This new age of mobile technology has not only given us the best of utilities like shopping, healthcare, gaming, entertainment and education, it is helping businesses grow, create new opportunities and make our lifestyle and work easier. Isn’t it?
Mobile apps are essentially the key driver of this exponential rise of technological innovation. That day is coming soon when we will be termed as the “Mobile-First” generation.
However, there’s a flip side to the story as well – apart from the convenience mobile phones offer, this vast mobile ecosystem is extensively interconnected and unfortunately a potential target of the growing dark world of technology.
Let’s get some quick facts about the security risks that loom over this rapidly increasing mobile ecosystem –
- An average global enterprise has 2000+ unsafe apps installed on their mobile environment.
- 90% of Retail Android apps and 35% of Retail iOS apps have been suspected targets of hackers.
- The latest Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec reveals that around 1 million android apps are malware.
Shocking, but true.
The mobile app revolution has a new downside – the growing underworld behind it.
Thus, it is evident that ‘Mobile Security’ has become a pressing issue which calls for a definite solution. But before finding a solution, we need to know the risks that pose a threat to a mobile app’s security. After all, 90% of our time on mobile phone is spent within apps.
As mobile app developers, it’s important for us to understand these risks so that we can take corrective measures in the development stage itself.
The 5 mobile app security risks
1. Unsecured storage of data
Data is at the heart of any application. With each passing day, structured as well as unstructured data stored by apps is multiplying infinite folds. With this, the problem of unsafe storage of sensitive data poses as one of the greatest threats to the technology ecosphere, especially the unsafe storage of following type of data: –
- Financial data
- Geospatial Data / Location specific data
- Personal information
- Device information
- Transaction histories etc.
One popular example of such carelessness was at the coffee giant Starbucks. Starbucks executives admitted of storing usernames, email ids and passwords in clear text in their iOS Mobile Payment app and thus leaving the data vulnerable to access and misuse by many. However, later their team addressed this security issue and launched an update to the app successfully.
Additionally, enterprise data is more prone to these risks since the data involved is highly valuable and confidential. Inefficient EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management), non-encrypted data storage, unauthorized access, and inefficient anti-viruses/anti-malware integrations raise the chances of vulnerability of enterprise data.
2. Injection attacks
Malicious data can be injected using code Injection and SQL injection techniques at the server side as well as at the client side. All these have a severe technical impact if the app is linked to multiple user accounts and its business impact includes loss of sensitive information.
Injection mainly comprises of two forms:
b. SQL injection: Databases including SQLite are prone to injection through SQL queries causing risk to the apps that have a wide user base. This acts as a threat to user identity as well as their data.
c. Local file uploads: Sometimes apps act as a medium to upload unknown files to the server. They pose a risk to the server system and its existing data by storing unauthentic and malicious content to the directory structure.
Servers are prone to the following risks due to these injection attacks:
- Loss of data
- Loss of user info
- Corrupt database
- Server system failure
3. Weak authorization and authentication
Third party devices, apps, scripts or files having unauthorized access to the app can act as prospective threats to your apps security.
Poor authentication can expose device details and sensitive information to third party ad libraries. These APIs have access to GPS location and device information. Also, you cannot miss out on the fact that shared libraries inherit all the app permissions.
All these are a result of less strict authorization and adherence to the norms of secure mobile app development.
4. Data leakage on transmission
Mobile devices rank on the top of the list for being susceptible to sensitive data leakage through wireless transmission.
Most apps transfer huge amounts of data over the network. This can be through sockets, wireless transmission, HTTP requests or emails. As a result, servers are exposed to high degree of vulnerability.
5. Weak cryptography:
Most developers/organizations have their mobile app data encrypted by the widely used but technically insufficient cryptographic algorithms like MD5 and SHA1. These do not align with the modern security requirements. Attackers can easily and intelligently decrypt such data.
One such example is Skype. It used SQLite3 databases for storing users’ chat data and contact lists with one major bug – their files were not encrypted. This could have led to a potential mass leakage of private information across the web had it not been fixed.
Improper key management for data hashes and usage of hard-coded keys is again a major area for attackers to take advantage of.
Consider an app storing similar data keys across all installations. No wonder this app would be under the scrutiny of hackers and an easy target for them!
With so many risks becoming a vital cause of concern, what ensures security at all layers?
The answer is:
1. Better authentication techniques
2. Secure data storage
3. Robust architecture
4. Efficient testing
5. Secure payment gateways
6. Secure server communication… and the list goes on.
The key idea is to follow best mobile app development practices that guarantee secure and risk-free apps.
It is thus imperative of a mobile app to be not just about UI and functionality. It should be a secure environment that promises its users amazing experience and utility. Enterprises and business owners should hence be more aware of the intricacies and the risks on their app security and take effective measures to safeguard it.
Building mobile apps that have a secure code has become vital to the app development process and we emphasize this approach to be incorporated at the foundation itself.
At Kays Harbor, we help simplify this task for you. We offer cost effective, planned and strategized mobile app solutions that have security at their core.