8 Best Practices for Securing Mobile Apps [Android and iOS]

We know that millions of people download and use mobile apps on a monthly basis.

But the question arises when it comes to the security of mobile apps.

Are people really confident about using mobile apps?

Interestingly, on this topic, ResearchGate also conducted a survey with 32 university students and found that users do not feel secure while installing mobile apps. The users are concerned that their personal and private information will be compromised.

Mostly, entertainment apps, gaming apps, communication apps, and financial apps are prone to attacks. This study also found that mobile app users prefer installing the apps directly from the app stores.

As an entrepreneur, you need to focus on securing mobile apps that establish trust among users.

But how do you secure a mobile app?

As we have experience developing more than 4400+ secure mobile applications, we have shared some of our expertise and discussed:

  • How to build a secure iOS and Android app
  • Benefits of developing a secure app
  • Mobile app security checklist

What is Mobile App Security?

Mobile app security is a practice to keep your application and digital identity safe from fraudulent attacks. The fraudulent attacks could be in any form, such as tampering, malware, manipulation, or interference.

Let’s better understand this with an example:

You want to buy a dress online and make an online banking transaction for the same. In the whole process, it is obvious that you will leave your digital footprints behind, including:

  • Your name
  • Your personal address
  • Your phone number
  • Your bank information

We know that app stores use such information to optimize the user experience.
However, such sensitive information also leads to external threats if there is insecure data storage.

So, when it comes to safeguarding a mobile app or talking about mobile application security, we take certain measures to keep the app safe from hackers and also don’t allow accessing personal and confidential data.

So before it gets too late to save your important app data, it’s recommended that you think about security beforehand.

Hence, check the next section, where we are going to discuss how you can keep your Android app safe.

How to Secure an Android App in 4 Steps

Here are some of the best mobile application security practices that you need to consider for an Android app.

Step 1: Encryption on External Storage Data

It is observed that a shortage of internal storage capacity leads to the usage of external devices for storing the data safely, including sensitive and confidential data.

But the external storage is easily readable by all the other apps of the mobile devices. Therefore, you need to save the data in an encrypted format.

Solution?
Use encryption algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) to prevent this issue.

Step 2: Use of Internal Storage for Storing Sensitive Information

If you are planning to build an Android app, then you need to know that Android apps have an internal storage directory by default.

It uses MODE_PRIVATE mode.
Hence, these internal files stored in the directory are highly secured. This will ensure that the files of one app are not accessible by any other apps available on your Android device.

Step 3: Use HTTPS

Generally, the connections happen between an app and the server over HTTPS, which adds an extra layer of security even when the app is connected to open WiFi networks in public areas.

There is also an alternative to it, which is HTTP. However, HTTP is not recommended because it attracts too many malicious hotspots, leaving mobile devices vulnerable and working abruptly.

Step 4: Replace SMS With GCM

GCM is now primarily used to push data from servers for mobile apps. Earlier, when SMS was used on a larger level, it was neither safe nor encrypted. Also, SMS can be easily read or accessed and read by many other applications of a device.

On the other hand, GCM communications are more authenticated as it uses a unique API key on the server side. So apart from these security practices, you can also consider validating user input and avoiding the ask for sensitive or personal data to build a secure Android app.

Have a Unique Android Mobile App Idea?

Talk to us. We have experienced developing more than 1600 Android applications like Glovo, H2GO, and TOR App.

We will now discuss how you can build an iOS app with complete security. Check the next section for this.

How to Secure iOS App in 4 Steps

Step 1: Obfuscation Code

Obfuscation will make the app’s code harder to understand, making it difficult for attackers to read or comprehend. However, there will be no change in the functionality of the code.

The obfuscation adds a strong layer of defense to protect the source code of iOS mobile applications. Sometimes, it targets the lexical structure of the app, and others, the control flow.

Step 2: Secure the Data-in-transit

If you want to secure the data-in-transit for your iOS app, then encrypt it and protect it from attackers. Encrypting the data is the most effective way to secure it. So, even if there are any breaches or attacks on the systems, your data will be protected.

Step 3: Use Cryptographic Hash Algorithms

Hash algorithms are generally used to protect the sensitive information of your app by creating a cryptic one-way password file. In addition, it helps you with intrusion detection and virus detection.

Moreover, the hash functions will help generate and verify the digital signatures, key derivation, and pseudorandom bit generation.

Step 4: Prevent Binary Planting & Malicious Code Injection

When you decide to build an iOS app, you need to take care of binary planting. It is used to refer to an attack where the attackers plant a binary file and inject a malicious code. This injected code changes the way a program is executed.

To eliminate code injections, you can utilize whitelisting for input validation and encode HTML outputs. With this, use other practices as well in order to build an iOS app, such as tamper detection technologies, protected third-party libraries, better session handling, RASP security, and secured backend and API integrations.

Now let’s see why it is essential to consider mobile app security practices while developing an app.

Why is Mobile App Security Important During Mobile App Development?

Considering various factors to keep a mobile app safe brings a lot of benefits. In this section, we are going to discuss the same and find out how mobile app security is essential during the development process.

  1. Safeguard App From Financial Data Theft

    There are many cases registered where hackers have stolen the financial data of mobile users, like credit cards or debit numbers. According to Kaspersky, hackers use a trojan called ‘Ginp’ to convince Android users to give away their credit card information.

    This is not a single malware; like this, many other trojans are present in the digital world. Such malware collects your personal information and leads to financial data theft. To avoid such fraudulent activities on your app, you need to safeguard your app.

  2. Protect Customer/Users Information Theft

    Hackers not only look for financial data but also breach numerous other critical data, such as account information and website credentials. Hackers send malware, which enters your downloaded apps and infects mobile devices, forcing them to do abrupt actions.

    You might not know, but they are able to send or receive messages through your app, request permission to access apps and the device’s location, and read the contact list. And this all can be done without your consent. So, by taking proper security measures, you can protect your users’ information.

  3. No More IP Theft With App Security

    IP theft denotes intellectual property theft which is an act of stealing data from a company. For many big giant companies, protecting their IP, customer data and records, and financial data is valuable. Losing such information can lead to many critical problems for the apps.

    You can use enhanced authentication, implement encryption, more strong security built-in, and monitor the app on a regular basis. So if you do not use security measures, then there are high chances of IP theft.

  4. Save You From Revenue Loss

    Hackers leverage the premium version of your app without paying money. Then, they illegally access all the special features of the app, causing you a loss of revenue. These types of hacking are primarily found in utility or gaming apps where hackers access new lives or special gaming powers without paying for them.

    You need to focus on application security software to prevent such attacks that directly hurt your bottom line. Taking proper measurements will ensure that the hackers are not able to access any premium features of your app.

    Now, let’s discuss the tools you can use for security testing your Android and iOS application. We will also discuss the purpose behind using these security testing tools.

9 Top Tools for Security Testing

There are various testing tools for measuring the security of an app. Based on the platform support and purpose, we have discussed a few tools that you need to look for.

NamePlatform SupportedPurpose
AngrAndroid

It is a python framework that is used to test Android apps in the security assessment of binaries.

Android Debug BridgeAndroid

Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a testing and command-line tool that ensures you are able to communicate with the device.

QARKAndroid

It is 100% free to use and helps you find common security vulnerabilities in Android apps.

ImmuniWeb Mobile App Security TestAndroid / iOS

This tool lets you test the overall application, including content, HTTP security headers, and application server.

FridaAndroid / iOS

Frida testing tool allows you to bypass SSLPinning in Android apps so that testers can intercept network calls and conduct a traffic analysis.

DevknoxAndroid

It allows you to detect security vulnerabilities and threats and suggest quick fixes.

Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)Android / iOS / Windows

ZAP is an open-source testing tool that helps you find security vulnerabilities in your application.

DrozerAndroid

It automates the testing process for Android apps and reduces the overall time taken for security assessments. Its main aim is to discover and interact with the attack surface which is exposed by mobile apps.

MobSFAndroid / iOS / Windows

The mobile security framework is an open-source framework used for the end-to-end security testing of mobile apps.

After discussing the security testing tools, now let’s move forward to see the complete checklist of mobile app security and how you can implement them. Have a look.

Complete Checklist of Mobile App Security

If you have planned to build a mobile app, check the following mobile app security checklist. Following the checklist will help you make an app that will be free from malware attacks and violations.

  • Enforce strong multi-factor authentication in your app to prevent unauthorized access and attack on password guessing.
  • Encrypt mobile communications to ensure that there are no man-in-the-middle attacks over WiFi and cellular networks for the app users.
  • Patch app and operating system vulnerabilities so that your app users don’t encounter attacks like Stagefright and XcodeGhost for Android and iOS, respectively.
  • Protect against device theft so that even if there are occurrences of lost and stolen devices, your user’s data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
  • Scan mobile apps to detect and eliminate malware using tools like virtual sandboxing or signature-based scanning.
  • Protect app data on your device and ensure no developer is storing sensitive data on the device. If they are doing it, then there must be a solid encrypted system in place.
  • Secure the platform in order to detect jailbroken phones and prevent accessing other third-party services.
  • Prevent data leaks by separating business apps from personal apps.
  • Optimize data caching because stored cache data can be the cause of security issues. Ensure no attackers are able to breach and decrypt the cached data.
  • Isolate application information to provide protection to enterprise-deployed apps. To secure specific apps for a business, mobile app wrapping can also be used. This will increase customer satisfaction and prevent data theft.

With this checklist, you will be able to develop a secure mobile app free from malware and attacks. Now, the following are the things that you need to consider to make app security an integral part of app development.

What Should be Done to Make App Security an Integral Part of Development?

We all know that developing a secure app is not an easy job. You need to put in a lot of effort. Therefore, consider the following points if you want the security of an app to be a main part of the development process.

  • You need to include various security practices in the app requirements so that you build a highly secured mobile application.
  • Perform frequent automated testing to identify mobile app security issues in the development stage itself, helping you save time and resources.
  • Conduct periodic penetration testing to identify a system’s vulnerabilities to attack and resolve them.
  • Follow OWASP Mobile Application Security Guidelines to ensure completeness and consistency of test results.
  • Follow guidelines for Android and iOS to ensure mobile app security along with the smooth launching process on the app stores, including Play Store and App Store.

Want to Build an Application With Security Features?

Contact us with your requirements for a secure application. Space-O has experienced developing more than 4400 applications for clients worldwide.

Still looking for more answers on mobile app security? Want to know what is a mobile app security assessment and the features of security apps? Check the next section of FAQs.

Frequently Asked Questions on Mobile App Security

What are some common security features in an app?

Here are some of the common features a secure app must have to keep sensitive information safe:

  • Secured code
  • High-level authentication
  • Reliable data storage
  • Data encryption
  • Secure communication
  • Testing

What is a mobile app security assessment?

Mobile application security testing involves assessing mobile applications to identify how a malicious user would try to attack them. Cybersecurity experts are able to assess the strength of an app in order to check it against known and potential threats. This way, they identify the ways to protect not only the sensitive information of your users but also the enterprise from potential disasters.

Ready to Build a Secure Mobile App?

Through this guide, you get to know how you can build secure Android or iOS mobile applications. Moreover, you know the mobile app security checklist that will help you define the right development process. In fact, the tools will let you test your mobile app to detect and eliminate security issues in the beginning stage itself.

If you are ready and want to discuss your requirements with a technical consultant, then get in touch with us. We have a team of experienced mobile app developers who have experience developing mobile applications using the latest technologies, focusing on security and safety.

Bhaval Patel

Written by

Bhaval Patel

Bhaval Patel is a Director (Operations) at Space-O Technologies. He has 20+ years of experience helping startups and enterprises with custom software solutions to drive maximum results. Under his leadership, Space-O has won the 8th GESIA annual award for being the best mobile app development company. So far, he has validated more than 300 app ideas and successfully delivered 100 custom solutions using the technologies, such as Swift, Kotlin, React Native, Flutter, PHP, RoR, IoT, AI, NFC, AR/VR, Blockchain, NFT, and more.