The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on how people engage with technology. Spending more time indoors because of social distancing protocols, more users used mobile apps to work, consume entertainment, or complete other tasks such as ordering groceries or shopping for clothes.

The changing behaviour of users resulted in a higher frequency of cybersecurity attacks. Threat actors took advantage of increased device usage to target users, including remote working employees, with malware or exploits.

Numerous studies showed that cyber attacks were spiking, including findings from Cybercrime in a Pandemic World: The Impact of COVID-19. According to this report by McAfee Enterprise and FireEye, 81% of global organizations experienced more cyber threats than before. Moreover, 79% experienced downtime due to a cyber threat. Many of these threats used mobile apps as attack vectors.

Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may be less severe, our habits remain unchanged. Many organizations have shifted to remote working permanently. Moreover, users are more reliant on technology than ever.

At Guaraná Technologies, we are experienced Web App, Android, and iOS developers. We follow many stringent processes to ensure that your software is secure because we know the critical importance of app security for developers and businesses alike.

What Is Mobile App Security?

App security, short for application security, is the practice of leveraging different technologies, techniques, and development protocols to protect mobile apps from various security threats. App security covers the software development and post application deployment phase. The objective of mobile app security is to protect the security, privacy, and integrity of mobile apps and mobile app users.

What cyber threats do mobile apps face?

1. Exploits

An exploit is a file or a command sequence that breaches a mobile device’s security by exploiting unpatched vulnerabilities. The developer may either be working on a patch for the software flaw or ignoring it. Exploits that take advantage of unknown software vulnerabilities are called zero-day exploits.

While there’s never a guarantee, apps developed by experienced Toronto and Montreal web development agencies are less likely to have exploitable software vulnerabilities due to their meticulous design and testing practices.

In rare cases, some untrustworthy developers may deliberately or accidentally integrate vulnerabilities in mobile apps. For instance, developers that take shortcuts by incorporating code from unauthorized sources to build apps may accidentally incorporate an exploitable vulnerability.

2. Malware

Malware is any malicious software that can damage or gain unauthorized access to a system or software, like a mobile app. Viruses are the most infamous examples of malware. These are self-replicating malware that corrupt data by injecting their code into legitimate files.

However, viruses typically can’t harm mobile operating systems such as Android or iOS because of the secure nature of the operating systems. Here are some examples of malware that can infect mobile operating systems:

  • Spyware can spy on user mobile app activity.
  • Trojans are deceptive pieces of malware that look legitimate but may steal passwords, open backdoors, or quietly hijack a mobile app.

3. Social Engineering

Social engineering attacks like phishing exploit human emotions to manipulate users into making bad decisions. For example, a phishing email may trick a mobile app user into installing a compromised version of a mobile app or sharing login credentials or other confidential data.

4. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM)

In a MitM attack, a hacker intercepts communications between two parties communicating through a mobile app or between a mobile app and its API server, typically to commit a cybercrime. Android devices are more susceptible to MitM attacks than iOS devices because the former is an open framework.

At Guaraná, we leverage our experience, resources, and expertise to mitigate the risk of such attacks when we develop Android apps for our clients.

5. Supply Chain Attacks

A supply chain attack is a sophisticated attack where threat attackers use the weakest link in a supply chain to hit a higher target. For example, they could bypass the software developer’s app security at the source code level to target a high-value organization. 

What Is the Importance of App Security?

Using the right technologies and practices to protect mobile apps from different kinds of cyber threats is critical for several reasons:

1. Ethical Responsibility

Both businesses and developers have an ethical responsibility to do everything within their power to protect the security and privacy of their users and the integrity of their software.

Victims of mobile app breaches may suffer from blackmail, financial theft, and identity fraud.

2. Reputation

A data leak can be damaging to any business’s reputation. It can negatively impact their relationship with users and their carefully cultivated relationships with associates, partners, and other businesses.

3. Compliance

Data security is a sensitive topic nowadays. Many countries and localities require businesses to take appropriate steps to protect their users. Developing a secure mobile app may help protect organizations from fines for breaking regulations like The Data Protection Act or GDPR.

4. Civil Action

In addition to facing legal penalties, organizations may be hit with civil action after a data breach due to poor app security. Civil action can be long and expensive, negatively impacting a company’s operational capacity and its future.

5. Intellectual Property

A threat actor may leverage poor mobile app security to steal intellectual property from the software or utilize application security flaws for lateral movements resulting in deeper cyber attacks.

6. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Security

More organizations are implementing BYOD policies because of the increasing popularity of remote working. With so many workers using personal smartphones and tablets to work, app security is essential to protect sensitive information.

How To Enhance App Security

As one of the most reputable mobile software companies in Montreal, Toronto, and other parts of North America, we realize that good app security requires a multifaceted approach at the developer and business level.

1. Database Security

Developers must use top database security technology. Storing credentials, user databases, and other sensitive information is essential.

In addition, they should have a positive database security culture. Staff must have access on a need-to-know basis, and new hires must be thoroughly vetted to mitigate the risk of insider threats.

2. Source Code Security

As mentioned, Android is more prone to threats because of its open-source nature. Developers must take extra precautions, like encryption or concealment. Avoiding shortcuts, like borrowing code from unreliable sources, is also a good practice.

3. Data Transmission Security

Developers transferring data must adopt security measures to prevent interception or easy decryption. Secure mediums like VPN (Virtual Private Networks) tunnels, TLS (Transport Layer Security), and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) are helpful. Robust cryptography mechanisms can prevent threat actors from eavesdropping on code.

4. Testing

Apps must be thoroughly tested to find vulnerabilities in the code. A common way for developers to do this is by simulating malware attacks in a process called penetration testing. Likewise, developers should test code when utilizing third-party libraries to find potential problems. Thinking like a threat actor makes for effective penetration testing.

While it’s common for developers to update mobile apps, they should also complete security audits regularly to ensure that newer software is secure.

5. Authorization API and Tokens

Developers should use authorization APIs in order for clients to access data securely. They should also utilize tokens to securely transmit user identity information, authenticate, and monitor sessions.

6. Client Facing Security

Mobile app creators must add modern security mechanisms for extra security. Users should be encouraged to set sophisticated passwords. In addition, native apps should take advantage of device features to offer some of the following biometric security features:

  • Fingerprint scanning
  • Facial recognition
  • Iris recognition
  • Voice recognition

Guaraná Technology also offers several User Account security login options. Users can sign into their accounts with Apple, Google, email, Facebook, Twitter, and phone numbers.

When selecting an app developer, please always partner with a team of experts that can write secure code, encrypt data, test thoroughly, don’t take risky shortcuts, and have internal security mechanisms to ensure the authenticity of your software.

For more mobile app security, consider rolling out company devices secured by cybersecurity software that stops malware and allows remote updating, patching, and data wiping. If you must adopt a BYOD policy, please use endpoint security software to protect all devices that can access company resources. An enterprise VPN can also help stop certain types of attacks on mobile software for employees who work remotely or tend to use unsecured public WiFi networks.

Employee training is also an essential component of app security. Staff must be trained to recognize and respond to phishing attacks. They should also agree to avoid blacklisted websites and applications.

Application security is a critical yet complicated process. There is a lot on the line, including user security and privacy, reputations, liability concerns, and intellectual property. Both businesses and mobile app developers must take the appropriate steps to prioritize mobile app security.