From Development to Deployment: A Comprehensive Guide to Mobile App Security

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As today’s reliance on mobile devices for sensitive activities such as banking and communication increases, the risks associated with mobile app attacks continue to skyrocket. As a result, mobile application security is more crucial than ever, affecting both developers and users alike.

In conjunction with Riscure, Zimperium recently hosted an informative webinar titled, “Top Risks to Address in your Mobile Application Security Journey,” featuring industry experts Anis Hamdi from Riscure and Tim Hartog and Andrew Snyder from Zimperium.

The session discussed the most common mobile app attack vectors and attacker capabilities, how to prioritize and approach mobile application security objectives, and overall best practices for securing the entire mobile application development lifecycle.

Here are some key takeaways from the webinar.

The Top Mobile App Attack Vectors and Attacker Capabilities

If you are worried about the security of your mobile apps, you’re not alone. The first part of the webinar focused on the top mobile app attack vectors and attacker capabilities. The most common mobile app attack vectors include:

  • Rooted or jailbroken devices
  • Network attacks
  • Malicious apps

But what do these terms mean, and why are they such a threat?

Rooted or jailbroken devices are a major security risk for mobile app users because they allow attackers to bypass security measures installed by the device manufacturer, meaning that attackers can access sensitive data or manipulate these types of devices without being detected.

Network attacks, such as man-in-the-middle attacks, are another common attack vector that allows attackers to intercept and manipulate data transmitted between the mobile application and the server. The results are often stolen data, unauthorized access, or other nefarious activities.

Malicious apps are also a significant threat. Attackers can use malicious apps to steal sensitive data, track user activity, or take control of the device.

Anis Hamdi from Riscure noted, “It is easy for attackers to embed malware into mobile apps, which can be used to steal sensitive data, including login credentials, banking information, and personal information.”

Tim Hartog from Zimperium explained that “Attackers can create fake apps that look legitimate and trick users into downloading them. These apps can contain malicious code that enables attackers to gain control of the device, steal data, or track user activity.

Attackers use code injection to modify the behavior of legitimate apps and turn them into malicious ones, enabling attackers to steal sensitive data, track user activity, or even take control of the device.

Anis Hamdi emphasized, “Code injection is a significant threat because it allows attackers to modify the code of legitimate apps without raising suspicion.

All of these risks make it crucial to prioritize mobile application security objectives and implement best practices to secure the entire mobile application throughout the development lifecycle.

How to Prioritize and Approach Your Mobile Application Security Objectives

To prioritize your approach to mobile application security objectives, it’s essential to first understand the potential threats and risks that may impact the application. This requires conducting a thorough risk assessment, identifying and prioritizing assets and threats, and implementing security measures accordingly. As Anis Hamdi from Riscure noted, “It’s really important to have a clear understanding of the assets you are trying to protect and the potential threats that may impact those assets.

Assess & Prioritize

Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment involves identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities in the mobile application and determining each risk’s likelihood and potential impact. As Tim Hartog from Zimperium pointed out, “It’s important to prioritize your mobile application security objectives based on your organization’s risk appetite and the potential impact of a security breach.” This allows developers and security professionals to prioritize their efforts and allocate resources to the most critical threats.

Implement Targeted Controls

Once you’ve conducted a risk assessment and prioritized threats, controls can be implemented that specifically target higher-risk areas. Rather than creating controls to address every possible avenue of attack, using targeted controls makes more efficient and effective use of resources, allowing your organization to get the most out of its budget.

Integrate Security Throughout the Lifecycle

Another critical aspect of prioritizing and approaching mobile application security objectives is having a comprehensive understanding of the mobile application development lifecycle. This includes ensuring that security measures are integrated throughout the entire process, from design and development to testing and deployment. As Tim Hartog from Zimperium noted, “It’s important to have a good balance between functionality and security, and this can only be achieved by having security integrated throughout the entire development process.

Best Practices for Securing the Entire Mobile Application Development Lifecycle

The webinar discussion included overall best practices for securing the entire mobile application development lifecycle. According to the experts, the best approach is to adopt a proactive security mindset rather than a reactive one. This means incorporating security into every aspect of the development process, from development to deployment and beyond. The experts recommended using secure coding practices, conducting regular security testing, and implementing measures such as encryption and authentication throughout the development lifecycle.

In addition to incorporating security into the development process, the experts emphasized the importance of ongoing monitoring and management of mobile applications. This means regularly updating and patching mobile applications, monitoring for security threats and vulnerabilities, and implementing measures such as app shielding and device attestation to detect and prevent attacks.

1. Start with Security in Mind from the Beginning

One of the most important things you can do to ensure the security of your mobile application is to prioritize security from the very beginning of the development process. This means building security requirements into the initial code, conducting security assessments at every stage of development, and integrating security into the testing and deployment phases.

2. Use Layered Security

Implementing a layered approach to mobile application security is a critical step. Implementing multiple layers of security controls will protect against different types of threats. For example, encryption protects data in transit and at rest. Implementing access controls, restricting access to sensitive information, and using runtime application self-protection (RASP) solutions are all key to detecting and responding to attacks.

3. Use a Comprehensive Security Framework

A comprehensive security framework can help ensure that your mobile application is secure from end to end. This includes both in-app security features and backend security measures, such as secure APIs and data encryption.

4. Implement Strong Authentication and Authorization Controls

Authentication and authorization controls are essential for protecting user data and preventing unauthorized access. Best practices include implementing strong password requirements, two-factor authentication, and role-based access controls.

5. Regularly Update and Patch Your Application

Regular updates and patches are critical for ensuring that your mobile application remains secure over time. This includes addressing known vulnerabilities, implementing new security features, and keeping up with emerging threats.

6. Perform Regular Security Assessments

Regular security assessments can help identify vulnerabilities and address them before they are exploited by attackers. This includes both manual and automated testing, as well as third-party security assessments from reputable providers.

Mobile application security is a critical concern for both developers and users. As mobile devices continue to become more prevalent, the risks associated with mobile app attacks continue to increase. To mitigate these risks, it is essential to adopt a risk-based approach to mobile app security, prioritize security measures based on the potential impact of a security breach, and incorporate security into every aspect of the development lifecycle.

Mobile App Risks: Addressing Security Throughout the Lifecycle

The risks associated with mobile applications begin during development and continue throughout the app’s lifecycle, even when the app is in use on an end user’s device. Zimperium offers a Mobile Application Protection Suite comprised of four products, which can be accessed through a centralized dashboard. This unique platform provides a holistic approach to mobile app security by integrating inside-out and outside-in security methods. It allows enterprises to view threats and develop response policies while offering comprehensive in-app protection, making it the only solution to provide centralized visibility and security for mobile apps.

To hear more of the discussion, and learn more about meeting the security challenges of mobile application security, watch the replay of our webcast, “Top Risks to Address in your Mobile Application Security Journey.

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