security is, what are the most prevalent threats to app security, and how to protect your app from potential risks and their consequences.

Let’s start with simple questions…

What is mobile and web application security?

In today’s digitIn today’s digital world, everyone understands the importance of digital security and truly believes that mobile and web application security is essential, but barely understands what is application security?

Mobile app security is a measure in action to secure applications from external digital threats in the form of malware, hacking and other digital frauds. Application security focuses on the software security of mobile and web on different platforms like Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. 

Application security protects the users against cyber threats. It’s a process of finding and fixing security gaps and errors to ensure protection against cyber threats. The security measures need to cover the application on all possible gadgets like smartphone, tablets and desktop.

Absence of application security puts your user at risk of losing critical personal and financial information to hackers. As an application owner, it is your responsibility to identify the risks and threats against which you want to protect your users from.

Why is application security so important?

Most mobile platforms provide various designed security controls to developers. This feature allows the developers to build secured applications for the audience. However, it is often left to the conscious of developers to choose from the diverse security options without the owner’s assistance.

The lack of intricate details and cross-examination can lead to fragile security features in your application. The safety loopholes can be easily detected and exploited by the attackers. You need to give special attention to security features in the app during the development process.

To achieve the assured level of security of user data, you must dedicate yourself to create a full cylce application security process. Application security maintenance is not a one-time job but an upgrading process. Make sure you update all the desired security features throughout the entire life cycle of the application – design, development, and maintenance.

What are the consequences app owners face if app security is not considered?

Developers and owners pay minute attention towards application design to give their users a smooth and hassle-free experience. Users install mobile apps and provide personal information within seconds, but failed security features can bring heavy implications.

A failed mobile security application can expose your users information to hackers, giving up access to the user’s data, location, bank information, and beyond. The design and development of the app needs to be secured without any loopholes for leaks.

Common reasons that affect mobile apps include:

  • Leaking sensitive data that could be read by other applications on the user’s phone or the data thieves.
  • Lack of multi-factor authentication checks for the app that is easy to bypass by hackers and malicious users.
  • Implementing failed or vulnerable data encryption methods that can be easily trespassed.
  • Transmitting sensitive data with unauthorised 3rd party over the Internet.
  • Reverse engineering reveals the back-end app functions exposing the encryption algorithms and the source code to modify.

The security flaws in the mobile and web application could be exploited very easily by the attackers. Hence, developers along with your supervision need to pay painstaking attention to application software design to give a safe and secure experience to your users.

What are the potential threats and risks to your app?

The most important step in embedding your application with security features is to understand what you want to eliminate or mitigate from the horizon of potential threats. You will find numerous methods and techniques in the market to keep your app safe, but you need to list down your threats to finalize the methods and techniques to act against them.

Now that you have realized you need to equip your app, let’s start with analyzing the risks and threats against which you want to defend your users. Every domain, industry, platform and sector is vulnerable to different types of cyber threat. Check out the common application security threats that you must be aware of.

The potential threats and risks that your web and mobile application is exposed to are as follow:

  • Unauthorized and illegal extraction of information:

e.g. Obtaining access to private messages and communication in a chat application.

  • Access control on personal application:

e.g. Enter the content, images and user information via unauthorised ways.

  • Denial of service/information:

e.g. The app/ system is blocked until the demanded ransom is paid.

  • Unauthorized server hack:

E.g. Gaining access to application servers remotely by unauthorized actions.

  • Data leakage:

E.g. Attacks data by putting confidential information into public access through remote control.

  • Malicious software:

E.g. Luring application users to download/install contaminated malware on user devices.

This list goes on and on, as the latest virus and threats keep upgrading in the market. All we can do is equip our application against all potential risk. However, the threats also differ depending on the type of application.

You need to understand your application and the risks associated with it. There exist multiple factors such as data storage, 3rd party tie-ups, and purpose of application that affect the security factor of the application. So, let’s check out the security threats that target the broadly classified application in the industry.

Types of applications and related threats are as follow:

1. E-commerce Application Threats

Online businesses works on the internet-facing following security problems:

  • Sensitive data leak
  • Denial of service and financial losses
  • Transaction frauds
  • Money thefts

2. Social application threats

Social networking sites are threatened by:

  • Personal data leak
  • Cyberstalking
  • Identity theft/Fake identities

3. FinTech application threats

Fintech apps exhibit some crucial risks such as:

  • Money laundering
  • Non-secured banking systems 
  • Financial data leak
  • Lacking financial regulation

4. Healthcare application threats

The biggest threats to the healthcare application are:

  • Malicious network traffic
  • Phishing
  • Non-compliance with regulations
  • Denial of service and interruption to medical help due to Web hacking

Latest examples of compromised security in web and mobile applications:

According to Trustware, 2012 Global Security Report, based on the 300 data breaches in 18 countries, 77.3% of security threats occurred in food and beverage (43.6%) and retail (33.7%) industries. The information targeted threats accounted for 89% while credentials with 1% attacks.

The most relatable examples of security vulnerabilities to everyone is Whatsapp misuse. A security hack granted permission to Israeli company to inject malware on the gadgets of human rights activists. So, we say certainly interpret, large enterprises with great resources have also proven vulnerable to security threats.

Hence, irrespective of the scale of companies significant security factors are the need of the hour.

Things to do before starting app development to take care of security:

The thought of application security must cross your mind at the very beginning of the development process. Your development team, stakeholders, and paralegal entities must be actively involved to secure your application.

You need to start your security journey with collecting requirements for thorough performance analysis. Follow the following simple steps to secure your application.

1. Investigate risks:

Prepare all the scenarios where your application can be compromised. Ask your team the questions like what data we store and where? What happens if user or app data is leaked? What if an attacker gets unauthorized access to the application?

Asking more questions will fetch more answers that will improve the development strategy of the team.

2. Cross-examine the application data storage:

The critical application and user data is the most vulnerable segment of the backend application. The data exchange between users and the system along with third party interaction needs to be safe and secure.

Design the security processes and features with your development team to get more precision and accuracy.

3. Choose the application functionality:

Make an informed decision about the access to communication channels, development tools and servers to be used. Dig deeper to figure out alternatives to scenarios where the feature stops working or functionality not supporting the application.

Verify each aspect of development to get the desired level of security for your application.

Concluding Remarks:

Building a secure mobile or web application for your users will require dedicated efforts of your developers, security experts, and executives. Every application will have different exposure and hence different consequences of security threat, and the best solution is to fix the security gap.

For more insights on mobile and web app security factors, keep reading this space…

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