Secrets to Mend Your Mobile Security Early in the Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

With ‘Anonymous’ on the loose, the trip to much-covered secrets of various royal families and police departments were dug and uncovered. Such incidents often bring up the question of data security. With the state of ‘data, data everywhere, not data to be left unsecured’, the priority is on digital security.

With the pace with which smartphones are fanning out across the globe, we are left with no options but to ensure that our ‘digital mates’ are iron-clad as per data-security is concerned. With the Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) era, the software is the major asset. No vulnerability of applications is tolerable and this is where the mobile Security Development Lifecycle comes into play.

 

 

What is the Mobile Security Development Lifecycle or SDLC?

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The mobile Security Development Lifecycle or SDLC is the procedure in which the best security practices are benchmarked for the mobile in question. All that needs to be done is -

  • Capture standard industry security activities, and
  • Package such activities

 

These activities are then implemented. The SDLC involves mainly 4 phases -

 

Phases of SDLC

Security-related activities are added to the existing development procedure. The phases include -

Phase 1: Planning

This phase comprises

  • Plotting the concept and planning for the project.
  • Involves security training.

This phase zooms in on the project-scope and the outputs comprise -

  • Requirements for procurement
  • Project planning
  • Estimation of the cost involved in the project
  • Scheduling of the project phases

Phase 2: Requirements

The focus now shifts to listing the requirements of the project.

a) The IT team assembles and takes into account all the requirements of the project as put on by the SMEs or Subject Matter Experts and the brand stakeholders.

b) The threat modeling involves acknowledging the security requirements that comprise Gap analysis of Privacy Implementation Assessment (PIA)

The output of this phase varies based on whether the preferred methodology is Agile or Waterfall -

  • Agile Method: A document listing the requirements.
  • Waterfall Method: A backlog of the tasks that need to be performed.

There is also the step of third party software tracking that is initiated by the senior technic at the lead.

Phase 3: Designing and Prototyping

Now that the list of requirements is planned out, it is time for the design process to commence.

The outputs of the designing and prototyping include -

  • Components and patterns selected for this project
  • Code produced by spikes

are listed out in the design documents and are used for development as the commencing point.

Phase 4: Development

The development phase is a crucial part of the Security Development Lifecycle or SDLC.

a) Threat modeling updates are listed for static analysis by the developers and the QA or the security expert in the team.
b) The security design is reviewed by the development team and the scanning of the vulnerability is conducted by the security experts and developers.
c) The codes are also reviewed by the team of developers for the project.

Phase 5: Testing

Testing is the most important phase of the SDLC because without testing implementing the security measures is very risky. The phase includes -

a) Fuzzing is initiated by the QAs and the team-developers
b) Dynamic analysis is carried out for security reviews by the team of security experts
c) The test for third-party penetration is conducted by the certified pen testers for third-party

Phase 6: Release

A number of releases are carried out in this phase -

a) Final gap analysis
b) Reviews of final privacy
c) Reviews on the final security tests
d) Reviews of open-source licensing

Phase 7: Sustain

The last phase of the SDLC, the sustaining part comprises -

a) Tracking and reviewing of third-party software that is initiated by senior technics or technical members at the lead.
b) Disclosure and response of external vulnerabilities.

The mobile Security Development Lifecycle or SDLC is convenient to be carried out considering that you have a team of skilled developers and security experts. Then again, why should you be looking into the details of this cycle? What will you benefit from this? Here is a look into that -

Benefits of SDLC

The SDLC has diverse benefits that are listed out below -

  • Regulatory Compliances

SDLC boosts the need to abide by the security-related regulations and laws. In case these regulations are neglected, the resultant may be penalties and fines.

  • Boosted Security

Considering that SDLC monitors vulnerabilities, the output is nose-diving trade-risks and enhanced quality of applications.

  • Mitigated Costs

With the practice of the SDLC, attention is paid to any flaw at its primary stage. Thereby, there is significant mitigation in the cost involved in detecting and fixing the bugs.

  • Reputation Protection

Cyber-attacks often rest in considerable damage to your trade that has a similar effect on the revenue-generation, client credibility, and business standing. This can be prevented by SDLC practices.

  • Building Additional Services

Trusted and certified platforms are put to use by service providers as foundations. On these platforms, new value-added services are built to ensure boosted trust.

  • Market Access

With certifications, multiple doors are opened for the vertical and geographical markets.

  • Demonstration of Robustness

Security is a major leverage during the selling of products for both developers and manufacturers. Tailored evaluations without detailed specifications establish the credibility of the brand for prospective clients

 

Best Practices of SDLC

Despite the leverages that SDLC offers, enterprises often miss out on it considering that they have limited knowledge about the best practices for the cycle. Here the highlighted practices that will help boost the security -

  • Monitoring and Encrypting Data Between Web Servers and Mobile Applications

The manual analysis of the traffic that flows from the app to a web server is essential. For this, mobile devices communications need to be encrypted to prevent any chances of interception. Employing security practices on the path between the mobile and web server ensures that all the sensitive information is well-guarded when you go for app development.

  • Implementing Application-level Security Measures

Although OS and device manufacturers offer security measures from time to time, they cannot be trusted enough. On the contrary, one should take into account mobile security from the application level. This mitigates the platform-dependency.

  • Penetration Testing and Performance of Regular Mobile Security Audits

Hiring credible organizations to audit applications are essential. Mobile applications when putting through manual penetration testing and automated tests are a crucial practice.

  • Using Containerization for Critical Corporate Data

Protecting sensitive information of the corporate sector is called containerization and is a technique to store the data in a separate container in mobile apps.

That’s some of the best practices for SDLC. However, what do you do if you have already implemented security measures and need to mend them? Here are a few secrets that are taken up by pros in the mobile SDLC mending process 

Mending the Mobile SDLC

The world of mobile is facing new waves of changes. This is well showcased by the foldable smartphones that were launched in 2019. However, the mobile marketplace is still fractured owing to the peaked malware threats. This makes it essential for mobile application developers to manufacture secure apps. It calls for the implementation of the following mending-secrets into the procedure which has been listed out below -

Secret 1: Fleshing out user stories with enterprise and platform specifications

As an essential part of up-front steps are -

  • Fathoming out brand and business-requirements
  • Analyzing the platform and mobile operating system issues

One can also use SDK to manage the components that are required in this context.

Secret 2: Treating secure communications as a forgotten customer story

Secure user communications have become a forgotten story. Like a domino effect, there have been cases of insecure applications. In this case, internal applications and APIs can be considered as examples. Despite blocking all means of access and making them available only on an internal network, that is not secure enough. Measures need to be taken accordingly.

Secret 3: Making Considerations for Application Security for Non-functional Requirements

Portfolio companies can view or treat the mobile app security requirements as non-functional while in the primary phases of application development. This means -

  • Working on them as sprints from the very first day
  • Not wait on the final pass in the case of compliance purposes on the last day of the SDLC.

 

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Secret 4: Adding a Security Team for Your Agile Procedure Upfront

It always serves better to open up your agile boards to your brand’s security team. With certain platforms, development stories need to be flagged as high-priority or risk factors. In multiple brands, security resources are stretched. Hence, the flagged out stories (as mentioned above) fetch the attention of your enterprise’s security team prior to your app hitting GA (General Availability).

Secret 5: Noting Down Authorization or Authentication Stories Early in the Agile Development Cycle

Resolving authorization or authentication early on in the agile development cycle is crucial. This prevents any chances of confusion between the two. This means looking into the -

  • Opening of APIs and for the ones gaining access over mobile applications.
  • Sign-in process and its secure login and password

Secret 6: Testing Security Early on in the SDLC and Updating it Frequently

With mobile application testing, the best step is automation and in this case, the following are recommended -

  • Regression testing
  • Automated scripts

that test the common vulnerabilities (like SQL injections). The next step would be to automate tests against the requirement of -

  • Risk-based endeavors to meet non-functional security needs
  • Threat modeling

These testings are conducted

  • Along with the sprints
  • Against the security considerations that were initially eliminated at the start of the SDLC.

Tests can be augmented by the end of each sprint with MAM (Mobile Application Management). This approach has often been pursued to test how their mobile applications interact with the internal business proceedings and its infrastructure. Such testings help clients fix -

 

  • Simple VPN
  • Website scripting
  • Other settings

prior to the GA of the application.

Conclusion

Sans the SDLC,

  • Products often become prone to vulnerabilities
  • Security errors are repeated and identified too late
  • The data stored becomes unsafe
  • End-users fail to have active assurances if their device is safe.

With so much on the line, brands stepping into the mobile realm need to look into the SDLC front and ensure that the best practices are taken to mend it. This would have a significant impact on the sale of products and the credibility of the brand in question.

 

Published on Jul 27, 2020
Pratip Biswas
Written by Pratip Biswas
Pratip Biswas is the Founder and CEO of Unified Infotech, a New York-based web design company that has been featured in Deloitte Fast 500 | His company is working with Enterprises, SMB’s and Start-ups to improve their efficiency through Digital Adoption and help them discover new possibilities through constant innovations.

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