Best Practices to Develop a Secure AppVanessa Venugopal
As we become more inclined to the digital world, developers will continue to build apps and software to meet the demand of the public.
Applications and software are vital for individuals to go on with their daily activities. It is for entertainment or fun too. Furthermore, even businesses need to use software to help them in their operations. As this need becomes prominent due to the pandemic, software developers fast-track their process of creating software to provide the mass.
There are millions of applications and software when all categories are combined. According to Statista, Google Play Store has more than three million applications, followed by Apple App Store with 2.2 million apps. The number increases as more people shift to digital means.
But as developers create apps and software, they need to be cautious with every step in the development. Cyber threat is the biggest concern of software developing companies. It can damage the reputation of the company and result in mistrust of people. Therefore, a careful process should be taken into consideration when developing an app.
App and software developers can ensure that every step and part of their software is protected when they follow the best practices when creating a secure app. When this happens, both the developer and the user of the app will worry less about the effects of cyber-attacks.
Common Issues Encountered During App Development
- Unencrypted Data: Data that is in plain text can be a problem when hackers access the storage of data. They’ll be able to use the information readily.
- Using unverified SSL certificate, broken TrustManager, and lack of Transport Layer Protection
- Accepting inputs from various sources with no encryption can allow hackers to access valuable information.
- Not considering the server of the client can put the backend server of developers at risk.
- Data leakage mostly happens where low-grade analytics providers and advertising APIs are used.
There are plenty of challenges developers might face when developing software or an app, but data breach is the most dreadful of all. Unsecured apps can cause data to be accessed by unauthorized individuals. If such a thing happens, the company that owns the app will be at risk. They can lose their reputation and even face legal charges.
The only solution to avoid data breaches on the app is to consider security at every step of the development process.
Here are ways developers can create a secure app.
Best Practices When Developing a Secure App
Write a Secure Code
Writing code is the first thing a developer does once the idea has been developed and the plan has been laid. But it is also the first step to consider security.
Cybercriminals will search codes for bugs and vulnerabilities. They’ll reverse engineer the app’s code, change some of it and post it on a third-party app store where people will download it. It can ruin the company’s reputation.
To avoid this, developers must secure the code by encrypting it and preventing it from being reverse-engineered. After which, they need to test the code and constantly check for bugs to fix. It should be agile for developers to update the code when a breach occurs. Implementing code signing and code hardening can build a secure app or software from alterations.
Perform Penetration Testing on Apps
Before launching the software, developers must make sure they have run a test. Penetration testing helps in detecting security issues that can lead to risks and vulnerabilities. It’ll detect loopholes that the developers don’t see during the creation process. Testing can patch all bugs to keep the software safe and secure from attacks.
Encrypt Data-in-transit and on the Server
Users’ data is the reason why hackers try to insert malicious code to look for vulnerabilities in apps. They need to gather valuable information as it costs a lot of money when used for personal purposes or sold on the dark web.
Developers must make sure that the data that goes through their apps should be encrypted. Encryption is the process of scrambling plaintext into unreadable words. The only person who can read the content is the one who has the key to the account. When hackers steal data from an encrypted server, they will not be able to read the content.
For in-transit data, consider using SSL and VPN tunnels to secure users’ data from possible spies.
Use High-level Authentication
Authentication means passwords and personal identifications are barriers before entry to an account. Developers must design the apps and software to require strong passwords. It will increase the security of accounts and prevent data breaches.
Require your users to create passwords that are strong and must be renewed every three or six months. On top of that, add biometric and multi-factor authentication to strengthen security.
Minimize Data Storage
Most users’ data are stored in the device’s local memory. But the best way to avoid breaches of sensitive data is to not store them. However, if there is no other option, make sure that it is in a data container or key chain that is encrypted.
Developers can also include an auto-delete feature. It will automatically remove data for a specific time.
Secure the Backend
A vast number of backend APIs believe that they can only be used by apps that have been designed to use them. The truth is quite different. Backend servers should have security measures in place to protect against malicious assaults. Hence, developers must ensure all APIs are verified. It is for mobile platforms developers plan to code for, as transport protocols and API authentication varies.
Don’t Trust Libraries
Developers use third-party libraries when code building for apps. However, these libraries can be unsafe, so developers need to check on codes. They should test or check for errors or flaws that can affect or cause your app’s data to be at risk of cyberattacks.
Stay Updated with Cryptogenic Techniques
Even the most widely used cryptographic algorithms, such as MD5 and SHA1, are frequently insufficient to meet ever-increasing security demands. As a result, it’s critical to stay up to speed on the latest security algorithms and to employ the latest encryption methods like AES with 512-bit encryption, 256-bit encryption, and SHA-256 for hashing. To guarantee strong security, you should also undertake manual penetration testing and threat modeling on your applications before deploying the app or software.
Request for Less Permissions
The idea of least privilege states that a program runs with only the permissions it requires. Your app shouldn’t ask for any more permissions than what is necessary for it to function. Don’t ask for access to the user’s contacts if you don’t need it. Make no network connections that aren’t necessary. The list goes on and on, and it all relies on your app’s characteristics, so keep threat modeling in mind as you update your code.
Integrate MAM and MDM
MAM (Mobile App Management) and MDM (Mobile Device Management) are solutions that developers and organizations apply to reduce attacks on devices and apps. With the use of these solutions, they can control the distribution of apps and keep employees safe by adding multiple layers of security. With MDM and MAM, accessing data on a device is possible. It allows users to remotely wipe the content for security.
Include a Tamper Detection Technique
The tamper detection method helps developers track if someone tries to change or inject malicious code. It keeps activity logs of the code since developers need to check and change them from time to time for security.
Learn About the Use of the Platform
Each platform developers will use to design apps has certain limitations. They must get to know all about the specifics of the platforms, encryption method, password support, geo-location data support, and more. In this way, developers can adjust how they can create a secure app according to the operating system and platform to be used.
Make Sure There is No Data Leakage
Every app and software has data on it, which is stored locally or passed through the server. Any vulnerabilities can cause the data to be seen or tracked. Developers should implement ethical advertising and secure analytics providers. They should ensure that the data is not being used by advertisers or sold to malicious vendors or people.
Developers shouldn’t only test their app after writing a code or before deploying the app. Testing should be done all the time.
Frequent testing will allow developers to see if there are vulnerabilities in the system. It will help them fix issues and change the codes needed.
Developers should first keep their apps secure at all levels of development. It will ensure a secure app can handle customer data and more. Although this doesn’t guarantee 100% security, sometimes it also depends on the end-user.
If the user of the app is careless about securing their devices, there can be a chance that hackers can access data. Hence, this falls into the users’ hands. If you are a user, learn what are the best practices to keep devices safe. You can use antivirus software (read about antivirus like trend micro security reviews for more details), create strong passwords, and so on.
Cybersecurity shouldn’t only be the responsibility of one person. It is an effort that starts from the beginning of the software development up to the end-user.