Essential Tips To Boost Mobile App Security

October 26, 2023

In the modern world, mobile devices and their applications have become the lifeblood of most human activity. From buying groceries to booking tickets to your favourite concert to sharing photos and videos with your loved ones, mobile applications (or ‘apps’ as they are popularly called) are all-pervasive. Any organisation, to maximise their productivity, efficiently achieve their goals and stay relevant in today’s incredibly competitive world, must use technology. Enterprise mobile apps are built to help organisations boost productivity, minimise wastage and boost productivity. Their availability on mobile platforms makes them quick and convenient for employees to use. Therefore, knowing their importance, enterprise app security cannot be ignored.

Enterprise apps are the prime targets of cyberattacks due to their importance to an organisation. These apps contain sensitive information, including but not restricted to, customer financial information, intellectual property and trade secrets. Cyberattacks can wreak absolute havoc on an organisation. Cyberattacks can disrupt the operations of a business leading to humongous losses. A lack of proper enterprise application security mechanisms could also invite regulatory scrutiny and fines. This consequently could erode customer trust.

Knowing how crucial enterprise app security is to a business, developers should strive tirelessly towards ensuring that the apps they make are safe from cyberattacks. They should constantly be upgrading their knowledge of the existing threat landscape. This will help them modify the apps to protect them from vulnerabilities

Additionally, here are some tips that all developers of enterprise applications should take note of to ensure that their apps are well-protected:

1.Strengthen security mechanisms for user authentication-

Use additional ways of verifying user identities. Adopt a robust authentication server solution that allows a multitude of ways for two-factor authentication (2FA) and password protection to be used. The strength of an authentication procedure should be proportional to the amount of damage that can be caused to your company’s finances and reputation in case of a data breach.

2. Encrypting the Source Code-

It has recently come to light that malicious code is capable of infecting over 12 million mobile devices at a given point in time. The most common way that cyberattackers do this is by publishing “rogue apps”- repackaged versions of popular apps.

Malware can exploit vulnerabilities within an application’s source code. Therefore, your source code must be encrypted. Doing so will prevent it from being accessed by others.

3. Protect data-in-transit-

Data being transmitted over networks is vulnerable to being intercepted by bad actors. This can compromise user privacy, damage organisational reputation and possibly lead to legal ramifications.

A good way to mitigate such risks is by incorporating Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or Secure Socket Layers (SSL) tunnels into the enterprise mobile apps you develop. This will encrypt the data that travels between the client and the backend servers, making it unreadable to unauthorised individuals. Additionally, ensure that SSL certificates are up-to-date. Enable certificate pinning to validate the authenticity of a server’s SSL/TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificate.

  1. Proper Sessions Management-

When developing an app, ensure that appropriate session timeouts are established. These will ensure how long a user stays logged in before they are required to again provide authentication. Apps having low-security requirements can have session timeouts set to 60 minutes. But for those applications that deal with highly sensitive information, a stricter timeout of 15 minutes can be set. Employing these mechanisms will reduce the chances of data being accessed by unauthorised people if a user were to leave their device unattended while still logged in.

Another critical aspect of secure session management is the mechanism of terminating sessions upon a new login. If the same user logs in from another location or device, their previous session is automatically terminated. Such a mechanism prevents concurrent sessions, which can also lead to data being accessed by unwanted individuals.

4. Use the latest techniques in cryptography-

Popular cryptography algorithms like SHA1 and MD5 provide insufficient protection in today’s security landscape. Always stay updated with the latest technology in security algorithms. Whenever possible use modern encryption standards like AES-256 and SHA-256 (when hashing).

5. Adopt the concept of least privilege-

The principle of least privilege is founded on the idea of restricting access rights for users or applications to the minimum extent needed for tasks to be completed efficiently. By preventing excess permissions from being granted, you can minimise the attack surface and potential security risks. This helps in strengthening the overall integrity of the mobile application.

6. App Shielding-

Use app shielding to prevent mobile app security, both iOS and Android from being tampered with in any way. The data stored within an app is separated from the runtime environment, thus protecting the data.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) is a popular method of app shielding that adds integrity protection to an already-running mobile application. RASP monitors the internal state, inputs and outputs of an application. You can use this to identify vulnerabilities in your app when testing security.

7. Minimise Storing Sensitive Data wherever possible

Risk levels are increased when user data is unnecessarily stored. In cases where data storage is required, employ secure methods of doing so, like encrypted data containers or keychains. These provide an additional layer of security. Use cookies to store passwords. While logs can help in monitoring and debugging the application, they can be a security threat if they contain sensitive information. Therefore, use logs sparingly and do not rely on them. When logs are used, ensure that they are automatically deleted after a predetermined interval of time.

8. Thorough security checks

Instead of testing your app for security vulnerabilities periodically, do so continuously. You can conduct tests on an ongoing basis by using automated means of testing and threat modelling. If your budget permits you to, hire a hacker. A fresh pair of eyes is invaluable. They can help you discover previously unknown flaws in your app’s security. You can promptly patch these vulnerabilities before they are exploited by real-life malicious actors.

In the modern era, enterprise applications must be not only efficient but secure as well. The aforementioned tips, while basic, are still important. All the very best in making a secure enterprise app!


David Sunnyside

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