5 Mobile App Security Threats All Developers Must Face

The world is now evolving around the small device we use everyday – your cell phone. Everyone has at least one cell phone to cover …

The world is now evolving around the small device we use everyday – your cell phone. Everyone has at least one cell phone to cover the job of many other device: a laptop, a radio, a recorder, a clock, a notebook, a MP3, and anything you can think of. As of its brilliant uses, currently there are 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, according to Statista’s statistics of smartphone users from 2016 to 2021. The world population is now 7.7 billion people, that means nearly 50% of them are users of smartphones. 

With such growth, mobile apps are now a tempting goal for hackers to exploit. Mobiles have their own set of code-based vulnerabilities as well as entry points, which means that developers really need to level up their game of secure development, coding and deployment practices to avoid falling victims to these mobile app security threats. There are countless of mobile vulnerabilities to be addressed, as:

  • 60% are on the client side
  • 89% of mobile vulnerabilities can be exploited without physical access
  • 56% can be exploited without administrator rights 

If you are familiar with mobile application development, you’ll know that this process requires software teams to configure communication multitudes and component layers so that the app can function properly. And yet, the more layers a developer adds to a mobile app, the more chances it may face an attack surface or be vulnerable to new intrusion points. To put it simply, if the development teams do not properly secure each layer they add to their mobile apps, they may face serious problems damaging the business-critical data, user safety or device control at any phase.

When it comes to securing mobile applications, developers play the most crucial roles as they are the ones who take part in everything, from strategy implementing, monitoring to potential threat addressing. Therefore, in this article, CMC Global will help developers understand more about their role in preventing any mobile app security threats by examining the most common and extremely dangerous ones. We also examine the particular tooling, practices and coding standards that act as the remedies for each one of these threats. 

Check out CMC Global’s complete guide to become mobile application developer

Inadequate transport layer protection

Inadequate transport layer protection

The route where data flows between a server and the clients is an area of concern since attackers can attack this juncture to intrude the data pipeline easily. Also, data protocols need to be protected  as it may become ammunition for a direct attack on your system.

To avoid this, it’s important developers secure these crossroads of application data by following these guidelines:

  • Implement network traffic security protocols carefully
  • Consider adding extra layer of protection for mobile access.
  • Perform regular threat modeling and use tools to identify any vulnerabilities related to certain mobile frameworks, operating systems, device platforms or external APIs.
  • Integrate application security testing with the development process

Code injection

Code injection

This happens when an attacker adds malicious code through a data connection point, a GUI or other vector providing the access to application code. Imagine a login form without any proper input validation, for example value restriction. This means an open door for hackers to easily inject a JavaScript code snippet so that they can access the server or compromise your user data.

To avoid this, it’s important developers stick to the following guidelines:

  • Abide by strict coding guidelines to eliminate potential mobile app security threats.
  • Identify input sources carefully and apply proper techniques for input validation, for example standard encoding schemes, specified variable types, and targeted penetration testing.
  • Use source code analysis tools to ensure that it is difficult to reverse engineer code.

Client-side storage and data leakage

data leakage

According to a search on Ptsecurity, about 60% of all mobile app security vulnerabilities are on the client side, and a third of which, for both platforms are high-risk ones. 

Normally, mobile applications access or transfer data from outside sources, which may present as a user data exposure. Thus, developers often want to store data on the client side to ensure the application’s smooth working even when it is offline. However, hackers can easily access, modify or even change the sensitive data making up the back end of an app, or steal the information from the internal storage of a stolen device.

Data leakage also happens when mobile users fail to check the security when carelessly giving apps permission to manipulate their data. Many free apps in the app stores and google play are built for advertisers and this trick. They make money from stealing and selling personal and corporate data to other remote servers.

Data leakage is also a sore thumb for enterprise-signed mobile applications also. When the frequent mobile operating systems’ built-in distribution code is used wrongly, data spreading across the corporate networks is just a piece of cake without any red flags being raised.

To avoid this, it’s important developers stick to adopt these below data management tools and habits:

  • Make good use of automation and third-party static analysis tools 
  • Identify the particularly vulnerable mobile data sources. These can be: messaging logs, browsing histories, contact lists, and hotspot connections.
  • Update mobile device operating systems frequently and enforce user policies for device use as well as app installation.

Poor identity management and cryptography

poor identity management and cryptography

The lack of authentication enables any users to even gain access to the underlying application systems through improperly secured admin accounts. And if it is just a single application service that does not necessarily contain sensitive operational data, it may open a door for hackers to enter your entire app ecosystem. 

Besides, improper/ weak cryptography algorithms give plenty of wiggle room for hackers to decrypt data, too. So, make sure your team follows strict coding practices:

  • Keep up-to-date with modern cryptography algorithms and proper key management
  • Install safeguards
  • Make use of the principle of least privilege, which means to give a particular application service the access to the data they need to operate only.

Inadequate Data Storage

Inadequate Data Storage

You may find unprotected and vulnerable data storage in places within your app, from cookie stores, SQL databases or binary data stores. This happens due to the mobile vulnerabilities in the compiler, framework, and operating system, as well as the latest or broken devices. Other times, the main culprits can be the lack of proper processes to manage data, images, or key presses catcha.

If an attacker gains access to a device, even the most robust encryption can become useless if the device allows hackers to surpass the restrictions.

We will talk more about mobile application developments and mobile app security threats specifically, or you can consider how to outsource mobile app development and secret tips to success. Regardless, towards the end of this article, CMC Global hopes that you now have a clear insight about 5 most common mobile app security threats and how to avoid them.