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From shopping, to banking, to gaming and more — mobile applications have become an integral part of daily life. However, the more people rely on mobile apps, the more they’ve become a prime target for attacks. In fact, a shocking 45% of apps across all industries have high-risk security issues, and 35% have critical vulnerabilities. As attackers become more sophisticated, it's crucial to prioritize mobile app security. But here's the good news: you don't have to sacrifice development speed for security.
Let’s look at some of the most common misperceptions around mobile app security, and explore some of the best ways to protect your applications — without missing a beat.
The cybersecurity skills gap is real in the mobile app industry. As a result, many developers may be hesitant to incorporate security into the build process for fear of slowing down development timelines. However, by avoiding key security protections, developers may be unintentionally exposing sensitive information to attackers. Or, they may be leaving information in plain sight making their application easier to reverse-engineer.
When done right, integrating security can streamline development processes. By incorporating security from the beginning of the development cycle, developers can identify and address potential issues early on, preventing them from becoming larger and more time-consuming issues down the road. Security should be a proactive approach, reducing the need for extensive fixes and rewrites after a project is completed.
Similarly, some teams adopt a reactive approach to security, confronting issues only after vulnerabilities have already been introduced into their apps. While technically feasible, this strategy is both costly and more time-consuming than taking care of security concerns up front.
If you delay addressing the security risks in favor of getting the app live, it can expose the company to compliance violations, damage to your brand reputation, data loss, and more.
By addressing security from the beginning of the development process, you can prevent these risks from materializing. It's essential to view security as an integral part of the development process, not as an optional add-on. When security is ingrained in the development culture, it becomes a natural part of the workflow, reducing the need for time-consuming, expensive retroactive security measures.
A massive 96% of developers rely to some extent, if not completely, on the end-users’ mobile operating systems (OS) for app security. While OS requirements and security updates provide protection against certain threats, many vulnerabilities exist at the application level. Attackers can exploit weaknesses in source code and binaries to manipulate the application, bypass functionality, or steal sensitive data.
Even with OS-level protections in place, a single vulnerability in your app's code can provide an entry point for attackers. Comprehensive security measures must encompass not only the runtime environment but also the app's entire development lifecycle, from code creation to deployment.
Some developers believe they can handle security on their own. They might attempt manual approaches to safeguarding their apps, such as obfuscating their own code. But, as attackers become more sophisticated, these DIY efforts often fall short — and are more time-consuming than developers may anticipate. That’s because mobile apps require multiple layers of security protections — some of which may be outside the developer’s area of expertise.
While it's commendable for developers to take an active interest in security, it's essential to recognize that security is a complex and ever-evolving field. As threats evolve, security practices and tools must evolve as well. Relying solely on in-house security expertise may not provide the level of protection your app needs — especially when there are tools that can assist with secure coding techniques, security testing, and monitoring-in app after the app is published.
The foundation of mobile app security is knowledge. Provide your development team with the resources and training they need to understand secure coding best practices. The OWASP Mobile Application Security site is an excellent starting point, offering a wealth of resources for training and education. Building a culture of security within your team will ensure that secure development practices become second nature.
Security training should encompass various aspects, from threat modeling to secure coding techniques. Armed with this knowledge, it will be easier for developers to follow a secure SDLC, from planning and threat modeling all the way to implementation and monitoring. Additionally, staying informed about emerging threats and best practices is essential to maintaining a robust security posture.
Secondly, security technology can be the best developer ally. Look for technology that integrates security protection into the build process, alongside continuous scanning. That way, rather than going back and forth to fix security issues, your developers can create a well-functioning machine from the outset. Seek out tools with multiple layers of security protection, including:
Guardsquare excels in these areas and can be seamlessly integrated into your application, and operates post-production, offering a separate configuration file that's easy to maintain. Guardsquare's products encompass all of the security detailed above, providing multiple layers of protection for your mobile app.
Creating a secure mobile application starts with the right knowledge and resources. Equipped with security tools, developers can extend their skill sets, as many solutions provide guidance on exactly how to address security issues. By combining knowledge and security tools, you can confidently develop mobile apps that are not only fast to market but also highly secure.