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How can businesses protect their mobile apps from cyber-attacks?

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(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Bloomicon)

Almost every piece of sensitive data concerning us, from bank account credentials to personal information, is stored on our smartphones these days. Moreover, the number of mobile users, as well as the amount of time spent on smartphones by the average users, have both been on a steady rise for the past few decades, and thus mobile app development has become one of the most sought-after business opportunity in today's time. 

Even as we speak, more businesses than ever are hard at work developing their mobile applications in order to reach and serve their customers better. But, as a direct result of this surge in the number and usage of mobile apps, an enormous amount of user data is produced every day. And since data has become increasingly valuable in recent times, it should be no surprise that much of this user data is at the risk of being stolen or abused. Much like anything connected to the internet, smartphones are under constant threats from attackers who intend to breach our phones and steal our private information.

For this reason, businesses need to be extra cautious with their app's security. As a brand that works hard to acquire users, you don't want your app to be the breaching point that gives hackers access to your user's phones. Such an unfortunate accident can be devastating to your business, costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in revenue, and damaging user trust. Both of which, once gone, are impossible to regain. 

But how do you ensure your mobile app is completely secure against the threats presented within cyberspace? While mobile app security can be an extensive topic to wrap your head around, here are a few pointers to get you started in the right direction. 

Keys ways for brands to secure their mobile apps:

Secure your code 

Keeping your code-base smooth and taking time to iron out tiny bugs and errors within your app's code can seem like a trivial step but is crucial for your app's safety. In today's overly connected world, devices are constantly surrounded by attackers who wouldn't spare a single opportunity to creep inside your phone and take over. 

Therefore, businesses need to implement military-grade security when it comes to ensuring their app's safety. You'll need to thoroughly test your app's code for the tiniest of cracks and errors that attackers can take advantage of. It is also advisable to protect your app with run-time application protection for an extra layer of safety. Many mobile app development companies in the US and worldwide hire third parties to hack their apps to identify and rectify vulnerabilities. 

Stronger authentication 

Strong user authentication is essential for mobile applications in order to protect them from unauthorized logins. Apart from strong and authentic passwords, developers should make 2TF (Two Factor Authentication) or MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) compulsory. Making logins consist of multiple steps adds an extra layer of security, like adding one-time passwords, device ids, client certificates, etc., on top of existing login procedures. Enforcing session timeout once the user goes inactive is also a great way to increase app safety further. 

Securing against Network threats 

A smartphone doesn't exist in isolation but is connected with a whole host of devices and networks. Hackers could potentially abuse these connections and take advantage of vulnerabilities within them to extract sensitive data. One example of this is WiFi scooping, where attackers could connect to devices via open/public networks. An excellent way to neutralize such and other Man-in-the-middle attacks is to encrypt the communication between apps and app servers. While encryption isn't perfect, it is surely enough to make the attackers' life a bit more difficult.

Safer transactions 

Online transactions are at constant risk of being hijacked by attackers, and thus, if your app contains any form of an online payment mechanism, then you need to be extra careful to make sure hackers don't end up draining your user's bank accounts. Once again, measures like multi-factor authentication, timed sessions, and data encryption, have become the staple when it comes to securing online payments. Further, it is important to ensure that little to no financial credentials are stored on the app or the server, and no transactions are made without HTTPS protection. And finally, partner up with third-party payment service providers and let them do the heavy lifting instead of developing native payment solutions in-house. 

API security 

APIs are essential when implementing third-party features, applications, and functionality within your app. However, their necessity also turns them into a gateway that could potentially let attackers in. Therefore, the first most obvious step to ensure your app's safety is to only implement certified APIs. But beyond that, developers should always encrypt their data with 256-SSL encryption to prevent any breaches during transit. 

Periodic testing 

New threats continue to emerge as digital ecosystems get more diverse and developed. Developers need to be on the lookout for these vulnerabilities, and the best way to protect against them is to periodically but rigorously test your application against such threats. Once identified, updates need to be rolled out to patch these threats before they attack your app. Another major area to protect is the backend of your app or the server-side of things. Once again, it is important to regularly test all the APIs that grant access to your app's servers. Since servers contain your entire user base's information, they are often a prime target for hackers, and thus it is essential to double down on your server defense. Furthermore, implementing procedures like data encryption and containerization and regular penetration testing can add an additional layer of security. 

Conclusion 

Securing your mobile app is a lot of work. From maintaining a clean code minimizing internal vulnerabilities to wrapping your app to safeguard against external threats, there is a serious amount of work that goes into protecting an application. Given all of this, it's no surprise that most businesses find it challenging to put in the time and resources necessary to secure their apps completely. If you are one of those brands then perhaps investing in outsourcing a reliable app development company or even hiring a mobile security agency can turn out to be a good deal. 

How do you plan to maximize your mobile app's security?

Darren Matthew, blogger, GoodFirms

Darren Matthew is passionate about Tech, Business, and the evolving relationship between the two. He is a blogger at GoodFirms - a leading review and rating platform that lets consumers compare and choose the right service provider for their needs.