The primary purpose of mobile phones, other than making phone calls, is to run a wide range of mobile applications that serve almost all imaginable purposes. Businesses across the globe that offer a wide range of products and services have migrated from the physical way of doing things, be it printing of adverts and leaflets. They have moved to a mobile realm. Mobile apps have been developed to play significant roles. They provide more value to customers as well as building a more reliable brand. The usage of mobile applications has risen in the recent past, and it is expected to soar to even greater heights in the future. A research report by statista indicate that consumers downloaded a total of 178 billion apps in 2017. These figures have risen significantly.
With higher power and abilities exhibited by mobile apps comes much responsibility. This is why mobile app developers should be keen when developing these mobile applications. They should put in place and implement the critical security guidelines. This article explains a fundamental checklist that every developer should follow in order to come up with a perfect mobile application.
1. Penetration Testing
The first security check a mobile app developer should undertake is the penetration test. This is where a mobile app developer tries to emulate a cyberattack that targets a mobile app in order to establish the security loopholes and vulnerabilities that the app will exhibit. Such vulnerabilities may include; traditional hacks such as user name enumeration and injection, binary compile issues, and improper storage of crucial data. If left undetected, the vulnerabilities can grow and become threats to the mobile application.
2. Mobile Device Security Tests
A mobile app will only remain safe and secure if the device to which it is operating is secure. This is because an insecure phone can easily expose the application to insecurities and attacks.
Developers should, therefore, make the application ‘risk-aware’. The application should be limited to operate on only those mobile devices which have a high level of security. Doing this will ensure that the sensitive data of an application and all its functionality remains safe and secure.
3. File-level and Database Encryption
Most mobile app developers design their apps so that the data from the application is stored in a local file system. This storage poses a huge threat to mobile app data. This is because usually, the technique cannot encrypt the data, and this leaves a major vulnerability that cyber attackers can easily take advantage.
To deal with this problem, modules that are used in the data encryption ought to be put to use. The modules can provide file-level encryption, which is an important security feature to the mobile app.
4. Source Code Encryption and Hardening
Most mobile applications can easily be reverse-engineered. Hackers usually use decompilers as well as disassemblers to gain access to the source code of mobile applications. This is too risky as it opens up doors to bigger attacks. Hackers can steal your much-valued code or clone your app. They can as well steal private and crucial data from the mobile app and add malicious code to the app, which can be risky and dangerous.
Code hardening is one perfect way that mobile app developers should make use of. This technique protects your application from reverse engineering and the dangers that come with it. Code hardening encompasses hardening the source code at different levels through the use of multiple layers of obfuscation and code encryption. The hardened code then becomes impervious to both manual and automated analysis.
A code signing certificate can also be of great essence in ensuring that code has not been tampered with. It ensures for software integrity and determines whether code can be trusted to execute a specific purpose.
Encrypting the source code safeguards the data contained in the code against unauthorized access when the application is at rest. Some of the vital encryption techniques to which mobile app developers should consider applying to include class encryption, string encryption, and resource encryption. As a mobile app developer, you have to make sure that the source code is fully encrypted and hardened to strengthen its security.
5. Data in Transit Protection
It is crucial for you to preserve the security of all the data in transit between the clients and the server. The app should be developed in such a way that it seals all the possible loopholes that might give a hacker access to the data in transit. To do this, the developer should make use of an SSL certificate or a VPN tunnel.
An SSL certificate protects all the data in transit. To do this, all the information, files, and data that is transmitted goes in an encrypted form. As such, an attacker will not be able to decipher the meaning of the data just in case he comes across it. The SSL certificate provides an HTTPS for the application and gives the users confidence in dealing with the application. A mobile app developer should always ensure the safety of the data in transit by installing an SSL certificate from the best SSL certificate providers.
6. App Screenshots
There are mobile applications that display very sensitive data to the user. Such data can be captured by using a screenshot or the app appearing on the list of apps that the user recently used. This can be very dangerous as an intruder cab easily access the sensitive information by taking a screenshot or by simply visiting the list of the apps a user recently visited. A mobile app developer should disable this, especially in a situation where the app displays very vital data.
To disable this, the mobile app developer should set FLAG_SECURE in the layout program of the User Interface. The mobile app developer should also exclude the app from a list of the recently visited apps.
7. App Backup Checks
As explained earlier, mobile apps carry very sensitive information. Hackers have become smart and sophisticated that they are doing all it takes to access the data for their malicious uses. Sometimes, despite the mobile app having sealed all the loopholes to prevent unauthorized entry, a hacker might still gain access to the app data. When this happens, the hacker will tamper with the information or totally delete it. This is where data backup should come in.
A data backup acts as a contingency plan just in case all other app security measures fail. The backup stores all the vital information in a secondary source other than the app itself. In the event of a hack that causes loss of data, the backup would readily provide the data. App developers have to check to ensure that their application has this feature enabled so as to provide the data when needed. The app should also be enabled to provide regular data backups.
As the number of smartphone usages continues to increase and the innovations in the mobile apps are advancing day by day, so does the cases of cyber-attacks and data breaches increase. Cyberattacks to a mobile app can leave the users in a devastating situation. It might cause a loss of critical user data and resources. Mobile developers should be at the forefront of the fight against such cases. They should develop a mobile app that conforms to the best security measures. This article elaborates on the mobile app security testing checklist that every developer must-have.