3 Mobile App Security Considerations for 2016

by | Dec 22, 2015 | Apps, Mobile

This year was truly one of cybersecurity headlines – and with those headlines, a newfound sense of widespread anxiety over whether we are secure on our laptops, tablets and smartphones. From the massive security breach of insured patient accounts at health insurance company Anthem, to the rather dramatic celebrity email reveal at Sony Pictures, if 2015 was an accurate indicator of how poorly companies and consumers are handling cybersecurity, we need to get serious in 2016.

As mobile apps become more mainstream, they will undoubtedly become a hotspot for hackers in the new year. Gartner, a leading American technology research firm, predicted that throughout this year, more than 75 percent of mobile applications would fail basic security tests. How will we do in 2016? We must do better.

It’s important to consider how secure your mobile app is – and that statement is true no matter where you are in the development lifecycle or what industry you come from. If you’re looking into app creation, you’ll need to talk with your developer on how to keep your app secure. If you already have an app, you’ll want to double check that you are taking all of the security steps necessary in order to ensure your users’ security and safety. If you’re using apps, you’ll want to educate yourself on how to keep yourself secure on your device – regardless of how safe your favorite company says its app is.

These are not the only things we need to watch out for; however, here are three of our top areas of mobile app cybersecurity consideration for 2016:

  1. Staying Vigilant with Financial Apps

Consumers are increasingly utilizing mobile banking and financial apps to make important and sensitive transactions. In addition, more than 30 percent of companies use mobile devices to access corporate bank accounts and conduct financial business. No doubt about it, these transactions need to be 100 percent secure.

Today, both productivity and convenience are at a premium, so use of mobile banking apps will only increase. As users hop on board, and cybersecurity threats become more widespread, online banking app developers must stay ahead of digital security trends to ensure that criminals aren’t beating them to it. Indeed, hackers are targeting mobile platforms. Malware designed to attack and expose e-payment systems and credit is on the upswing.

While developers are making sure they are following the latest security trends and norms, it’s also important that consumers of these apps are educated and well-aware of their own contributions to their security. Performing banking tasks via public WiFi, for example, is not safe. If you have a financial app, you’ll want to educate your app users about the proper steps they should take to make their experience as secure as possible. Don’t spare any cost at making sure the app is secure on the back-end, too. Run tests; treat your financial app like your website.

  1. Taking Apps – and their Budgets – Seriously

As we alluded to in the section above, apps are now not only a serious budget consideration, but a serious business strategy consideration as well. How crucial is your app to company operations and growth? Have you included intellectual property (IP) in your app, like unique algorithms or monetizable content, that could be hacked? How much revenue would your company potentially lose if your app was completely compromised?

Use these questions to determine what level of security that you must demand from your app developer. If your app is of high value, i.e., involves financial transactions, proprietary ideas, sensitive customer or account information, or is ad supported – you will want additional safeguards built in, like runtime tamper detection, runtime environment checks, and multi-layer defense. This is in addition to including basic string encryption and method renaming (which you may be able to get away with on a low-value, free app).

  1. Keep an Eye on Excessive Permissions

Most smartphone apps today have more access to your phone than they need to. In fact, if you’re not paying attention to what you’re allowing your apps to see, they could be grabbing sensitive information like contact lists, sending and receiving text messages, and even automatically accessing hardware like your camera or microphone.

It’s important that industry leaders take the time to introduce education initiatives to help consumers realize just how much of their personal information they are giving away. Experts must meet consumers halfway and educate them on areas such as excessive permissions that they may be astonished to discover. In addition, every developer needs to ensure they are up on the latest in mobile app cybersecurity to make sure they aren’t inadvertently leaving their clients vulnerable.

Smart device users should always check their specific application permissions. Only the necessary components required for use of the app should be indicated. In turn, developers should always be cognizant of the fact that permissions may be excessive and take the appropriate steps to mitigate risk.

The Future of Mobile App Security

App security will continue to grab headlines in the new year, but our hope is that with a keen eye on the dangers of mobile app hacking today, we can prevent attacks like those that occurred in 2015.

What do you think is the most important area of app security concern for 2016?

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