The COVID-19 era caused a rise in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies as mobile devices, and remote work became a part of business operations and jobs. The increased use of mobile devices in the workplace has raised the interest of cybercriminals, who are always looking for potential victims.
Hackers often use mobile app vulnerabilities to exploit mobile users, which further puts enterprises at risk. All of this has raised the importance of mobile app security.
What Is Mobile Application Security?
Mobile app security is used to safeguard enterprise mobile apps and prevent attacks and identity theft. This also includes preventing malware attacks, keylogging, reverse engineering, tampering, or exploitation.
Comprehensive security tools offer technical solutions like mobile app shielding, hardening, and other best practices. Mobile app security has quickly gained popularity as the use of mobile devices for work has increased globally.
People have also started using mobiles for shopping, banking, and other activities. All these have increased the number of users, apps, and mobile devices that require protection.
How Does Mobile Application Security Function?
Mobile application security solutions are designed to offer security similar to regular application security. This prevents cybercriminals from exploiting vulnerabilities in enterprise mobile apps.
Companies and businesses have much less control over mobile apps that employees use on their phones. The built-in security issues in mobile devices and lack of security in mobile applications similar to desktop application security raise the threat.
Security teams are challenged when it comes to mobile device security. Therefore, comprehensive protection, including strong mobile app security, is the only way to raise defenses and reduce the chances of an attack or exploit.
Let us now see how mobile app security functions below:
The basic step to prevent exploits through mobile apps is to reduce an enterprise’s mobile attack surface. Any corporation can do this by remediating and identifying the evident risks due to vulnerable apps. This helps prevent successful exploits by attackers.
MARS (Mobile Application Reputation Service) is a major component of mobile app scanning. This service scans mobile applications to detect vulnerabilities and malicious behavior. Background malicious activities indicate compromise or built-in backdoors.
A MARS report helps organizations evaluate risks and take relevant security measures to mitigate threats. MAST (Mobile Application Security Testing) plays a critical role in protecting an enterprise against major attacks.
Security configuration problems in mobile apps caused an expose of sensitive data for 100 million users, according to a report. Interestingly, these security issues were visible in a MARS report.
Once an organization can detect known or obvious vulnerabilities, the next step should be addressing unknown vulnerabilities in mobile applications.
Cybercriminals are constantly searching for ways to exploit mobile applications to steal sensitive data or plant malicious software onto a mobile device.
Therefore, the main goal of a mobile security strategy is to make attacks difficult to launch. Hardening is a must feature that enterprise mobile apps must offer. Other features that must be included include anti-tampering, app integrity checks, code obfuscation, etc.
These features prevent cybercriminals from modifying mobile appliances or performing reverse engineering. This decreases the chance of successful attacks and compromise.
Managing known/unknown vulnerabilities and hardening mobile apps is useful, but they still do not fill up the cracks. An attacker can easily slip through and launch an attack on a vulnerable mobile app.
Mobile device security should, therefore, also include active mobile app protection for employee devices. RASP (Mobile Runtime Application Self-Protection) solution helps protect a mobile application against novel and zero-day attacks.
RASP does this by allowing deeper visibility into a mobile app’s runtime and internal state. Behavior, input, and output are determined to determine the effects of certain inputs on an application’s behavior.
An attack will cause an app to behave in unusual ways, and anomalous actions are easy to detect with RASP. This also allows RASP or Runtime Application Self-Protection to identify attacks that are not as predictable or new.
Is Mobile App Security Important?
Mobile app developers understand that mobile app security is crucial, but not all other individuals do. Apart from an increase in mobile fraud, there are multiple other reasons that organizations need to take mobile app security seriously and focus on developing a foolproof strategy.
Users must be vigilant online when disclosing private/sensitive data, downloading content, or surfing the internet. Most of us keep our mobile phones nearby, and you will be surprised to know that these devices store and collect a lot of our personal information, including sensitive data and documents.
A mobile device is a treasure trove for hackers, so users must be careful of what permissions they give to the mobile apps they use. An example is allowing a weather app access to your camera. That’s simply a big no.
What Are Mobile App Security Risks?
Business mobile applications that cater to several clients are often the main target of cybercriminals. They hope to gain unauthorized access to exploit customers, children, or businesses.
When mobile malware gets into a user’s device and launches an attack, the following can be expected:
- Login credential compromise.
- Account takeover.
- Stolen cards or bank details that are later sold to 3rd parties.
- Unauthorized access to business networks.
- Identify theft.
- Spread malware from Android or iOS devices to other mobile phone users.
- Copying of SMS messages to scan for private information.
What Are The Advantages Of Mobile App Security?
Mobile applications store and generate much data related to us and our lives. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure the data is used and stored securely. Insecure applications are an easy way in for malicious actors that can steal and sell your data. Mobile app security has the following advantages:
Account takeover is a huge problem that is slowly causing password usage to become obsolete. Vast amounts of large-scale data breaches in the past decade have led to multiple usernames and password combinations being put up for sale on the Dark Web. Strong authentication methods are the only way to allow legitimate users into their accounts. This prevents attackers from gaining access to an account to use it for fraudulent activities.
Biometrics or biometric verification is another authorization/authentication technique that allows safe and secure logins using data obtained from a user’s body. Since there is no foolproof way to determine who is entering a password and a developer can also do nothing more than match up the typed password key to the system’s back end, biometrics are essential.
Biometrics adds a layer of trust by validating the individual and offering a biometric sample for verification. Fingerprints, face, or iris scans are presented as live information for perfect verification.
Identity verification is another technique to prevent attackers from stealing their identity to sign up for fraudulent accounts under their name. A strong identity verification process helps verify users and their identities and prevents attackers from performing fraudulent activities.
What Are Mobile Application Security Best Practices?
Mobile app security best practices differ based on whether an app is for consumer or business use. Let’s look at the best practices for both types below:
Business Best Practices
Businesses and enterprises can make use of the following several ways to reduce the risk of mobile attacks and data breaches:
Acceptable Use Policy
Publishing a comprehensive, clear, and acceptable use policy for mobile devices that helps contain/access business data is necessary. Make sure to restrict employees from using 3rd party apps/stores and give them a written document declaring the best practices they must follow. Additionally, it is also a great idea to develop an app-vetting process to help select/review applications that are deemed secure for use by employees.
Digital Security Training
All employees and security teams must be trained to spot spear phishing attempts, avoid risky behavior, and use other cybersecurity protocols. You can also train employees, and further check their alertness/skills by sending unannounced fraudulent texts, phishing emails, or making use of other malicious communications.
Any employees that click should be automatically picked up for a data security training program. Furthermore, it is also important to let employees know that they will often be scammed through SMS and social media messages.
You can use varying mediums and fake attack examples to train employees fully.
Deploy A Mobile Security Suite
Make use of a proper mobile security suite with shielding, hardening, and other features to protect data in your mobile enterprise app.
All legitimate and illegitimate application platforms must be regularly searched. This allows a business to see if they can find any apps that bear the business’s name, logo, or messaging information. Immediately contact platform services to get rid of fake and rogue apps to prevent consumers from getting scammed. This also prevents your image from being tarnished.
Make Use Of Security Best Practices
All mobile apps must be developed while keeping security protocols in mind. Always hire the best developers familiar with mobile app security and development. Ensure they make use of best security practices and frameworks like OWASP.
Conduct regular and automated mobile application security testing using SDLC for regular penetration testing once the app has been implemented.
It is a good idea to use an additional security layer called App Shielding to protect an app in hostile environments and at runtime. Hostile environments include an insecure phone or outdated software that increases or puts an enterprise app at risk.
Consumer App Best Practices
Financial institutions, eCommerce, platforms and other consumer serving apps make use of the following best practices:
Fraud strategies are always evolving to target the latest security systems. Your best bet is to use a good security provider that keeps the solution updated and has an active development cycle.
Since financial institutions face a greater risk of fraud and hold a ton of customer data, including personal and sensitive information, picking a mobile security vendor that can cater to industry needs is crucial.
User Experience And Security Balance
Proper security is achieved by striking a balance between application usability and security protocols. If an app requires excessive authentication or makes individual transactions too taxing, then banking app users, for example, can get quite frustrated.
However, no friction means the app can be targeted easily, so striking a balance is crucial.
Is Mobile App Security Testing Necessary?
Mobile application security testing helps identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in any system that can cause attacks and data breaches. Security testing simulates a cyberattack to help expose existing security vulnerabilities.
Tests help automate certain tasks and identify bugs that make an app vulnerable. Not only do tests help improve efficiency, but they are also helpful in maintaining the security and integrity of business applications. The test must be carried out at regular intervals and has become a necessity due to the following:
Gaining Customer Trust
Safeguarding company reputation and upholding computer ethics is essential. Brand loyalty and customer trust is the only way to achieve these. Tests designed to do so are known as penetration tests.
This is a mobile security check where testers make use of advanced IT knowledge and specialized tools to engineer a remote attack. This attack penetrates the client’s environment without proper permissions or authorization. Penetration testing helps see how much an app is fortified against attacks and helps expose vulnerabilities.
Software security testing prevents risks by helping eradicate application interface vulnerabilities. Undetected weaknesses become real threats if they are left untreated.
Cybercriminals use systemic flaws, which makes the security of third-party software and cloud-based services essential.
Good testing helps predict malicious behavior, which helps enterprises arm up. Code errors and flaws can also be fixed by understanding hacker behavior.
If flaws are detected, errors can be fixed to prevent attacks. Errors being fixed on time means that no changes will have to be made once the app is live, which could lead to legal, PR, and technical loss.
Moreover, if a data breach occurs and data is damaged, lost, or stolen, you will have to bear an even greater loss. Downtime applications also cause loss of profits which is why time and money spent on security testing is your best bet. Remediation costs are always greater than tester salaries and the cost of purchasing security testing tools.
Many services run at the backend of all mobile applications. It is essential to perform security tests as apps are created by 3rd parties that may fail to meet compliance and security requirements.
Testing helps investigate all app behavior via its source code. Endpoint function, certification, data, and storage are also tested. The work of 3rd parties is therefore polished, and IT infrastructure is enhanced.
Some vendors may lack the resources or knowledge to implement the correct security protocols, so that testing can come in handy.
Some vendors may even claim they conducted security tests, but you can only be sure if you run them yourself. Low security can result in compromise and hurt the integrity of your organization.
Security Team Testing
Security testing should be a major part of the app development cycle. This ensures your company’s security is kept in check. It also helps strengthen your security team by testing:
- Response time
- Response quality
- Reaction accuracy
If your security team fails to react according to expectations, then it is obvious you need to work harder on your flaws and security team. Teams must be trained to do this.
You can also test the quality of other services in the same fashion, even if they have been outsourced.
Mobile app security is crucial for enterprise protection, especially if you have many remote employees or those that work through their mobile devices. Proper security prevents data breaches, protects the image of an organization, and eliminates the risk of identity theft.