How to Deliver a Secure Mobile Application

How to Deliver a Secure Mobile Application

The use of mobile apps has skyrocketed in the past few years. People now use mobile applications for everything, from messaging, calling, ordering food, clothes, and booking tickets to sending and receiving money and whatnot.

While the above may sound convenient, it puts users' personal information, such as credit card details, bank information, address, and location, at risk of being stolen, because of hackers.

However, following a secure mobile application development process can minimize the risk of user data and information being stolen. But how can you do that? Read along.

This guide comes with all the necessary steps you need to take during mobile application development to help you create and deliver a secure application. Not only will it help protect customer data and information, but it will also provide you with a competitive advantage over other players.

The Market for Mobile Applications

1. General Public

According to’s new State of Mobile 2022 report, the average mobile user now spends 4 hours and 48 minutes per day using their phone. This means that the world's 5.3 billion mobile users will spend a combined total of more than 1 billion years using mobile phones in 2022.

2. Businesses

If users spend more time on mobile devices, businesses would have to do that, too, right?’s study further reveals that the world’s smartphone users spent a combined total of USD $170 billion on mobile apps and in-app purchases in 2021. This represents a significant increase from previous years and indicates that mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular and profitable.

It's the reason businesses are opting for mobile applications too. According to Salesforce, 99% of the surveyed I.T. leaders say businesses must be mobile-enabled to sustain. 67% of the companies plan to invest money in enterprise mobile applications in the coming three years.

While becoming more mobile apps specific, businesses will be able to cater to the customers' needs; it'll also help them succeed as a company. How?

Research says that mobile adoption helps boost employee engagement. This is specifically true for Gen Z workers, who comprise about 40% of today's workforce.

Mobile apps also help improve communication as employees can respond and attend meetings on the go. Furthermore, adopting mobile apps helps improve overall customer satisfaction and thus improves sales.

What's the Present State of App Security in Mobile Apps?

A recent survey by Synopsys titled "Peril in a Pandemic: The State of Mobile App Security" found that:

63% of apps included known security vulnerabilities, with an average of 39 vulnerabilities per app. Of those vulnerabilities, 44% were rated "high risk." The report also found that 94% of vulnerabilities had publicly documented fixes, and 73% had been reported two or more years ago.

Security researchers at Appknox also conducted a detailed mobile security assessment report of the top 100 android mobile apps and revealed that more than 75% of the apps contained critical security risks which put sensitive user and business data at risk.

While companies are opting for modern development methodologies such as DevOps and Agile to improve overall development and collaboration among cross-functional teams, they're not paying enough attention to ensuring app security.

And guess what? Hackers know it all—no wonder around 60% of digital frauds occur on mobile devices.

Also, as users are actively moving from the web to mobile applications, hackers are increasingly targeting mobile devices. And if they manage to steal user information, not only will it invade user privacy, but it will also bloat your company's reputation.

Here are some recently discovered mobile app security vulnerabilities and data breaches:

1. Security Flaws in Pre-installed Android Apps

Microsoft 365 Defender Research Team discovered high-severity issues in a mobile framework owned by MCE Systems that is utilized by many significant mobile service providers in pre-installed Android System applications. These issues could expose millions of users to both local and distant assaults.

2. Highest Rate of iOS & Android App Threats Recorded in Australia

Australia's mobile threat percentage has been reported as the highest globally at 26.9%. Further, it was reported that:

  • Mobile scams are a common problem for users of Apple iOS devices, with around 30.1% of all mobile app threats being real threats.
  • 48.75% of mobile attacks were carried out by RiskTool programs specifically designed for that purpose.
  • CISOs in Australia are more likely than those in other parts of the world to anticipate that their organization will experience a material cyber-attack within the next year, with 68% confessing this expectation.

Having a Secure App Gives You Competitive Advantage: How?

Following a secure mobile application development process not only protects your customer's data but also motivates them to trust your company, thus giving you an advantage over your competitors.

For instance, according to Salesforce, 84% of consumers are more loyal to organizations with better security controls. Also, Tableau reported that 48% of the customers have stopped buying from a business due to privacy issues. 

The above statistics show how concerned consumers are about security and how having better security can help retain customers. However, sadly, most companies don't seem to care about this. They are either completely unaware of what security means for an app or don't know how to implement it.

Fortunately, you can take advantage of this by following a secure mobile application development process and ensuring complete security for your users. Want to know how you can ensure high app security? Read along.

How To Deliver a Secure Mobile Application?

Here are five inevitable steps you can take as a senior developer or CTO to ensure secure mobile application development:

1. Collaboration of Security Teams with Product Managers and Owners

One of the biggest mistakes most app development companies make is that they think only the security team is responsible for ensuring app security. However, that's not right. Everyone is responsible for creating a secure application for the customers. So, what should you do?

Make sure that the security teams collaborate with product owners and product managers. Together they can form a plan and analyze the issues right from the beginning of the project and ensure complete security.

However, there's one more thing you can do, and that is: to implement DevSecOps.

What is DevSecOps?

DevOps is a set of practices wherein the teams follow agile methodology to ensure

  • Better Cross-Team collaboration
  • Faster product Release time 
  • Improved Overall Productivity
  • Better Overall Customer Satisfaction

However, the above benefits lead to companies ignoring security issues, leaving a considerable gap. And DevSecOps is here to fill that gap.

DevSecOps is the integration of protection and security testing at all levels of the software development & deployment lifecycle. It stresses that securing an application is a shared responsibility, not an individual one.

Regarding implementation, DevSecOps connects three principles, i.e., development, operations, and security. The motive here is to seamlessly integrate security into the CI/CD pipeline in pre and production environments within an organization.

Implementing DevSecOps means integrating security testing at all phases. You don't have to wait for the entire phase to end (waterfall model) or a sprint to end (agile model) to get started with the testing.

This methodology can help to:

  • Detect security flaws or bugs at the early stages.
  • Fix bugs at early stages, which is convenient, fast, and, most importantly, cost-friendly.
  • Comply with all security protocols and deliver a more resilient application.

2. Encrypt the Data

When the data-in-transit isn't encrypted, it becomes an easy target for hackers. They can access every bit of information without putting in much effort. 

Therefore, encrypt the data at rest or in transit using AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). This will reduce the likelihood of the data being stolen by hackers.

3. Never Store Data on your App and Follow Better Authentication Services

One of the best practices to ensure secure mobile application development is never storing sensitive information such as passwords on the device. However, if it's essential, make sure the data is encrypted.

Also, make sure to integrate better authentication within the app. For instance, set high-security validations for setting the passwords or use 2FA authentication in your app. This way, you can prevent illicit access to your app and thus secure your app.

4. Use App Security Testing Tools to Your Advantage

If your security team and developers manually check the code for vulnerabilities, believe it or not, it's an ineffective and inefficient way. After all, humans are prone to making errors and somewhat lazy, too, right? 

So, to ensure secure mobile app development equip your development teams with software testing tools such as Appknox. Appknox allows you to automate vulnerability assessment of your application and effectively perform penetration testing, which involves:

  • API Testing (APIT)
  • Dynamic Application Testing (DAST)
  • Static Application Testing (SAST)

This will help your development team find and deal with any security flaws or vulnerabilities in your code. And as the tool does the job, your team can save time and invest the same in innovating things.

Apart from offering tools for testing vulnerability, it would help if you also equipped your team with an SCA (Software Composition Analysis) tool. Such tools help detect 3rd party open-source items in your code and check the same for licenses, security compliance, and determine risks & vulnerabilities.

5. Conduct Regular Penetration Testing Sessions

While most companies opt for penetration testing when checking their application for security risks, they don't do it frequently. Testing your application once a year isn't just good enough. Therefore, go for penetration testing sessions every quarter or at least twice annually.

Appknox provides world-class security features such as detailed assessment reports and remediation steps to help you extend your penetration testing with just a click on our dashboard. We assign the top security researchers to break down your app to exploit vulnerabilities and detect threats.

Secure Mobile Application

6. Keep an Eye on Privacy and Security Metrics

Tracking privacy and security metrics is one of the most effective mobile app development security best practices.

Just like your sales team tracks sales metrics, ask the development team lead to track the type and number of bugs after each sprint or release. This will help you determine whether the security bugs are increasing or decreasing.

Additionally, you can measure the escape defect ratio. This is the ratio of bugs detected before production to the number of bugs detected after the app goes into production. Monitoring issues in this way will help to ensure secure mobile application development.

7. Obtain Security Certifications for your Mobile Apps

While in-house developers, app testers, and QAs can validate the fixed issues, you can go for more stringent practices. 

By stringent practices, we mean hiring external testing teams who can test your application from beginning to end and issue you a security certification. This will help you have a second opinion from experts who'll test your app from a fresh perspective.

What Should be Your Immediate Next Step?

While you can follow the above steps to secure mobile application development, you must first identify your application's stage: design, development phase, or already developed. 

  • If it's yet to be designed, you can follow the above steps right from the beginning and use secure coding practices.
  • If your app is under development, start by vigorously testing whatever has been developed and then follow the above steps.
  • If your app is already developed, you can perform penetration by hiring testers or using Appknox's automated VA + PT assessment. Once done, you can fix the issues and send your app for a revaluation. Fix if more issues are reported; otherwise, obtain a security clearance certificate.

Your Immediate Next Step

P.S. You can follow some additional steps to secure your application even further. 

Here are three resources that might help: 

Wrapping Up

As mobile apps become increasingly popular, so do mobile security attacks. Unfortunately, many app development companies prioritize speed to market over security, which can compromise user data and privacy and the company's reputation. Don't be one of those companies. 

Follow the best mobile application development practices mentioned in this guide and deliver secure mobile applications to the users. This way, you can guarantee a secure interface to your users, uphold the company's reputation and thus boost your sales.

Take charge of your mobile app security Get started with Appknox today

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