Over 4 million mobile apps (Android and iOS combined) are available to download. A majority of those apps store and process confidential user information such as contact number, email, age, gender, banking details, etc. No wonder mobile apps are one of the most lucrative and sought-after targets for hackers, and app fraud volumes are expected to double by 2026.
Keeping this in mind, FTC in or Federal Trade Commission in the USA has issued some guidelines for app developers to ensure data privacy and mobile app security. So, if you plan to launch a mobile app in the USA, you must follow those guidelines.
Below, we'll discuss some essential guidelines listed by the FTC and a technical security checklist you can implement to enhance your mobile app security. So, read in full.
Possible Consequences of an Insecure Application
An insecure mobile application invites the following consequences:
Increased Likelihood of Data Breaches
If your mobile application is not secure, it'll become an easy target for hackers. And this increases the likelihood of your app being involved in data breaches. As a result, you might lose confidential business data or customer information, which can be further used for illicit means.
As mentioned in the previous pointer, an insecure app becomes more likely to be involved in data breaches. However, if the news gets public, it can lead to reputational damage. Your customers might lose trust in your brand and switch to alternatives, which can plummet your revenue. And all this can give you a competitive disadvantage.
Legal and Financial Issues
If your business or application is involved in a data breach or similar event, you may have to go through legal proceedings for not complying with the guidelines. Also, you may have to pay hefty fines. This not only takes up your resources but also trains the image of your company.
Loss of Revenue
Apps with poorly secured source code are often easy to reverse engineer. The hackers can break into your app, analyze your code and exploit vulnerabilities. Also, they can bypass security and make your premium features available for free, impacting your revenue substantially.
Data and Privacy Regulations in the USA
Here's what the Financial Trade commission recommends to app developers:
- Developers should get explicit consent from the users before gathering and sharing sensitive information.
- Developers should communicate with ad networks to make disclosures to consumers.
- Developers must participate in industry organizations and trade associations to create short-form disclosure regarding privacy.
FTC has also released some tips specifically for enhancing mobile app security, such as:
- Designate an individual responsible for managing security for the mobile app during the SDLC.
- Collect data only that is necessary.
- Understanding differences between different mobile platforms (security related) and implementing the required changes.
- Conduct due diligence before integrating SDKs, libraries, or other workarounds.
- Encrypting confidential data stored on the user's device.
- Take the necessary security measures, such as designating a dedicated resource for updating and securing software.
- Avoid storing the password in plain text. Use cryptography instead.
- Engage with the users after releasing the app to learn about its vulnerabilities.
Please Note: Different states in the United States have different regulations concerning data and privacy. You can refer to them here.
Security Checklist to Launch a Mobile App (iOS & Android) in the United States
1) Enforce a Robust Authentication
One of the most common methods hackers use to gain unauthorized access is using brute force attacks. However, you can make your application more resilient to such attacks by enforcing a robust authentication such as 2-factor or multifactor authentication.
Using multifactor authentication, the user must use more than one method to validate their identity. For instance, there could be a passcode and an OTP or biometrics. This way, even if the hacker has the password, they cannot access the application as they cannot get the OTP or forge biometrics as easily.
2) Following the DevSecOps Methodology
DevOps is organizations' most common methodology to ensure a speedy software development process. However, this methodology keeps security as an afterthought, making it hard to create completely secure apps.
Therefore, you must opt for DevSecOps, the security-first version of the DevOps methodology. In DevSecOps, security is integrated into every stage of the software development lifecycle. Also, security becomes the entire development team's collective responsibility, not just security testers. This helps identify and mitigate the issues early and helps ensure better app security.
3) Try to Avoid Reverse Engineering
While iOS apps are not immune to reverse engineering, the process is way more complex than Android apps. This is because Android is based on Linux, which is open-source in nature. However, reverse engineering can threaten companies more as hackers can access the source code, bypass security and replicate the code to create new apps.
So, make your app secure enough to avoid reverse engineering. While completely preventing reverse engineering may not be possible, you can always make it complicated by trying the following:
- Code obfuscation: Intentionally making the code hard to understand.
- Binary protection: Encryption of the app's binary code makes reading the code hard.
- Anti-tempering: To detect if the app has been modified.
4) Continuous Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment
Performing regular pen tests and vulnerability assessments is challenging and requires dedicated resources. However, these security procedures can enhance your mobile app security like nothing else. Here's how:
- Vulnerability assessment: Vulnerability assessment is a process wherein a software solution or tool is used to scan your app, including the source code, API, etc., to identify potential loopholes or gaps. This is a fast yet effective method to identify and mitigate any security issues.
- Penetration testing: Penetration testing involves manually exploiting an environment, system, or application just like a real hacker. It helps uncover any hidden vulnerabilities that other automated tests are unable to detect.
While penetration testing and vulnerability assessment solutions are effective, you'll need an industry expert and reliable tool to improve your app's security. And we got you covered.
How to Choose the Right Pen Tester in the US?
Considering the following factors when looking for a pen tester in the US can help you make the right decision:
- Experience is a must: Entrusting your critical project to a seasoned penetration tester with a proven track record in similar endeavors is paramount to achieving optimal outcomes. Anything less could leave you with subpar results.
- Give priority to certifications: Reputed certifications such as Offensive Security Certified Professional are challenging and require theoretical and practical knowledge of pen testing concepts. Therefore, individuals who have these or similar credentials are the ones you can rely on.
- Availability: If you're hiring a freelancer or an outsourced employee, know about their availability. Contractors often work on multiple projects simultaneously, making it hard for them to concentrate on a single project. Hire only if they can dedicate their time to your business.
- Cost: Hire a penetration tester that aligns with your project requirements and your finances.
- Check the Reviews: If you're hiring an experienced penetration tester, you'll find their reviews on public forums or websites like Google. Check their reviews and determine if the clients who took their services were happy.
How to Choose the Right Vulnerability Assessment Solution in the US?
Here are some factors to consider when looking for a vulnerability assessment solution in the US:
- Define Your Requirements: What type of testing do you want your VA solution to do? Application testing or API testing, or both? Whatever requirements you have, you must make sure the vulnerability assessment meets them.
- Minimal False Positives: Accuracy matters a lot regarding vulnerability assessments. So, look for a tool that identifies true vulnerabilities, not false positives. Otherwise, your testers might end up wasting time investigating a false alert.
- Detailed Reporting: Your vulnerability assessment tool should offer a detailed report after every test containing the identified vulnerabilities and remediation steps. This way, you can effectively fix the issues.
- Simple UI & Customer Support: The user interface also matters. If it's simple, you can start conducting assessments as soon as you make the purchase. And if it's too complex, you may have to spend time understanding the tool, which can impact your productivity.
- Pricing: Take your search for a reliable vulnerability assessment tool further with competitive and affordable options available in the US. Consider investing more to gain access to superior quality solutions that guarantee long-term value instead of opting for cheaper alternatives which often don't last!
With the above info at your disposal, you can easily choose the right pen tester and a vulnerability assessment tool to boost your mobile app security. However, if you don't have the time to research, you can rely on the below security experts:
Promatas can help you with both vulnerability assessment scans and penetration testing. You can leverage Promatas to test your networks, mobile apps, and even your web apps and make them more secure and resilient. In addition, using Promatas, you can comply with government regulations and other regulatory requirements to avoid any legal repercussions.
GuardSight is one of the most reliable and comprehensive vulnerability and penetration assessment solutions in the United States. Using GuardSight, you can conduct in-depth vulnerability assessments to identify weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and technical flaws and mitigate the same effectively.
Better mobile app security brings along numerous advantages. For instance, it creates a sense of trust among your customers, keeps their and your business data secure, saves you from reputational damage, prevents legal & financial repercussions, and gives you an edge over your competitors.
And the best part is that you can achieve all of the above just by following the security checklist. So, what are you waiting for? Include the above checklist in your SDLC and start making more resilient mobile applications.