Mobile App Security Standards: Common Risks and Solutions

Cybercrime is an issue many are familiar with in 2018. With the growth of the big data technology, hackers target data systems and apps for personal information and files. This vulnerability is especially dangerous for banks, insurance companies, and marketplaces. Hence, we need to take extra care to review mobile application security standards.

Cybersecurity Standards

Cybersecurity standards were founded in attempt to protect the data and connections of software users. The main set of security standards for mobile apps is the Open Web Application Security Project. There are also other systems used for risk evaluation, each providing different criteria and having distinct targets.

Reasons to Secure Your Mobile Apps

Almost all mobile apps currently on the market violate some security recommendations despite the risks involved. Cybercriminals are capable of causing great damage by:

  • Introducing harmful software into devices to steal passwords and personal data to commit fraud;
  • Interrupting the broadcast of sensitive files;
  • Stealing intellectual property and distributing it without consent;
  • Damaging the back-end code.

Common Risks in Mobile App Security

Although Android apps are more prone to violations of security standards, there are several factors that are associated with being mobile application security risks for both Android and iOS.

  • Weak authorization and authentication practices;
  • Using HTTP rather than HTTPS in your app - any communication is not encrypted;
  • Not using Application Transport Security;
  • Insecure storage of information;
  • Defective cryptography;
  • Longer sessions;
  • Storage of critical or sensitive data on insecure locations.

Mobile Application Security Requirements

There are a number of straightforward principles that can help to protect data if followed. In an exemplary situation:

  • Sensitive data isn’t distributed among third party mediators;
  • No sensitive data in backups;
  • Memory is cleared and sensitive data is not stored for long;
  • Sensitive data is not stored outside the app’s storage system;
  • Passwords are not exposed through the interface;
  • Users are educated about the risks and prevention methods.

Key Mobile App Security Standards

Standards and guidelines for security are designed to make the choice of testing tools easier during an app’s development. They allow swift identification of flaws in code and vulnerable areas. Here are the most well-known criteria sets used by testing teams.

OWASP

The OWASP system was founded in 2001 and receives updates every 3 years. It is used to confirm testing and risk requirements and support the development of a more sophisticated and secure code. It facilitates the early fixation of code imperfections and weaknesses to increase general strength and protection.

Some of the requirements include the verification of device binding and the use of fingerprints, encryption on the file and code level, detection and response to tampering, emulation, memory modifications and debugging.

CVSS

CVSS is aimed to identify and evaluate weaknesses and risks in an app, used globally for review and repair. The assessment ultimately results in a score that characterizes the severity of the risks, outlines their definition and key features. The score points to the areas that need attention and signifies how urgent the action of testing and debugging teams needs to be.

CWE

CWE is a list of common vulnerabilities, developed by the community, intended to help developers identify flaws and weaknesses by providing a base ground. It encompasses several tiers, which are further divided into many classes and categories, aimed to make the search for a specific keyword easier. Some examples of the problems covered by CWE include the use of weak and defective cryptography, untrusted inputs, the security of user interface, and poor coding.

NIAP

NIAP is a government program created to ensure that federal apps follow the government rules and principles and fulfill the needs of IT product consumers. It ensures proper development of assessment guidelines and and protection figures to guarantee the appropriateness, reproducibility and testability of risk evaluation criteria for the government. The NIAP validation body employs CCEVS to make sure that suitable methodologies are used during the security analysis. The analysis is conducted in testing laboratories and also involves the comparison against ISO/IEC.

Mobile App Security Testing Tools: How to Test Your App

It is critical to implement highest-standard testing techniques during the development process. Regardless, it is often rushed through due to the market demands for fast app release. Testing allows to detect and conquer vulnerabilities before they create problems. Here are some tips:

  • Use static analysis - it brings out code vulnerabilities for most programming languages;
  • Analyse software composition for weaknesses in open source constituents;
  • Implement automated testing, as it increases security;
  • Execute penetration testing for dynamic analysis.

Tips to Improve Your Mobile App Security

If you care about your data, you might want to consider increasing the security of your mobile app. There are many factors that determine an app’s security, as a well-functioning complex app has a lot of constituents, and all of them require some level of protection. Below are a few key things to remember when processing them.

  • Secure authentication and authorization. Two-factor authentication can be enabled with OAuth2, JSON can be used for channel encryption.
  • Eliminate leakage by encryption. Implement file-level encryption and avoid local storage of sensitive data - if that is essential, it should also be encrypted. Encrypt on the code level by coupling obfuscation and API.
  • Ensure your code is portable, updatable and open to improvements and repairs.
  • You can use encrypted connections for additional protection, such as VPN, SSL or TLS.

Conclusion

To prevent cybercrime, it is essential to put security and protection measures in place. The improvement process should start by risk and security assessment using a number of approved guidelines. The app should then be tested and analyzed statically and dynamically. Finally, to ensure security, extra care should be taken to create safe authentication and authorization processes and build encryption on file and code levels.