Hacking into your mobile apps has become easier now, than it was ever.
Here are some data of it.
First, 31% of the organizations have experienced cyber attacks on operational technology infrastructure.
Second, around 24,000 malicious mobile apps are blockedon a daily basis.
These statistics go to show how vulnerable mobile apps are, and the kind of threats they pose to organizations.
In fact, smartphones are favourites among hackers, and a large population of the hackers society stays within the mobile apps, ready to spread their viruses and make these apps and their users vulnerable. Your data is not as safe as it is supposed to be, as a result of hacking and the threats posed by it.
Despite knowing that hackers are out there, and ready to bring down your application, a lot of businesses don’t take into consideration the basics of security while devising their applications. In fact, businesses ignore the need for security within the application.
Here we will talk about how the hackers enter into your application, and the security best practices that you need to incorporate while developing mobile apps.
Entry Doors for Hackers
Mobile app hacking occurs in various ways, and all of them are fast and quite easy. The hackers don’t need to go through a lot of effort to grab data from your phone or erase the data within your phone. With a lot of automated tools, it has become difficult for the apps in the various industries, specifically the banking industry to keep the hackers at bay.
We will talk about the few techniques that hackers often use to get into your mobile devices.
#1 Code Injection Technique
The hackers can introduce malicious code into your mobile app or hack the app through modification of a certain code. Both these instances affect the binaries in the app, which ultimately threatens the security.
- With this code, the hacker can easily disable the security controls within the mobile app or remove the restrictions with reference to the licenses. In some cases the code is injected as a patch or a crack to the application, which entices users to add them to their mobile app
- Post the injection of the binary malicious code, hackers will publish these apps as modified or new versions of the old app. It could be distributed as a patch to the mobile app as well.
- You can even transfer a rogue application thus compromising the actual application through code injection.
For example, check this SQL injection query. It can directly check the password against the list of user names in the database.
#2 Code Analysis or Reverse Engineering
This is the second way in which the codes can be modified and the mobile apps can be hacked. When a developer devises the app, they also introduce metadata into the application, which is a way to debug the app. In case the developer is not working on the app, the new person taking over will understand how the app works. However, the flip side of working of this technique is that the hackers also understand how the app works. With reverse engineering, the hackers can easily reveal the backend function of the mobile app, and modify the source code. In some cases, the hackers introduce their own codes into the system.
- The reverse engineering allows the hackers to reveal sensitive information of the app, as well as the vulnerabilities, which in turn lead to broad levels of exploitation of the application
- Hackers can easily remove the proprietary intellectual property from within the app, thus devising counterfeit solutions
- You can even see the hackers reusing the source code of the application to create a new application that is identical to the original app. The new app, which is a clone, will be launched under the hacker’s brand identity
#3 Insecure Data Storage
The third way that the hackers introduce themselves into the app is via insecure data storage. Some of the data that is present in your app may not be original. They might be planted by the hackers to make your app or the device vulnerable. This kind of data is stored by the hackers via SQL databases, cookie stores, binary data stores and other methods. How does this data enter? It could be a result of the vulnerabilities found in your operating system, the frameworks or the compiler.
- With the data implanted, the hacker gets access into your device. This ultimately results in jailbreaking of the device, and secure information is passed onto the hackers
- If the mobile app lacks the basic system or processes, then they might face this kind of data issue.
Take this for example.
An application is storing our username and credentials (Jason:pleasedontstoremebro!) in plain text.
You now know how the hacker can enter into your system. Do you know how you can prevent hacking of your mobile app? Here are a few best practices, which if incorporated, can help you win over your users.
Security Best Practices for Mobile App
- You will notice that multifactor authentication is an important part of securing your mobile phone. You should ideally practice having them along the server side for better authorization. The app’s data should be stored along the client side, only when the credentials are validated successfully. Make sure every part of the data is encrypted within the application, and authentication is compulsory for the access. You should ideally create different authentication tokens for the application each time.
- Input validation is another aspect that you need to take care of before launching the application. Remember, hackers look for every single opportunity, and take the one that comes their way. For instance, the image should contain the file extension that is standard, and should also be of the standard size. If the image does not confirm to these standards, then it should not be validated by the mobile app. If this security factor is not taken into account, you might face security issues.
- Threat models are essential to protect the data in your system. Your threat model will detail out how the various operating systems work, and also tell you about the external API transfers and how they occur. It will also talk about the data transfers. When you create an app using the frameworks and building it using the standard APIs, you might be exposed to inefficiencies, and these models will tell you how best to encrypt the data within.
- Testing should not be ignored. If you find even a small bug during testing, make sure to remove it as that will help your app live longer. However, most often we don’t consider having a testing process or procedure in place, which makes us resistant to quite a few testing methods. We should essentially understand what parameters need to be tested, how often they should be tested, and when to test them. we should also define the results we aim to obtain from testing. Thorough testing will ensure that the app is fully secure, and will keep the hackers at bay.
Whether it is a regular transaction or a financial transaction, your data needs to enjoy privacy. That’s precisely why you need to launch a secure app to the store. However, most often, in the haste to follow all the guidelines stated by the app store, we tend to forget the basics, which is to keep the data private and encrypted.
You should ideally have a security guideline for your mobile app development, plan the security and test the objectives to ensure a bug-free, fully tested and secure app. Keep all the hacking doors closed, and make sure your users know how to check for authenticity for your business.
About the Author:
Yuvrajsinh is a Marketing Manager at Space-O Technologies, a firm having expertise in mobile apps development. He has over 90k LinkedIn followers. With the help of these followers, he has helped over 150 job seekers to find their new job in India. He spends most of his time researching the mobile app and startup trends. He is a regular contributor to popular publications like Entrepreneur, Yourstory, and Upwork.
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- Hakin9 is a monthly magazine dedicated to hacking and cybersecurity. In every edition, we try to focus on different approaches to show various techniques - defensive and offensive. This knowledge will help you understand how most popular attacks are performed and how to protect your data from them. Our tutorials, case studies and online courses will prepare you for the upcoming, potential threats in the cyber security world. We collaborate with many individuals and universities and public institutions, but also with companies such as Xento Systems, CATO Networks, EY, CIPHER Intelligence LAB, redBorder, TSG, and others.
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