Mobile Application Security

The applications we install teach, entertain, and keep us in touch with our closest friends, family and colleagues. We entrust these apps with our personal information and finances by providing access to phone-based features and through the storage of sensitive information. That being true in almost all cases, but how do we make this data impossible to breach and steal?

Security testing is an obligatory stage of ensuring full data protection in mobile apps. An IBM Security study that involved more than 400 large organizations showed that 33% of all companies do not test their applications in a proper way. Such approach may create tremendous security holes in mobile solutions and let hackers of all types easily access user data.

Furthermore, 50% of these organizations devote zero budget towards mobile security; this fact does not seem shocking, taking into account the previous value. To help you ensure proper security for mobile applications, we have prepared a list of the best practices for secure mobile app development.

Mobile Application Security: Best Practices in Data Safety

Choosing a more secure mobile operating system cannot guarantee cyber security for any application. Any platform has its weaknesses, especially Android, in comparison with iOS. Manufacturers tend to regularly implement modern protecting measures to avoid user data breaches; however, relying on a single operating system will not protect you from hackers who use particular vulnerabilities in a specific application. That is why it is important to integrate security measures at the application level, too.

1. Review the Traffic Flowing Between a Web Server and Mobile App

A commonly known fact is that wireless communications are very easy to intercept. That is why cyber security experts recommend all mobile device online communications to be encrypted. It is crucial to monitor a network and analyze the traffic coming to a web server from a mobile app. That traffic often contains sensitive data that has to be protected by the encryption, ensuring it cannot be recognized.

2. Use Corporate Data Containerization Technology

Sensitive corporate data can also be protected by a specific method called containerization. This method refers to storing sensitive corporate information in a separate app container. This is a measure that informs the system that the data inside has the highest level of confidentiality and requires the application of all possible methods of protection.

3. Create Apps So They Do Not Store Passwords

Password saving is reasonable only on desktop apps, to make authentication faster. In mobile applications, a password is required every time a smartphone owner tries to login, in order to ensure only authorized users have access to the data in question. This measure may be less convenient, but it ensures third parties cannot use or steal sensitive data.

4. Avoid App Data Caching

In mobile apps on a base of any platform, it is possible to capture data in various ways; however, programmers often ignore unobvious vulnerabilities of typical data storage methods. Potentially vulnerable data storage methods include:

  • Log files;
  • Debug files;
  • Web history;
  • Cookies;
  • Web cache;
  • SQLite databases; and
  • Property lists.

To store data on a mobile device in a secure manner, it is necessary to implement proper techniques. The most effective way to protect stored or cached data is to not cache or store it at all, wherever possible. You should also prevent HTTP caching in your mobile application. This measure will help you avoid caching of any page data (e.g. registration) and, as a result, it will make fraudulent authorizations impossible.

5. Mobile App Security: Best Practices in Writing Code

The more complex your mobile application is, the harder organizing a cyber attack is for hackers. In this case, it will be more difficult for frauds to understand how your application operates and, as a result, it will take more time to create an attack. It can also make them choose another “victim” to spend fewer resources on a data theft.

6. Avoid Using a Simple Logic in Your Code

Simple logic tests are easy to attack. If frauds can change a value in your “if sessionIsTrusted == 1” logic test, it means that they are able to fool security controls. Such logic tests are susceptible to manipulation on various levels. As for iOS, hackers can attack an app using a debugger in order to find a needed compare-and-brand-on-zero or -nonzero (CBZ or CBNZ) instruction, and then reverse it. Traversing a memory address of the object and further changing its instance variable in the runtime will allow for an attack on an app at the assembly level. In the same way, attackers decompile Android apps to SMALI and patch the branch condition before recompiling.

7. Employ Anti-Tamper Techniques

Frauds often tamper mobile apps, then resign them and publish their own version of the original app on third-party marketplaces. In most cases, well-known and financial applications face the issue of tampering. Due to such attacks, hackers can intercept any payment or transaction performed through an app and receive money directly to their bank accounts.To protect your application from being duplicated and replaced, use digital signatures, checksums, and other validation measures to ensure timely tampering detection.

8. Review Third-Party Libraries

A typical mobile developer tends to trust third-party libraries and, even if you use a reliable library from third-party resources, you should test it before implementation. These libraries can contain security holes and various vulnerabilities. Furthermore, library testing is obligatory before every update, as a new version can contain new weaknesses. Do not forget to statically compile such libraries to eliminate the possibility of LD_PRELOAD attacks.

This is only a short measures list, provided by, that will help you make your app more secure, increase protection from cyber attacks, eliminate a data breach risk, and improve your coding skills. These measures are mentioned here for you to implement for mobile application security, and to eliminate as many vulnerabilities as possible. Use these practices to protect both your business and user information which are being trusted within your solution.


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