We live in a world where people prefer speed. However, in this quest of constant advancement and innovation, we often tend to give less importance to the security aspects of our work. This compromises safety and creates vulnerabilities. Mobile App Development is one such platform which suffers from this neglect which could turn out to be menacing for the App’s security later at some point. It is, therefore, crucial to acknowledge some of the common mistakes that occur during iOS and Android Mobile App Development and avoid them to minimize security risks and launch a robust app as quickly as possible.
A Peek into the Mobile Attack Surface
To build secure code and protect apps from potential attacks, it is important to first know what the Mobile Attack Surface is. It encompasses four areas through which a hacker and infiltrate and breach security - where data is at rest, where data is in motion as it is transmitted between the mobile app and the backend, where the functionality features exist within the app code, and where the backend APIs and endpoints communicate. Some vulnerabilities of mobile apps like buffer overflow, SQL injection (SQLi), and cross-site scripting (XSS) overlap with those of websites. However, mobile apps have their own loopholes such as intent hijacking, dynamic runtime injection, and man-in-the-middle attacks.
Here are 5 critical areas of mobile app security and how you could prevent them from failing:
1) Client Code Quality
More than 30% of the apps tested have shown vulnerabilities with regards to the “Client Code Quality”. This refers to the code running on the device-side and not the backend. It can be quite challenging to identify such issues without intense security testing. They include Buffer overflows, arbitrary code execution, format string vulnerabilities, and SQL injection. The use of improper API which is not well protected or which has poor language constructs often leads to these issues. Close to 60% of the Android Apps were detected to have them while only about 5% of the iOS apps did.
Solution: APIs must be developed properly with the help of secure coding practices. Android apps need to be focused particularly for this problem. Security testing services need to be availed to ensure promising security on the client-side of the mobile app.
2) Extraneous Functionality
It is observed that about 45% of all mobile apps exhibit issues under this category. Even they need deep security checks to get detected. The inclusion of hidden backdoor functionality and other internal development security controls is usually done to enhance the development and testing process. They are not meant to get released in the production environment. When they reach, however, they could potentially pose a threat. About 90% of the Android apps are found to have this issue while only 2% of iOS apps have them.
Solution: Ensuring coding hygiene and implementing a code review process, developers may get rid of extraneous information in the code and the comments. Deep security checks may be performed to identify extraneous functionality and resolve the issues.
Close to 50% of all mobile apps which are tested signal issues related to “Insecure Communications”. They render susceptibility to man-in-the-middle attacks. Poor handshake, SSL/TLS certificate issues, and HTTP data transfer are some of the bugs of insecure communications. About 40% of Android use insecure HTTP compared to 30% of iOS.
Solution: Data encryption must be done to ensure that the transmissions are well protected with security certificates. Security tests may be performed to check for unencrypted data leakage.
4) Data Storage
About 50% of all mobile apps which were tested indicated “Insecure Data Storage”. This means that the data is exposed and available for exploitation by hackers. When data pertaining to SQLite, plist files, log files, DB, XML, and other files are insecurely stored, security bugs arise. Android apps tend to have higher rates of data leakage, around 50% when compared with iOS apps.
Solution: Sensitive data may not be written to local files and system logs. It is crucial to ensure that data is well protected and securely stored always. Deep security checks for unencrypted data leakage may be performed to identify any and resolve the matter at the earliest.
While developing apps, it is important to obfuscate them in order to guard them against hackers. If it is not done properly, they may be able to reverse engineer the codes and breach the security. About 60% of the apps are found to be unobfuscated. Obfuscation must be followed after adding the other security layers. This fortifies the protection and keeps several hackers at bay. Built-in DRM and Signing in iOS introduces obfuscation which renders reverse engineering quite challenging. However, Android does not offer such protection by default.
Solution: In the case of Android App Development, it is important to leverage third-party tools like ProGuard for obfuscation. Although iOS has in-built protection, more protection could be sought after. Testing security with reversing tools like APKTool can be performed to check for proper obfuscation.
The underlying problem here is that many app developers fail to focus on the security aspect of the development process. This primarily leads to the rise of bugs and vulnerabilities. Keeping in mind the above issues and preventing them by using appropriate measures; it is very much possible to overcome the critical challenges of mobile app security! Openwave houses an expert app development team which is adept at offering sterling services at unbelievably affordable prices! Get in touch with us to learn more! Dial: +1 (212) 209-1537 or Email: Info@openwavecomp.com