Security Tips for App Developers

app security
Akash Shakya By Akash Shakya April 11th 2021

Are you an app developer who wants to know how you can secure your product for safe consumer use?

Today, security is one of the most sought-after factors in any app. In this information era, nobody wants their data shared without knowing about it. In Australia, an average of 164 cybercrime reports reach the Australian Cyber Security Centre each day.

Without proper security, your app can become a tool for cyber attackers and hackers. Below, we have a list of the top security tips you can use as an app developer.

Secure Backend Servers and Data

For the first of our security tips for app developers, you must secure backend servers.

Most backend APIs assume that only an app written to access it can interact with it. This is a dangerous myth that puts app users at risk. Your backend servers should have security measures to protect data from malicious attacks.

Remember that transport processes and API authentication can vary from platform to platform. Whenever you code, base all your APIs on the mobile platform, you’re coding for. It also helps if you can incorporate an API gateway.

An API gateway will keep track of everything that goes through it and manage API. Other than security purposes, you can also add analytics, monetize it, and more.

Keep a Security Team

A good piece of advice is to always start a company with a security team in place. Don’t wait until you’re in the latter stages of the app development process before hiring a security team. Otherwise, you may have to start from scratch or perform a big overhaul on the app.

Whenever you start a project, get a security team to guide you in their expertise.

Make it a habit to sit down and plan security methods with them. Whenever there is an app revision, don’t forget to call the security team to join the meeting about it, as well. This way, they can point out what to do if something unexpected occurs.

There are thousands of app developers across Australia. You’re sure to find a security team that will suit your company’s values, goals, and attitudes.

Make Use of High-Level Authentication

Indeed, one of the most common security tips you’ll hear today is to use authentication. However, you mustn’t use any old authentication method. Weak authentication can be as effective as having none at all.

Having at least multi-factor authentication is a good start. That includes two-step verification, like having a password and an OTP (one-time-password). Two-factor authentication already offers enough security, but you can go a level higher.

Right now, the most secure authentication method includes the use of biometric factors. These biometrics factors include the use of fingerprint scanning and facial authentication. Juniper Research found that 95% of phones had a fingerprint sensor on them in 2018.

Notice how banking apps today let mobile users choose whether they want to use their fingerprints to log in. Instead of typing in a password, mobile users can place a finger on the quicker login scanner. If you’re developing an app that takes the user’s critical data, use these authentication methods.

Stay Updated on the Various Platform-Specific Restrictions

Today, you can access almost all the apps and websites no matter what device you use. For example, you can open your mobile bank account whether you’re on a tablet, PC, or smartphone. Except for tablets, mobile devices accounted for 51.98% of web page views around the world.

It’s important to create apps that can function on various platforms. However, you must also understand the limits and security features of each platform.

Try to Think Like an App Attacker

This is one of the best practices for developers that leads them to success in the security department. When you create an app and work on its security, you must also try to enter the mind of an attacker. Put yourself in an attacker’s shoes and try to look for holes in your mobile app security.

Check your code, third-party programs, and other app elements. You can also ask your friends to take the point of view of an attacker of your app. You never know what kind of loopholes and gaps they’ll find.

Use Tokens to Manage User Sessions

A token is an extra string of code you insert in an API call. Do this if the call uses a ticket or username/password for authentication. As the app developer, you can decide whether you want your application to use tokens.

App developers use tokens to ease the way the app handles user logins. Tokens help in improving the security of your app because they’re reversible or can get revoked. Some examples of simple and secure tokens you can use are OAuth2, OpenID Connect, and JSON Web Tokens.

Always Test and Retest

Do you feel uncertain about the security of your application? A majority of app developers also feel the same way about their app security. However, they don’t take the necessary steps to fix it.

Don’t make the same mistakes they’re doing. Make it a habit to always test and retest your app again and again. This way, you can polish out all the flaws in your app’s security and privacy features.

Don’t depend on the final tests only. You never know what kinks you’ll run into when you only wait until then to test your app. Once you get to the final stages, you also need to run real-device and emulator testing.

Try to keep a balance between real-device and emulator testing. Real-device testing will let you see how well your app performs and how users will experience it. Emulator testing is for debugging flows and checking for code, databases, and more.

Load Code From Within Your Application APK

Loading code from outside of your app APK can increase the risk of the app getting compromised. This is because loading code from outside of the APK opens the app to code injection or code tampering. Instead, you want your code to load dynamically.

Loading code from outside of the app APK can also make version management complex. You’ll also experience the same thing whenever you perform application testing. Some spaces prohibit it because the code makes it impossible to verify app behaviour.

When you use dynamic code-loading, ensure that the code runs with the same security permissions as the application APK. The code must also come from a verifiable source. Otherwise, someone on the network may modify the content in transit.

Store Data on the Device

Here’s another common way to secure mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. Saving data on the device can help keep your app-specific information safe. For example, Android has app-specific storage.

Your app gains access to use directories in internal storage to save sensitive data. Information stored in app-specific storage can’t get accessed by other apps. The files you create on internal storage are only accessible to your app.

You can add an extra layer of protection by encrypting local files with the Security library. When the device gets lost without encryption, this measure can still protect the data. However, there are also directories in which you can store files that the app can share with other apps.

Remember, if the data also needs to be accessible to other apps, it must go to the external storage. You can also secure the files you read and write in external storage with the Security library. This classifies the data as encrypted.

Be Wary of the Safety of Third-Party Dependencies

Third-party software is great for app developers because they’re already available. Also, most third-party programs are free to use. They can improve the efficiency of the app development process and lower costs.

Third-party programs can even raise the quality of the app. Because they speed up the development process, you can bring your app to the market sooner. Most are also easy to integrate into your app and need less maintenance effort.

These benefits are the driving forces behind increased usage and dependencies on them. However, using third-party software in developing your app also poses grave risks.

When a data breach occurs on your app, you’ll be the one held responsible for it. Even when the blame lies on the third-party program that you use, you’ll be the one sitting on the hot seat. In the end, it was your call to use the third-party program or code.

To prevent this, you must take action before you include third-party code in your final output. Whenever you use third-party code on your data, always conduct tests. Note that the more rigorous the testing phase, the better.

You’re likely aware that the third-party program’s script tracking gets documented. However, you never know when there is extra hidden tracking in the software.

Third-party programs with hidden tracking can collect and store data across your app. They can also collect customer data when you launch and engage with clients.

Make User of Networking

Often, network transactions are risky for the app user’s security. It involves transmitting what could be private data across a network. However, networking can also provide security during specific occasions.

IP networking is one example of this. Whenever the app needs to do network transactions, always secure web traffic with SSL. In other words, point your users to HTTPS websites, not HTTP.

HTTPS websites are more secure because they encrypt data before sending it out. HTTPS websites also hold SSL certifications and a CA’s approval. HTTPS also operates at a transport layer, while HTTP works at the application layer only.

In contrast, HTTP websites don’t offer data encryption. It means that your data gets transmitted as plain text. Anybody could intercept that data while it’s in transit and see it as it is.  

If you allow network transactions on the app leading to your webpage, change your HTTP first. You can do this by talking to your hosting company.

The hosting company must issue and install an SSL certificate for you. You can also buy one from a third-party company.

Prevent Accidental Data Leakage by Using Application Logs

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but we understand that developing an app can be overwhelming. Keeping unintended data leakage from occurring may go past an app developer’s mind. This is risky for users who enter sensitive data into their mobile and wearable apps.

Users often trust that your app is secure when they agree to certain permissions. One way to keep data from leaking is to use secure analytics providers. This ensures that the user data never gets leaked to hackers. 

Another way to keep data leakage from occurring on your Android app is to use logs. Application logs analyze the work of algorithms behind the data processing in apps. App logs ensure that the sequence of processing is correct or the results are desirable.

The drawback of logs is that they may have sensitive data, like passwords or access tokens. These things often get stored in local devices. That means they’re readable and accessible by other apps installed on the device.

Use the Latest Encryption Tools and Techniques

Educate yourself with the latest encryption tools and strategies for securing mobile apps. Like your app, you need to update your knowledge and familiarity with cryptography. Knowing the latest news can keep you ahead of the curve and two steps ahead of hackers.

Keep Your App Safe and Secure With These Security Tips

We hope you learned useful things from these informative security tips for app developers. Now, you know what you can do to protect your app and its users.

Are you trying to create a mobile app for your website, online business, or local shop? Do you want help with the app development process?

At EB Pearls, we can help you with your app project, website, and e-commerce. All you need to do is visit our contact page and let us know where we can aid you.

Akash Shakya By Akash Shakya

Coming from distributed computing background, Akash manages the Sydney operations. He is highly technical yet very business focused and is always driven to create successful business products for our clients.

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