Tony is Head of Design at Fliplet. With a background in engineering and experience in brand consulting, he believes that a good user experience stems from all aspects of the product development process. Tony also had the honour of winning the pudding eating competition at boarding school at the age of 15.
Enterprise apps are becoming increasingly popular choices at many companies, offering a wide range of benefits such as increased productivity and higher employee engagement. However, many companies are still putting off the development of enterprise apps due to the perceived challenges that come with them, from data privacy to security threats.
In this article we explored how mobile device management (MDM) systems can help you prevent some of the main security threats to the enterprise. Now we’re going to give you a few tips about what you need to keep in mind when building an app in order to avoid the main security pitfalls.
1. How are you planning to deploy your app?
There are two main options when it comes to distributing your app: public app stores or enterprise app stores.
Gartner predicts that by 2017 25% of enterprises will have their own enterprise app store. The reason that this is becoming a common choice for many businesses when it comes to sharing apps internally is because it keeps information that should only be distributed internally private.
If your app is intended for internal use it will be much safer to share it via a private or enterprise app store. There are many other benefits to using enterprise app stores including:
- They allow you to better control what apps can be downloaded – any by who.
- They provide you with internal user ratings, allowing you to discard apps that are not being used.
- They offer great analytics information on who accessed which apps and when.
- With a private app store you can also limit access to each app according to the employee’s role or employment level.
- They allow IT teams to limit downloads in corporate devices to only apps that meet the company’s security standards.
2. Who will have access to your app?
Apps are long-term commitments and as such they need someone in charge of not only creating the app but also updating the content. This person may vary or they may remain the same. It is therefore important that whoever has this responsibility is aware of the data sensitivity issues of the content they are working with, as well as their role in keeping it safe.
Educating the relevant employees about what to do and what not to do, both in terms of the content included and the security measures taken to avoid it falling in the wrong hands, will be instrumental here.
It is not enough for the app to be securely managed by the development team or app builder, the content management aspect is also important when it comes to security.
3. What data will you have in your app?
Directly in relation to point 2 is the need to have a clear idea of what exact data is going into the app. This is not only in terms of ensuring that the app content and access control is appropriate for the intended audience, as we discussed above, but also asking yourself whether you need this content to be in an app at all.
There is often a lack of understanding of where sensitive data is kept and poor education on how app designers handle this data.
A good way of preventing sensitive information from landing in the wrong hands is by having policies that automatically categorise data according to whether it’s sensitive or not and other categories.
Companies should then have controls in place that ensure that these categories are handled correctly, for instance by ensuring that data is encrypted across networks – more on that later.
4. Do you need login verification?
Login verification can be a useful way to prevent data from being accessed by the wrong people.
A highly effective form of login verification for both security and cost-saving reasons is Single Sign On (SSO). This is when users can log into multiple accounts and platforms using a single login and password.
The greatest benefit of SSO when it comes to security is that it forces employees to choose stronger passwords for their multiple accounts, as they will only need to memorise one single password. At the same time, SSO initiatives ensure that the stronger passwords that are chosen remain confidential, as employees won’t need to write them down anywhere in order to remember them.
Finally, SSO is also extremely beneficial when it comes to employees leaving the company, as management will need to delete fewer accounts.
5. What happens when employees leave the company?
On the topic of employees leaving the company, this is also a key thing that you will need to take into consideration when building your app, as you don’t want former employees to have access to your app content. This is particularly critical in the case of employees who have been laid off or who have moved on to work for competitors.
Internal security controls are very important in this area, particularly when it comes to privileged accounts. These controls can include encryption, password protection and other measures.
Other useful measures are to do with password protection, for example ensuring that passwords are regularly changed and that access to sensitive content is closely monitored.
Making approval and revoking of access to sensitive data easy and instant can be instrumental in this area. At the same time, keeping data about who has access to accounts, when it was gained and how sensitive data is being used can give you a better idea if data is ever misused.
6. What happens when devices are lost?
Another important consideration is what happens if a device is lost, potentially leaving access to sensitive data in the wrong hands.
As we covered in our previous blogpost, MDM systems provide options such as device wiping, which can be used to effectively wipe all corporate content from the device while leaving personal content untouched.
These options often come with the ability to restore content once the device is found.
7. Are network connections secure and encrypted?
Finally, one of the key considerations when it comes to app security is ensuring that data is encrypted. There are different types of encryption at different levels: on the network, on the device or on the app. You should ensure that data is encrypted at least at the network level to ensure security, as this is proven to be an effective way of securing data.
However, most companies today do not have truly private networks and instead share network infrastructure with other organisations. This means that attackers can potentially access unencrypted data travelling within these networks.
To prevent this, you can run security audits, either through your internal IT team or external security professionals, to establish if data is at risk and find any security flaws. If necessary, steps can then be taken to ensure the correct security measures and encryptions are in place.
Security is unlikely to stop being a concern for companies thinking of building enterprise apps anytime soon, but there are many things that you can do to reduce the risks significantly. As we continue to see the benefits of enterprise apps, companies may need to start thinking of security concerns in a more manageable way rather than as something to be entirely avoided. Following the tips included in this article is a way of ensuring that security risks are as minimal as possible.