Ultimate Security Checklist to Launch a Mobile App in UAE - iOS & Android

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Launching a mobile application in the UAE? Prepare to navigate through an intricate web of laws and regulations. The Emirates' governmental framework is renowned for its unwavering adherence to data privacy, making it essential that businesses ensure compliance when dealing with customer information online.

The necessity of mobile app security and data privacy compliance cannot be overstated - falling short in either area leaves your users' data vulnerable to attack and can lead to serious legal ramifications. Businesses must prioritize the creation of secure apps that adhere strictly to applicable regulations for maximum protection.

This blog post explores how to construct a secure application that can withstand potential threats while providing users with safety and peace of mind in the UAE. We'll also discuss key considerations for establishing a comprehensive security checklist ensuring optimum app protection.

Consequences of Building and Releasing an Insecure Mobile App

Here's what happens if your app is not as secure as it should be:

1) High Risk of Data Breaches

Creating and publishing an insecure mobile app becomes an easy target for hackers. Let's say your app has poor authentication or stores hard-coded information. In either of the cases, hackers can access your mobile application and thus confidential customer information (name, email, payment info). Such information goes usually sold in the black market, which is then used for illicit means.

2) Reverse Engineering and Loss of Revenue

Poor coding habits create a window of opportunity for hackers to view and exploit the secrets within your source code. They can gain access to confidential business logic and reverse engineer your entire application, thus enabling them to clone it with slight changes that grant users free access to premium features without cost. All of this spells disaster when considering its effect on profits!

3) Negative Impact on Brand Reputation

The potential for data breaches with an insecure mobile app can have disastrous effects on brand reputation, trustworthiness, and, ultimately, profitability. Losing the confidence of existing customers is only part of the challenge; without new users or investors, onboarding your services could make it difficult for a business's long-term success.

4) Risk of Legal and Financial Repercussions

UAE has firm data privacy regulations that businesses must follow to safeguard customer data and stay operational. However, if your app is insecure or makes customer data vulnerable, it implies you're not following the regulations. And this can bring legal and financial repercussions, which can further impact your business reputation.

That's how detrimental it can be for your business if you have an insecure mobile app. However, if your mobile app is secure and completely hack-proof, you can avoid all these consequences. But before that, let's learn about some compliance regulations in the UAE.

Compliance Regulations in UAE on Data Privacy

The United Arab Emirates released its Personal Data Protection Law on 2nd January 2022. This law provides a legal framework that helps ensure the privacy and security of the personal information of the citizens of the UAE.

Under the UAE PDP law, all businesses, data controllers, suppliers, or data processors must demonstrate compliance. While the penalties for compliance are yet to be released, authorities can carry out audits if an organization is found guilty of violating the regulations.

Any business that collects or processes personal data should consider the following:

  • Visibility over personal data: Businesses must clearly declare what personal data they collect.
  • Ensuring processing is fair and legitimate: Businesses must review and update their privacy policies.
  • Upholding individuals' privacy rights: Businesses should allow individuals to access and edit their data whenever possible.
  • Addressing cross-border concerns: Personal data of the users must stay within the borders of the UAE.
  • Use of third parties: Businesses must follow additional security measures before sharing data with any 3rd party.
  • Consent Management: Businesses should collect explicit consent from the users before collecting any data.
  • Breach Notification: Businesses must report any instance of a data breach or violation to the bureau or even the users at times.

Technical Mobile App Security Checklist for Developing iOS and Android Apps

Here are some mobile app development security best practices to help you ensure mobile app security in UAE:

1) Secure your Source Code

The first thing you need to do to ensure mobile app security in UAE is secure your code. Several developers use open-source code for developing mobile apps. However, this makes the apps vulnerable to hackers.

While you can secure your open-source code, it's better to make your app closed-source and take measures to protect the code. For instance, you can refrain from hardcoding any information in the application or use code obfuscation to conceal your code from hackers. This way, you can make your app's source code more resilient and ensure mobile app security in UAE.

2) Ensure Your APIs Aren't Exposed

Most mobile apps use APIs to communicate with the server or send/receive data. However, if hackers gain access to your code, they can use the API keys to access your systems. Therefore, make sure none of your crucial API keys are hardcoded in the mobile app.

As stated earlier, APIs are used to send/receive data. And when the data is traversing, it can be intercepted and stolen by hackers. So, to prevent this from happening, ensure all the data is encrypted, regardless of whether it's at rest or motion.

3) Wipe All the Cached Data

Similar to websites, mobile apps also cache data to enhance the user experience. While this adds to the customer's comfort, it also makes your app vulnerable. Because hackers can access the cached data, decrypt it and then steal confidential user information. So, have an automated process that clears/wipes the cached data after every use.

4) Boost Authentication

Keep your confidential data secure with proper authentication protocols designed to protect mobile apps in UAE. Avoid common hacker access points by implementing strong password requirements from users while ensuring the process remains user-friendly and easy for them – one extra step of security could make all the difference! For added protection, install multifactor authorizations such as OTP or biometric verification systems so that only authorized individuals can access sensitive information.

5) Pen Test your App and Perform Vulnerability Assessments 

Including this pointer in your security checklist could be a game changer in ensuring mobile app security in UAE. Here's why:

  • Penetration testing is a process wherein a security expert acts and interacts with your app just like a real hacker to find any security loopholes. This way, you can test your mobile app for vulnerabilities and fix any loopholes before a real hacker tries to attack your app.
  • Automated vulnerability assessment solutions thoroughly analyze your applications, checking everything from coding to compliance regulations. Receive actionable insights into potential issues via comprehensive reports and ensure that you stay secure and compliant.

When it comes to boosting the strength and security of your business's digital infrastructure, having a reliable penetration tester and vulnerability assessment solution is vital. But with so many options available in UAE, how can you find one that suits all of your needs? Keep reading as we guide you on this important endeavor!

How to Choose the Best Pen Tester in UAE?

Whether you're hiring an in-house pen tester or an outsourced one in UAE, here are some essential factors you need to consider:

  • Relevant Experience: An experienced pen tester, knowledgeable in the specific nuances of your industry, is essential. They should deeply understand attack types and be prepared to identify potential vulnerabilities lurking within your system.
  • Certifications: Look for a pen tester with professional certifications such as CEH or CISSP. Such or similar certifications prove that the pen tester is qualified to perform their job.
  • Tools and Methodologies: Your pen tester must be familiar with the latest tools and methodologies in pen testing.
  • Reputation: Make sure to do a background check on your pen tester. Look for Google reviews or talk to their previous employers to ensure they're reputed and reliable.
  • Cost: Investing in a top-notch pen tester is essential to ensuring secure systems. For the best results, be sure to factor pricing into your decision - at times, it may seem expensive on the surface, but you can rest assured that quality testers are worth every penny!

 How to Choose a Vulnerability Assessment (VA) Solution in UAE?

Here are some critical factors you must consider while choosing a VA solution to ensure mobile app security in UAE:

  • Features and functionality: An ideal VA tool must offer all the necessary features and functionalities for effective vulnerability detection. For instance, it should have the ability to perform static, dynamic, and API scans, among other features.
  • Reporting an Analysis: Your vulnerability assessment solution must also offer a detailed and actionable report at the end of every test. Only then you'll be able to mitigate the issues found.
  • Compliance and Regulations: A reliable VA solution must help you detect and deal with any compliance and regulatory issues.
  • Ease of Use: Ensure your vulnerability assessment solution is easy to use. Otherwise, you may have to spend time training your employees.
  • Cost: With quality and affordability at the forefront of your search, consider multiple vendors when selecting a VA solution. Don't sacrifice reliability for budget-friendly options – pick one that offers an ideal balance between cost and dependability.

For enhanced mobile app security in the UAE, finding a well-informed pen tester and an effective vulnerability assessment solution is paramount. However, if you are unable to do so yourself - we have got your back!


2) CodeGreen Systems

3) Gulf Business Machines

4) Paramount

Wrapping Up

To make sure your app stands out, releasing it in the market faster than competitors is an attractive prospect. But without proper security measures taken into account, such a strategy can be highly damaging to customers and businesses alike - both morally and financially. For that reason, following vital protocols outlined by our mobile app security checklist will help ensure all aspects of mobile safety are met when launching apps in UAE!


Published on Feb 10, 2023
Harshit Agarwal
Written by Harshit Agarwal
Harshit Agarwal is the co-founder and CEO of Appknox, a mobile security suite that helps enterprises automate mobile security. Over the last decade, Harshit has worked with 500+ businesses ranging from top financial institutions to Fortune 100 companies, helping them enhance their security measures.
Beyond the tech world, Harshit loves adventure. When he's not busy making sure the digital realm is safe, he's out trekking and exploring new destinations.


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