Mobile apps have made our lives a lot easier. From ordering food, watching movies, booking a cab, and sending money, one can do everything via mobile apps. However, while mobile apps are a great utility, they've become an easy target for scammers, hackers, and cyber attackers, especially in countries like the UK.
No wonder the UK had the highest number of online crime victims (4,783) per 1 million internet users in 2022.
Taking charge of the situation, the UK government has created strict guidelines for enhancing the security of mobile apps. Developers must abide by these guidelines to successfully launch mobile apps in the United Kingdom. And this blog is there to help.
Discover the crucial mobile app security guidelines issued by the UK government and unlock the key to safeguarding your next app launch. Dive into our comprehensive security checklist designed for UK app releases, enabling you not only to conform to these industry standards but also to achieve top-notch mobile app safety.
Why Creating a Secure Mobile App Is Essential?
1) Easy Target for Data Breaches
Almost every application type these days requires a signup wherein users must enter their personal information. And for certain apps, financial information such as bank accounts and digital wallets are also required.
If your app is insecure, it'll become an easy target for data breaches. And this can expose sensitive user information, leading to identity theft or loss of funds. However, if your app is secure, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of a data breach and safeguard user data.
2) Huge Revenue Dip
Experiencing a data breach can seriously damage your company's reputation, causing customers to flock to competitors and deter potential clients. This, in turn, can lead to a significant decline in revenue and hinder business growth.
In addition, an insecure app is often easy to reverse engineer. As a result, hackers might reverse engineer your app to create a free rip-off, which can further drop your revenue.
A secure app and a clean data breach record can prevent this from happening and keep dollars rolling in no matter what.
3) Legal or Financial Ramifications
As stated earlier, an insecure app is an easy target for hackers. Your app will likely get involved in a data breach wherein customer information might be compromised. And that's something you would want to avoid, especially in countries like the UK. Why?
Similar to most other countries, the UK has strict guidelines regarding data privacy that organizations need to follow. The fact that a data breach occurred at your organization states that your app wasn't secure enough, which can attract legal and financial repercussions. You may even have to shut your operations altogether.
However, if you follow the respective guidelines and prioritize app security, you can prevent all this from happening.
Compliance Regulations in the UK on Data Privacy
The United Kingdom has the Data Protection Act 2018, the UK's version of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR.) This act controls how users' personal information is controlled by organizations, governments, or businesses.
Every entity that handles or uses personal user data has to abide by the data protection principles set under this act. Here are the seven principles you need to follow:
- Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency: the data should be processed lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent manner, keeping users in mind.
- Purpose limitation: the data should be used only for the purpose agreed upon.
- Data minimization: organizations must store only the necessary data and nothing else.
- Accuracy: the data should be regularly updated to ensure its accuracy.
- Storage limitation: data should be stored properly and for a limited period of time.
- Integrity and confidentiality (security): the data should be processed in a secure manner.
- Accountability: You must comply with the above principles and be held accountable if anything goes wrong.
In addition to the above principles, the UK government has released a voluntary code for app store operators and developers to follow to ensure user data security. Here's what this code involves:
- Developers and app stores must share privacy and security information with the users in an explicit manner. It should include when the app was last updated, the location of the user, and more.
- Developers should allow apps to work even if a customer/user disables a functionality or disagrees with permissions such as a microphone, message access, user location, and more.
- The stores should have a reliable vetting process in place that allows only the most secure apps to be published on their platform. This will force developers to integrate the best security protocols.
- The store should clearly state the reason if they didn't publish an application that a developer submitted for piracy reasons.
- A secure disclosure process should be in place for reporting any security flaws in apps. This will protect the app from being exploited by hackers.
- Developers must keep their mobile apps updated to minimize the number of vulnerabilities.
You can follow the above guidelines to abide by the UK government's policies regarding data privacy. However, to make your application inherently more secure and resilient to attacks, you must follow the security checklist below during development.
Ultimate Security Checklist To Launch a Mobile App in the United Kingdom
1) Make Code Security Your Top Priority
To successfully launch a secure mobile app in the UK, your priority must be code protection. By adhering to coding best practices, you can avoid leaving any gaps or weaknesses in your app, thus preventing hackers from exploiting it and compromising its security.
Here's what you can do to secure your code:
- Follow coding best practices, such as including validations and cryptographic algorithms.
- Use code obfuscation to make the code intentionally hard to read.
- Avoid hard coding credentials.
2) Avoid Shady 3rd Party Libraries and Frameworks if You Can
Libraries and frameworks make the lives of developers easier. By importing a library, developers can add the functionality of their choice without writing any code. This saves time and effort and ensures a speedy app development process.
To maintain a secure and dependable app, avoid untrustworthy libraries, frameworks, or community solutions. These obscure creations often possess bugs and unreliable origins, making them unsuitable for substantial projects. Furthermore, the absence of consistent updates can compromise your application's security.
3) Secure all Communications
It's common for hackers to snoop into the data that is being transmitted over WI-FI or cellular networks. And if the data is not encrypted, they can intercept it and gain access to the system. However, you can avoid this by securing all communications between the app and the server. And to do that, you need to encrypt the data regardless of whether it's traversing or at rest.
Also, try to avoid storing any confidential information on the user's device as much as possible. This way, even if the hacker gets access to the app, they won't be able to access the data.
4) Pentesting and Vulnerability Assessment are a Must
Pen testing and vulnerability assessment are two important security testing procedures that can up your mobile app security game. Here's how:
- Vulnerability assessment: Vulnerability assessment is a vulnerability identification process. It involves the use of an automated tool to scan your application and report vulnerabilities.
- Penetration testing: It's an effective procedure wherein an expert tries to exploit your application like a real hacker. This way, you can uncover vulnerabilities you'd have otherwise missed using other testing procedures.
While the methods are highly effective, they're equally complex. You need to choose the right penetration tester and vulnerability assessment tool to ensure your app is secure and resilient.
But how can you find a reliable pen tester and vulnerability assessment tool? We have created a small guide you can go through to make an informed decision.
How to Choose the Best Pen Tester in the UK
Here are some factors you need to consider when looking for a pen tester in the UK:
- Industry Experience: While general penetration testing experience would suffice, you might want to look for a pen tester who has worked on apps like yours in the past. This way, you won't have to spend much time explaining to them about your application, and they'd know what to look for and how.
- Familiarity with Tools: While a manual expert performs pen testing, it involves using tools such as Wireshark, etc., that help the tester exploit different vulnerabilities. So, look for a pen tester who's used such tools in the past and is familiar with the latest ones.
- Certification: Look for a pen tester who can produce a reputed certification proving they're qualified enough for the job.
- Reviews: You'll find many qualified candidates who can demonstrate experience and skills. However, that never means they're perfect to hire. You must do a background check by talking to previous employers and asking them for a detailed review.
- Pricing: Lastly, consider the pricing. If you're hiring an in-house expert, they'll cost you way more than a freelancer. However, a freelancer may or may not be dedicated to your project. So, consider what you can afford and then make a decision.
How to Choose the Best Vulnerability Assessment (VA) tool in the UK
Here's what you need to look for in a Vulnerability Assessment tool in the UK:
- Primary Features: Your vulnerability assessment solution must have the ability to perform thorough scans (SAST, DAST, etc.) that check for vulnerabilities and policy compliance. Also, it should present a detailed report containing remediation steps.
- False Positives: Make sure to look for a VA tool that is highly accurate and minimizes false positives. Otherwise, your team will end up wasting time.
- User Interface: Ideally, a vulnerability assessment tool should be easy to use. Otherwise, you might have to invest time learning it before running any scans.
- Pricing: Discover the perfect balance of affordability and effectiveness in vulnerability assessment tools. Explore options that suit your budget, and don't hesitate to test the waters with free trials before committing to your ideal solution.
Now that you know how to choose the right vulnerability assessment tool and pen tester, you can finally secure your app and achieve unparalleled security in the UK. However, if you don't have the time to spare, you can reach out to Appsecco.
Discover the prowess of Appsecco's top-tier pen testing specialists in the UK to fortify your mobile and web applications rigorously. Experience unparalleled security assurance through their comprehensive offerings, including automated vulnerability identification and in-depth API security evaluations.
Don't let negligence in mobile app security put your funds, customer information, and precious brand image at risk! Be mindful that the UK government may impose legal and financial penalties for lax security practices.
So, before launching a mobile app in the UK, follow the above security checklist and security guidelines laid out by the UK government. This way, you can avoid any negative consequences and stay ahead of your competitors.