Over the last few years, there has been an exponential increase in internet access rates on mobile devices as opposed to accessing them on desktop systems. Given the growing importance of smartphones, mobile apps have become a primary means of communication with the digital world. However, as the number of mobile apps grows, so does the risk of cybercrimes i.e security breaches and data theft.
If mobile apps are not secure, they can put personal and financial information at risk of theft, abuse, and exploitation. Hackers can gain unauthorized access to sensitive information like login credentials, bank information, and other confidential data.
Now we will see top mobile app security threats which could cause harm to your mobile app and eventually you as an individual and organization. It will give you an insight into what we prepare for At Unthinkable against these threats when we work on your application.
Top Security Threats to Mobile App Security
1. Unsecured Files Storage
An Application has a feature that required you to save your personal information into files in the app’s document directory and these files could have sensitive information like user pictures, email IDs, banking details, other secret documents, etc.
2. Insecure Input Text fields
Have you ever wondered about the case where a user typing confidential information in normal text fields like conversations in instant messaging apps, credit card details in notes, etc could get compromised in case the app is using third-party/custom keyboards?
These third-party custom keyboards might not guarantee protection and in order to enhance their functionality ask for full access and fetch additional information like location, and address book.
“Although network access makes many things possible for a custom keyboard, it also increases your [developer’s] responsibilities.” – Apple Inc.
3. Man-in-middle Attacks
For 70 % of mobile applications, communication that takes place between the app and user outside the mobile phone device happens via server. Data transfer between the app and server via a layer called the transport layer.
A middleman attack is an attack where an attacker/hacker is positioned between these two parties to gain access to data or alter data traveling between them. This leads to severe crimes like identity thefts/frauds. So this sets the importance of using a very secure connection between the two.
4. Data Violation In The App Switcher
Another security threat could be user-sensitive information like health data, passwords, chats, payment info, etc being displayed when an application is moved to the background and becomes visible in App Switcher. Users might not want this information to be accidentally seen by other people.
One way in which this data could be exposed is via the snapshot images that iOS shows in the App Switcher.
5. Screenshot Feasibility For Sensitive Screens
What if some unknown person is able to take screenshots of screens having sensitive information and use them for later purposes?
6. Compromising Minimum-device-access-security policy
Unauthorized users accessing your mobile application due to minimum-device-access security policy not being followed i.e. enforcing users to set a device passcode to access the app.
7. Security Breach via Reverse Engineering
Various tools are available which facilitate a number of attacks and can get access to your application code like API requests, methods, and text field data. This happens due to a lack of security in mobile application development processes.
How to make Apps Secure?
1. Secure Storage for Files
While writing/saving files in the app’s document directory in iOS, unauthorized access must be prevented by specifying the right Protection level as per the requirement. For android apps, files stored in internal storage are extremely secure as they use MODE_PRIVATE mode for file creation, so this mode ensures that the files of one particular app can not be accessed by other applications on the device. But generally internal storage capacity is limited, so if it is required to store data on external storage, it is very important to save the data in encrypted format as data stored on the external storage can be easily accessed by all the apps on the device.
2. Input Text Fields Security
Custom keyboards could be restricted in the apps to avoid unauthorized access to sensitive/confidential information being typed in normal text fields.
3. Transport Layer Security
The transport layer is a way through which data transfer takes place between the client and server. To avoid Man-in-middle attacks, SSL Pinning is a solution in android and iOS Apps.
SSL Pinning is a technique where the server is asking your app to authenticate itself and this is an opportunity for you to authenticate the server’s credentials. The server’s credentials consist of a certificate which further consists of a public key. SSL pinning can be implemented in two ways – pin the certificate and pin the key.
Since SSL pinning can also be bypassed, we should also involve additional request and response encryption for the network requests.
4. Data Security in App Switcher
To avoid confidentiality issues in the app switcher there could be many ways sensitive information can be hidden by adding an alternate screen/blur view at the moment the app is moving to the background.
5. Disabling screenshot feature:
In order to avoid anyone taking screenshots of screens containing sensitive information, a disabled screenshots feature can be applied and this is easily achievable in android. For iOS, there are some paid tools to achieve this.
6. Minimum-device- access-security policy
An extra policy that could be applied as a security paradigm is identifying and enforcing if a device passcode is applied before allowing the user to access the app if the app contains sensitive information so no unauthorized user can access our app.
7. Break Reverse Engineering
A few important paradigms to keep in consideration to protect apps from reverse engineering are Jailbreak(detecting and avoiding), memory dump (necessary actions to be taken care to secure data stored in memory/heap memory), keeping strings as constants only, avoiding manual repackaging/tampering.
Moreover, there are obfuscation tools available that protect our app from listed security threats. The general concept of such tools is to obfuscate the source code i.e difficult to read and understand but still remains fully functional. This makes reverse engineering a program extremely difficult and hence makes it hard for an attacker to tamper with the code.
8. Network Security
Enforcing mobile apps to send network requests over a more secure connection i.e HTTPS instead of HTTP. Apple introduced App Transport Security for the same. Using HTTP instead of HTTPS can leave the app vulnerable to security threats.
Remember, mobile app security is a critical issue that requires careful attention and proactive measures. By following the mobile app security best practices we help ensure the security of your mobile application and protect sensitive information from theft, abuse, and exploitation.
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