We live in the era of apps! It’s not difficult to find a smartphone app for almost anything in today’s age, so it becomes important for you to have an app of your own if you’re in business. However, building an app comes with its challenges. One of the biggest challenges among them is the challenge of security, and you can’t shrug it off. But it’s also not very difficult to ensure the security of your app if you follow the right steps. In this article, we’re going to tell you about nine such steps that you can take while coding your app to ensure its security. Let’s get started:
#1. Secure your code
Vulnerabilities in the code are among the first few things that hackers utilize to attack a mobile app. According to research, more than 5.5 million websites remain affected by mobile malware because of vulnerable code at any given time. Therefore, if your code is free from bugs and vulnerabilities, you can significantly reduce the chances of your app being hacked by someone. And it doesn’t take much – you only need to follow a few best practices, which are given below:
- Harden your code with obfuscation and encryption to prevent reverse-engineering attacks
- Test your app repeatedly to discover the bugs, and fix them immediately as they’re found
- Follow the principles of agile coding so you can update it easily in case of a breach
- Use a code signing certificate to sign your code as there are many cheap code sign certificate available in the market that you can easily search on the web and find the best deal for you
#2. Avoid using unauthorized APIs
Application Programming Interfaces – or APIs that you use – can also lead to your apps being hacked. Unauthorized APIs are often not coded properly, so they can unintentionally grant some privileges to hackers that they shouldn’t. Centrally authorized APIs, on the other hand, are examined thoroughly before being made available to the developers, so they are almost always free from such vulnerabilities.
#3. Encrypt all user data
Encrypting the user data generated and used by your app is also essential for its security. In case you don’t know about it, encryption refers to a technique that scrambles the plain text information in such a way that it can’t be understood until reassembled with the help of a private key that you own. This helps minimize the damage in those circumstances when somehow, malware manages to break into your app. If user data is encrypted, that malware won’t be able to steal any sensitive information of your users, thus minimizing your responsibility in such crucial stages.
#4. Use internal storage for data
While you allow your users to store their data on internal or external storage of their devices, there are some reasons why your app, by default, should store the data on the internal storage of a device. The data stored in device storage is encrypted by Android itself, thus providing you state of the art encryption for user data. You can also use the Security library of Android to provide additional security to user data that is more sensitive, thus providing security even in those cases when the device is lost, and there is no file system encryption in place.
#5. Proper session handling
When we talk about sessions on mobile devices, we’re talking about something more sensitive in nature than desktop sessions. That is because of the duration of each session, which is longer than the duration of desktop sessions. Therefore, it becomes even more important that sessions are handled by your server carefully. We would suggest that you use tokens instead of device identifiers to identify a session because tokens can be revoked very easily. You should also enable the functionality of remote data to wipe for your app so that the users can wipe all their data if they lose their device.
#6. Request minimal privileges
Requesting privileges is also a tricky matter. The more privileges you request through your app, the more responsibility you take to ensure that those privileges are not misused by malware. While there’s no doubt in the fact that most apps request unnecessarily more privileges than they should collect as much user data as possible, we would advise that you against going on that path. We suggest that you request only those permissions/privileges that are related to the core functionality of your app.
#7. Secure communication between client and server
It’s also important that your app communicates securely with your server. If that’s not the case, the data can be stolen easily through MiTM attacks. To secure the communication between your app and your server, you can take advantage of SSL or VPN tunnel. But since SSL is the default standard for this purpose, we would suggest that you take the SSL certificate route.
#8. Use cryptography
Finally, you can use cryptography to secure your app. For instance, you should never hard code your keys in the app itself. Store them in secure containers and avoid using popular cryptography algorithms like MD5 and SHA1 as they’ve become outdated. Use the latest algorithms, like 256-bit AES and SHA-256, to hash the code of your app wherever needed.
#9. Keep testing
This last one is most important. Once you’ve developed an app and made it available for downloading, don’t think that your responsibility is over. From that point, your responsibility has only increased, and you need to discharge it by continuously testing your app for vulnerabilities. Hackers keep themselves on the top of their game by continuously searching for bugs and loopholes, so if you want to win against them, you too must keep checking the code of your app even after it has been made available for download.
These nine tips can help you ensure the security of your app and user data. Implement them while coding your app, and you won’t feel helpless ever because of a malware attack on your app. The ideal situation is when your app isn’t affected by malware in the first place, and these steps can do a lot to ensure it, but even if that worst-case scenario comes true, you’ll be able to take action promptly to minimize your damage. All the best!