Wherever a digital activity is involved, hackers are not far behind. They always try to identify flaws in the system and then exploit the backdoor to steal confidential and important data, or just play for fun, and sometimes even ask for ransom (Ref: recent MongoDB hacks by 3 groups, who were asking for bitcoin as ransom). Billions of users these days are online via their mobile phones and use apps to connect with their friends, or to do financial transactions, shopping online, book tickets and what not. And this is one of the reasons why hackers these days are targeting mobile apps and devices more than ever before. Their ultimate goal is to steal data, ask for ransom, earn some evil money or do frauds. Therefore, it is a major responsibility of an app development agency or freelance app developers to follow the right mobile app security best practices to build a hack proof app, and also regularly update the same.
Mobile app security best practices are much different than website security practices, as in the former the attack surface for hackers is quite large. Any minor security flaw from the operating system to the network level can give access to a hacker into user’s phone, if not the server side of the app. So, it is essential to perform regressive security testing before delivering or publishing any app and save users against hackers and cyber crimes.
As we are in the apps development business for quite a long time now, we have to keep ourselves updated on minor to major app security threats and their solutions, and also follow mobile app security best practices religiously and keep doing the backup and updates of the App data. Every mobile app developer at Agicent keeps a mobile app security checklist, and ensures that the standards are being met before we make anything live.
Let us now discuss some of the best mobile app security best practices that our mobile app developers follow religiously:
- Encrypt the source code
Mobile apps can be easily tampered by hackers to inject malicious code into the app source code which can leak device and user data. To avoid this potential threat, we highly recommend encrypting the app source code with AES or DEC algorithms, so that, it can’t be accessed by anyone else. Code obfuscation and minification are some other measures that you can try as good security layers.
- Ensure User data security
An hacker can go to any extent to trespass the security checks and steal the user data. Therefore, developers should take extra preventive steps to make sure that there the user data is well secured at both server and client ends.
The best way for developers to keep user data secured is to encrypt every single user file stored on the phone. Encryption ensures that hackers will not understand the stolen data as it will appear gibberish to them. However, data encryption alone can’t make your app pretty secure and, that is where our next security tip will help you.
- Use the latest Cryptography techniques
Old cryptographic algorithms like SHA1 and MD5 are not enough to tackle modern day attacks anyone and that is the reason that it is considered a good practice for developers to adhere to the latest techniques like 256-bit AES encryption and SHA-256 for better mobile app security.
- Minimize Storage of Sensitive Data
Another smart way to secure user data is not to actually store the sensitive data on the device in the first place. Avoid storing credit card numbers and personal user info inside apps, and let this be done by the payment gateway provider only since they already have big security layers at their end to prevent any hack.
- Secure app connections at the back end
Securing app connections at the backend prevents unauthorized access to the app and its server side. It becomes more important when there is communication app or when you transfer passwords, credit card numbers, or any other sensitive info from the app to servers or vice versa. Usually, unsecured network connections are targeted by hackers to do a “Man in the middle” attack and steal data flowing over the network.
Developers should use secure transport layer protocols like TLS, SSL, and HTTPS to make the app communicate with the server. In addition to that, you can also take help from Network Analysts to penetrate your network and identify major security errors and fix them.
- Plan API security strategy
APIs are the core of mobile applications and makes sure the apps are running with dynamic data exchange with the servers. Hackers can even get into servers and corrupt or alter your APIs to acquire data illegally. So, you need to have a solid API security strategy in place. Apply authentication and authorization rigorously and separate out API implementation and security into different levels.
- Integrate with Mobile Device Management
In case of enterprise apps, the data becomes much more sensitive and in such scenarios Mobile Device Management software can help. This corporate MDM sites are especially designed to help Network Admins to secure and monitor employee’s devices. Most companies with “Bring Your Own Device” policy are following this technique to stay protected from hackers.
Let us, in the same breath, also discuss some practices that Mobile App users should follow to secure their apps, info, and devices. Some basic Mobile app security best practices for users are as follows:
- Don’t use jailbroken or rooted devices
When you jailbreak an iPhone, or root an Android device, it removes most of the important underlying security components of the mobile operating system which makes your device vulnerable towards hacking attacks.
- Keep applications updated
App updates bring in more features and security fixes too. So, you must always use the updated version of the apps to stay hack-proof.
- Keep mobile OS updated
Just like app updates, OS updates also resolves the security bugs in the previous version. Therefore, it is recommended to keep the mobile OS updated.
- Install apps only from legitimate app stores
One of the best ways to stay secure is to install apps only from the official or legitimate app stores only. So, if you have an Android device, then Google Play is the best option and iTunes (App Store) for iPhone users.
We shall keep this article updated with any further security tips as we come across, or might write a new article on the same topic with new list of best mobile app security practices. We want the web and mobile space to be free of hacking threats so that all kind of users including seniors or non-tech people can enjoy their mobile apps to the fullest, so feel free to send us more tips and tricks that we missed, and we shall publish those on our blogs with credits to you.
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