The broad usage of smartphone solutions we see today has significantly increased security risks associated with mobile applications, making users wary of downloading new apps or entrusting them with payment and personal data.

A recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll for NerdWallet found that 2 in 5 banking customers who don’t use mobile apps are guided by security concerns, while 46% of those who use banking apps are still worried about their data security.

To address all potential risks and develop a truly safe and well-performing mobile application, development teams need to take deliberate steps. In this article, we explore what practices professional mobile app development companies use to build thoroughly protected solutions.

Code obfuscation

A mobile application’s code is the element you need to protect first and foremost. A mobile app’s code is particularly vulnerable to reverse engineering, a programming technique cybercriminals use to gain access to the source code of your application by downloading the app and then dismantling and analyzing it with various tools.

To protect the application’s code against reverse engineering, the Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) recommends applying code obfuscation that makes the source code of a mobile app more difficult to understand and reverse-engineer by unauthorized parties.

Obfuscation involves various code transformations, like encrypting code and altering its structure and naming conventions. On the flip side, this technique makes the app’s code more difficult to maintain and debug, so applying code obfuscation is often a trade-off between security and code maintainability.

Secure data management

The primary aim of cybercriminals targeting mobile apps is users’ personal information, and its improper storage or management can provide them easy access. That is why you should prioritize secure data management and access controls during mobile app development. Here are our key considerations for secure data management in a mobile application:

  • Encrypt sensitive data at rest and during transmission using strong encryption algorithms like Advanced Encryption Standard, the U.S. government standard used worldwide. To secure data in transit, you can use VPNs and SSL/TLS certificates.
  • Adopt secure storage mechanisms using proprietary iOS and Android tools to keep sensitive data like passwords or credit card information safe.

A solid API strategy

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) facilitate communication between the application’s components or the apps’ interaction with third-party services, helping create more feature-rich and connected applications. However, improper API implementation can create opportunities for various attacks, such as data exposure and unauthorized access, injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS), and denial of service (DoS).

To mitigate these threats at the development stage, you should implement robust user authentication mechanisms for your APIs by using tokens, API keys, or OAuth. Moreover, regularly update APIs, install patches and review security mechanisms. Lastly, ensure that all API communications occur over HTTPS to encrypt data in transit and prevent eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Security testing

Postponing security testing of your mobile application closer to the app’s deployment is a common strategy development companies use to save money. In reality, eliminating security issues in an almost ready-for-production application will incur additional expenses, so such an oversight can threaten the overall project. Therefore, consider establishing security testing practices from the project’s beginning. Start with the analysis of the app’s security requirements and include appropriate security tests in test plans.

Also, consider conducting static and dynamic application security testing: the former refers to a white-box analysis of the application’s source code for vulnerabilities, whereas the latter implies scanning the app for security vulnerabilities in already deployed environments.

Penetration testing is another important practice for application security assurance. For it, you can involve ethical hackers to perform an authorized exploitation of your mobile app and detect security vulnerabilities.

Ensuring your application’s security is a continuous process, so regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing will help you detect and eliminate weak spots before cybercriminals can exploit them.

Check out a recent case from Itransition that demonstrates a holistic approach to the application’s security during a loan management solution development.

High-level authentication

Finally, consider adopting a solid user authentication mechanism to ensure that only authorized users access the app and its features. We suggest implementing the following authentication options:

  • Multi-factor authentication will require users to provide multiple forms of verification, such as something they know (a password), something they have (a code sent to their phone), or something they are (biometric data like fingerprint or face scan).
  • Biometric authentication will utilize users’ biometric data, like fingerprints or facial features.
  • Time-based one-time passwords (TOTP) can add an extra layer of security, with users receiving a time-sensitive code on their device that they must enter along with their password.

When developing authentication mechanisms, developers need to balance out robust security and convenient user experience to ensure that authentication doesn’t undermine the app’s key functionality. For instance, multi-factor authentication in a mobile banking app is a must, while a simple language-learning application requiring a multi-step authorization can irritate and put off users.

To sum up

In a continuously evolving mobile landscape, security concerns have cast a shadow on user trust in mobile applications. To earn users’ trust and offer them well-protected and future-proof mobile solutions, a holistic approach to security is a must. Code obfuscation, secure data management, robust APIs, and early security testing are strong measures against potential breaches and integral elements of your application security strategy.

You can also turn to Itransition’s experts for a mature security action plan to build well-guarded mobile applications and guarantee users that their data remains protected.