With more and more users turning towards mobile use as their primary tool for accessing products and services, businesses must prioritize their mobile app security.
The increased use of mobile devices makes companies more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and security breaches. And having an app in addition to a website can increase your security risks even more, especially if you collect personal and financial information from your customers while they are using the app to make purchases.
To maintain their data and their customers’ personal information, companies must take steps to secure their mobile apps. However, the methods you use to secure your website will not be the same as what you need to do to secure your mobile apps.
The Difference Between Website App Security and Mobile App Security
Before jumping into what you need to do to secure your mobile apps, it’s helpful to understand the difference between web app and mobile app security. Most companies take measures to ensure the security of their web and mobile apps. Yet, many highly regulated businesses are creating mobile apps with significant vulnerabilities and security risks. Their eCommerce sites have robust protections in place but their mobile app security pales in comparison. Why is that?
The answer—mobile apps and web apps are entirely different when it comes to security needs. Unfortunately, there are companies that simply lump mobile app and web app security together and try to use the same processes and solutions, which will eventually lead to a breach.
Mobile apps are more vulnerable because they collect more information than web apps and are public code. Mobile devices collect loads of user information, such as video and audio data, location, biometrics, and anyone can access and inspect their code using open source tools. Mobile app codes also run on poorly protected systems with lax standards, whereas web app code runs on servers with highly encrypted corporate firewalls.
This essentially adds up to mobile apps that have broader attack surfaces, making it easier for hackers to find flaws. This leads us to the necessity of better mobile app security.
10 Steps to Secure Your Mobile Apps
Now that you know why mobile app security is so important and how it differs from the needs of your web apps; you can start to take the necessary steps to boost your mobile app security.
1. Implement Multi-factor Authentication
Apps that require multi-step or multi-factor authentication reduce the risk of an unauthorized user accessing the account. This can include using a PIN or password-based authentication in combination with a device ID, a client certificate, or a fingerprint/face scan requirement. You can also use one-time-use passwords or restrict access to a specific time of day or location.
2. Encrypt Communications and Sensitive Data
All communications between your mobile apps and app servers should be encrypted, as well as the sensitive data that is stored on users’ phones. The stronger the encryption, the harder it is for hackers to gain access to communications and other private information.
3. Stay On Top of Updates
Android and iOS phones are constantly being updated, which can make users more vulnerable to an attack. Your IT team should regularly check your mobile app to ensure new fixes, patches, and updates are applied.
4. Scan for Malware
You should test your apps regularly for malware and other malicious behavior. You can use virtual sandboxing or signature-based scanning tools to detect malware or perform scans on the server for mobile workspaces or virtual mobile solutions.
5. Data Protection
Whenever possible, sensitive data should never be stored on a user’s device.. If you can’t avoid it, make sure it is heavily encrypted and only store it in files, data stores, and databases.
6. Secure Your Platform
Your IT team should ensure that your platform is controlled and properly secured. This can be done by scanning for jailbroken phones and preventing access to other services.
7. Avoid Data Leaks
It is necessary to separate business apps from personal apps to prevent users from copying, saving, or distributing data when installing other apps on their phones. This can be done by:
- Limiting clipboard access to prevent users from copying and pasting information
- Blocking users from making screen captures
- Preventing users from downloading files from the app
- Watermarking sensitive files
8. Limit Access to Cached Data
Cached data is used in mobile devices to enhance the performance of apps. However, this also makes it easier for attackers to breach and access the data. You can limit access to data caches by using password-protected apps and setting up an automatic wipe of cached data every time the device is restarted.
9. Isolate Information
Information accessed through the mobile device needs to be separated from the user’s data through multiple levels of protection. This ensures that private company data and consumer data do not get mixed together. For example, using a container-based model enables stricter security that won’t compromise at any level, which reduces the risk of corporate data loss.
10. Hire Outside Help If Necessary
Finally, if you really want to ensure the security of your eCommerce app, you can consult with financial experts such as accountants, to understand how to better secure your customer’s private financial information. Generally, most accountants will be up to date on the latest security measures for protecting sensitive financial data and can offer you guidance when considering the security of your eCommerce apps.
Mobile security is a must if companies want to protect both their information and the information of their customers. While older generations may not have needed such high-security measures, new generations, such as Gen Z, have different habits. Younger customers access and share information differently than consumers used to—mainly, they do everything through their phones. This necessitates the need for enhanced mobile security even more than web app security. Companies must adapt and make changes to meet the security demands of today’s consumers.
Tags: AppSec, Cybersecurity, Data, data protection, Data Security, Encryption, MFA, Security