Nigerian authorities have made great strides in data security, and businesses worldwide are taking notice. If you're planning to launch a mobile app in Nigeria, it's crucial that you understand the importance of app security and take steps to ensure that your app meets Nigerian data privacy requirements.
We’re aware that data protection can be overwhelming as it requires a holistic approach that incorporates legal, administrative, and technical safeguards. But as business owners, it's important to understand the consequences of building an insecure app as potential vulnerabilities can have serious consequences leading to revenue, data, or brand value losses.
In this blog, we'll discuss the significance of data privacy requirements and provide a security checklist to help you build a secure app for the Nigerian region.
“About 71 per cent of Nigerian organisations were hit by ransomware in 2021, up from 22 per cent recorded a year earlier.” - The Guardian, Nigeria
As Nigeria's internet penetration increases and more iOS & Android apps are released, the above trend will only increase. This calls for stringent security measures that should be taken while developing and launching mobile apps in Nigeria.
What Happens if your Mobile App is not Secure?
A mobile application that isn't secure enough is an easy target for hackers. And this leads to the following consequences:
1) Loss of Customer or Business Information
Most mobile apps are client facing, making them susceptible to malware attacks. And if your mobile application isn't secure, hackers could access customer or even business information which can be used for illicit means.
For instance, if your app stores customer payment information, it can lead to substantial monetary losses for customers. And you may also end up sharing confidential business information unknowingly.
2) Loss of Revenue
Most apps have a free version with limited features and a premium version with exclusive features. However, because of poor app security, hackers can reverse engineer and create clones of your app to access premium features for free. And this can lead to a huge dip in your profits, plummeting your revenue.
3) Degradation of Brand Confidence and Reputation
While businesses can recover the lost revenue somehow, brand confidence and reputation cannot be recovered. Let's say your mobile app has weak security and is found guilty of unintentionally losing user data to hackers. This will lead to customers losing confidence in your brand, causing an everlasting loss of reputation. And because of this, you'll lose your existing customers and be unable to onboard new ones, which will mar your entire bottom line.
4) Legal and Financial Repercussions for Non-compliance
Every country, including Nigeria, has some compliance or regulatory guidelines that companies need to follow to ensure complete data privacy. However, if your app is insecure, it simply means you're putting your customers' data at risk, violating compliance and regulatory guidelines. And this can attract both legal and financial repercussions, which can be determinantal for your business.
Now that you know what a weak or insecure mobile app can do to your business, it's time to learn how to avoid this.
Know Legal Requirements - NDPR, The Compliance Regulations in Nigeria on Data Privacy
Nigeria has come a long way from having no legislative backing at all to having a regulatory instrument known as the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR), similar to the GDPR. This is the only data privacy framework that exists in Nigeria, issued in 2019 by National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The NDPR contains several key provisions that organizations must take into account when handling personal data. These include:
- The requirement to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or destruction.
- The requirement to notify the Nigerian Data Protection Commission (NDPC) and affected individuals in the event of a data breach that poses a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals as soon as possible.
- The requirement to have a data breach response plan in place to effectively manage a data breach and minimize its impact on affected individuals.
According to this framework, businesses that control, process, or deal with customer data (largely the companies that develop or use mobile apps) need to comply with the NDPR regulations to stay operational and be protected from hefty fines. And, if an organization is found to be jeopardizing data and tempering customer privacy, it may have to pay 2% of its annual turnover or 10 million nairas, whichever is greater.
Mobile App Security Technical Checklist for iOS and Android Apps
1) Stronger Authentication
One of the essential things developers must focus on is authentication. If an app has strong authentication, it will become significantly harder for the hacker to gain access. You can go for 2-factor-authentication (2FA) or multifactor-authentication (MFA), which includes:
- Something the user knows: a PIN or a passcode
- Something the user has: a mobile device for OTP.
- Something the user is: this can be verified using biometrics (fingerprint, face detection).
By enabling these authentications in your application, you can make it more resilient to password-guessing attacks.
2) Encrypt All Communications
Attackers use man-in-the-middle and snooping attacks to intercept the data transmitted over cellular or WIFI networks. Therefore, you must ensure that all communications between the servers and the apps are secure and encrypted.
You can go for encryption that uses session-based key exchanges and 4096-bit SSL keys. This will give even the smartest hackers a hard time decrypting data.
Pro Tip: When the data is sitting at rest in the users' mobile device, make sure to encrypt that as well. And if you can, store zero data on the users' device to completely finish the risk of data theft.
3) Secure the Code
Open-source applications have become quite popular these days. But as such apps allow anyone to peek into the code, they're pretty risky. Because hackers can go through the code, find any bugs and use it against the users. They may even use reverse engineering to create clones of legitimate apps to trick users. So, you must keep your source code as secure as possible. Here's what you can do to ensure code security:
- Don't make your code open source.
- Use SSLs via HTTPS.
- Never hardcode any sensitive information.
- Use tools to obfuscate the source code. This way, even if the hackers gain access to the source code, they won't be able to understand it.
4) Be Cautious While using 3rd Party Libraries
Libraries can be beneficial for developers. After all, they allow developers to add functionalities to their apps without reinventing the wheel, saving time and effort. However, 3rd party libraries can be created by any random individual. While not all are dangerous, most pose security risks and don't offer any security patches or updates.
Therefore, developers must be cautious while using 3rd party libraries. They should constantly be tested and come from verified resources.
5) Do Vigorous Pen Testing and Vulnerability Assessments
Regular app testing is crucial to boost mobile app security. But to make your apps more secure and hack-proof, you need to opt for pen testing and vulnerability assessments.
Pen testing involves a simulated cyber attack that a security expert performs to mimic the behavior of an actual hacker. This helps detect weaknesses and vulnerabilities before real cyber hackers exploit them.
Another useful process you need to opt for is vulnerability assessments. As the name suggests, vulnerability assessment helps detect vulnerabilities as a part of your software development lifecycle using a smart tool.
Note. All of the aforementioned steps can be performed easily except for this one. Why? Because pen testing requires an experienced security researcher who knows exactly how to mimic the behavior of a potential hacker. And to ensure vulnerability assessment goes into depth to check your mobile app for vulnerabilities, you need to find a reliable solution.
But where can you find a reliable pen tester and a vulnerability assessment solution in Nigeria? Well, read along.
Identify the Best Pen Tester and Vulnerability Assessment Solution in Nigeria
There are several pen testers and automated vulnerability assessment solutions in Nigeria to choose from. But not all of them are reliable. So, here's a short guide to help you choose the best pen tester and vulnerability assessment solution in Nigeria:
1) How to Choose a Pen Tester?
Whether you're looking to hire an external pen tester or bring someone in-house, there are a few key factors to consider. Here's what you need to keep in mind:
- Expertise: Your pen tester must have the required knowledge and skills to identify and test vulnerabilities in your environment. For instance, you can rely on CED Technologies, which has pen testers with a decade of experience in the industry.
- Certification: A reliable pen tester must have a professional certification such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). This indicates their professional proficiency in the field.
- Reviews: Hire a pen tester who's well-known for their work in the market. You can check out their online reviews and talk to their previous customers for a better understanding.
- Cost: For companies looking for the perfect fit in a pen tester, cost should not be their only benchmark. It's important to keep an eye out for top-notch talent that comes with a slightly heftier price tag – as quality always has its own reward!
- Scope of their work: Ask your pen tester questions to understand the scope of their work, such as:
ii) Will the tests be manual or automated?
iii) What's the timeline for the whole procedure?
iv) Will there be remediation steps?
2) How to Choose a Vulnerability Assessment (VA) Solution?
Here's a quick rundown of some of the most important factors you need to consider while choosing a VA solution for your mobile app security needs:
- Coverage: A reliable vulnerability assessment solution must cover all aspects of your mobile app to detect vulnerabilities effectively. For instance, the vulnerability assessment tool by CED Technologies performs the following in minutes:
i) Static Scans (SAST): to check basic configuration issues in your app and code.
ii) Dynamic Scans (DAST): automated solution that mimics real-life interactions on your app and uses 130+ use cases to perform a deep scan.
iii) API Scans: Scans all APIs and tests all endpoints for security.
- Accuracy: Your vulnerability assessment tool must be accurate and reliable results while minimizing false positives.
- Reporting: An ideal VA tool must offer you a detailed report after the assessment ends. Only then will you be able to deal with those vulnerabilities in the best way.
- Ease of Use: The vulnerability assessment tool should be intuitive and feature-rich but easy to use simultaneously. This will help you save training time and get started instantly.
- Costs: VA solutions provide a cost-effective alternative to hiring an individual pen tester while also helping you save on maintenance and upkeep expenses. Invest in the right VA solution today for long-term success!
For any mobile application to thrive and be successful, innovative features, great UI/UX design, and above all else - app security must be in check. Ensuring a secure user experience should always be prioritized when developing an app — if not, who would trust your product?
Now that you have a security checklist at your disposal, you can create compliant and safe apps for you and your customers.