In 2021, your brand’s future is only as secure as your app.
The meteoric rise of cyber security threats over the past few years has jolted consumers into awareness and action. High-profile attacks like WannaCry ransomware, for instance, have shed a limelight on the importance of cyber security in an increasingly digital world. As a result, internet users are increasingly concerned about their data security and take active steps to secure their data.
Data protection regulations like GDPR and CCPA seek to protect both data and digital rights of the citizens by establishing stringent regulations on data security. Businesses are required to set up robust data security policies and practices to protect user data against cyberattacks.
Failure to comply with these regulations can attract crippling fines that may push businesses to the brink of bankruptcy. Not to mention the lasting damage to your brand in the consumers’ eyes, immediate loss of revenues, and increased costs on PR. All of this can be avoided by taking concrete steps to secure your mobile app against online threats.
Yes, we know. It’s not easy. But, here’s the thing: although you cannot ensure 100% protection, you can make your app so difficult to hack that the reward-to-effort ratio for breaching your app security is low. Here are industry best practices to help you protect your app against the majority of threats:
1.Security by Design: Develop a Detailed Security Blueprint
You cannot secure your app with a hotchpotch of fragmented security practices that work in isolation. You need a comprehensive app security blueprint that identifies every source of security threat or vulnerability and addresses it with a robust security plan.
Start by thinking like a hacker. Identify every point of weakness in your app – front end, backend, human error, and more. After setting up security systems to counter these threats, your app must be subjected to rigorous testing. Delineate whether you want to use an automated app, AI-powered solution, human testers, penetration testing agency to perform these tests.
Going forward, create a checklist of app security infrastructure elements and identify key individuals responsible for updating these elements with the latest industry best practices. This introduces accountability and formalizes it.
2. Follow the OWASP Top Ten
33% of all app vulnerabilities originate from open-source and third-party components utilized by your app. And, whether you like it or not, you cannot avoid using these technologies altogether. However, the problem is that hackers are specialists in those very same technologies. They spend thousands of hours painstakingly studying them and identifying hidden vulnerabilities inside them. They have mastered the art and science of opening every door and gain access to data stored deep within those technologies.
OWASP Top 10 gives you a ready reckoner checklist of the most critical vulnerabilities exploited by hackers. The list tends to remain unchanged every year, owing to consistency in the pattern of attacks by hackers. So, following this checklist is a surefire way of protecting your app against the vast majority of cyber threats.
3. Platform-specific Protection
App platforms differ from each other in how they approach mobile app security. iOS and Android, for instance, have diverging philosophies on app security, but they offer plenty of security features to help you secure your app. Why not make use of it?
Besides, identify platform-specific limitations that can compromise your app security and work on addressing them.
4. App Wrapping
The most common way hackers penetrate into apps is by exploiting platform OS and device hardware vulnerabilities. So, it would make sense to protect your app against platform vulnerabilities. You can do it by segregating your app from the platform. App wrapping also gives you control over whether the app data can be shared with the device or other apps.
5. Encrypt Everything
Strong data encryption policies can prevent hackers from gaining access to your app data, even if they manage to access the device OS and/or hardware. Employing advanced encryption technologies like 128-bit AES can make it impossibly difficult for hackers to breach your data.
Also, encrypt your network connections using technologies like HTTPS. It protects data in transit from Man In The Middle (MITM) attacks. Modern apps make extensive use of APIs to perform a multitude of tasks. Encryption protects data in transit over API calls from the prying eyes.
6. Harden Everything
Take concrete steps to harden everything, from the device OS to software development frameworks you employ. It’s a vastly complex project and involves a dizzying array of tasks. Here are some of the tasks you can get started on:
- Identify modules and extensions you are not using and get rid of them
- Minimize remote code execution wherever possible. It’s a standard feature of many software languages
- Set the maximum script execution time to safe levels
- Write protect servers, services, databases, and configuration files
- Use powerful security extensions like AppArmor or SELinux for your servers
- Restrict incoming and outgoing traffic
- Restrict access to app resources and set up tiered access based on need only.
7. Keep Everything Up To Date
83.9% of the software vulnerabilities were fixed even before they were publicly disclosed. This shows that an enormous number of vulnerabilities can be patched simply with a timely patch management policy. However, poor patch management has been a consistent source of vulnerabilities in systems, ultimately leading to data breaches. You can avoid such instances by updating your servers, software development frameworks, software, and tools.
8. Prioritize Vulnerabilities
Time and again, you will discover new vulnerabilities across your app, be it on the frontend or the backend systems. When you do, don’t concentrate your efforts on fixing them all at once or as they arise. Develop a tactical vulnerability management policy that prioritizes vulnerabilities based on criticality and urgency. Focus your efforts on fixing vulnerabilities that have the most significant impact on your app security and brand reputation.
You may realize that some vulnerabilities have little to no impact on your critical systems, and you can choose to ignore them for the time being. That’s entirely acceptable as long as you are not neglecting vulnerabilities that can grant hackers access to sensitive data or critical systems.
9. Implement Real-Time Security Monitoring and Protection
No matter how strong your security features and policies, it’s impossible to give your app 100% protection against cyberattacks. It’s a troubling fact. But, the good news is that you can detect and thwart cyberattacks in real-time when they happen.
Some of the more common ways of doing it would be with application firewalls and/or Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) tools. If you are building a big app that handles highly sensitive user or corporate data, you may even consider hiring or setting up a security operations center (SOC) to monitor its security posture and threat exposure in real-time.
The app security landscape is rapidly evolving. Keep yourself abreast of new technologies, patches to older technologies, and updated best practices. Make sure that your app is up to date in every way and never get complacent with your app security.
With extensive expertise and experience across multiple app development platforms for both web and mobile, Vitec GmbH offers businesses the advantage of time-tested security paradigms that protect apps against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. To learn more, get in touch.
Aleksandar is a passionate digital marketeer with 6+ years experience in various industries. He finds the data & numbers are the way to market things, but also that words are the bridge between just a numbers and brand value, purpose and strategy brought to a user. Using the 5 'W' methodology in creating the content, he is adding 'a plus to a minus', creating simple, but informative blogs & case studies about latest trends in tech & digital indsutry.