So you have developed an application after months of hard work and endless hours of coding. You are happy and satisfied like a mother who has just given birth to a baby. You are hopeful of monetizing the app as you are sure it will be lapped up by the target group of customers. But have you checked that your app is safe and secure and cannot be hacked by individuals with malicious intentions? The safety and security of an application are today as important as its usefulness for the end customers. Forget millions of downloads and installs in the smartphones of your prospective customers if your application is found wanting in its safety and security features. This article aims to serve as a guide for app makers so that they can be reasonably sure about the safety and security of their apps from hackers.
Why Security Testing is Important
The development of mobile devices and fast-speed internet easily available at cheap prices allows people to carry out their financial, social, and business operations using applications installed in these devices. The comfort and convenience of mobile applications have led to a situation that most businesses today want to get a mobile app to stay in touch with their customers at all times. However, even these companies and their end-users stay away from applications that are not proven to have the highest levels of safety and security ratings. Consumers use these mobile applications at 3G or 4G speed, making them a virtual feast for hackers. All your data becomes available to the hackers and your privacy gets breached if the app is not safe and secure. These are the reasons why security testing becomes so important for app developers.
What is Meant by Application Security?
Application security is an umbrella term that refers to all the processes and tools that are deployed to ascertain the safety and security of the application. Most of these processes are used by the developers of the app during the development stages of the application. The app maker identifies safety bugs and fixes them during the development stages to enhance the safety and security of the apps. However, as hackers are always on a prowl -, many tools and techniques are used after the development of the application to enhance its security. Hackers attack apps by changing coding and so app developers carry out coding locking to prevent such attacks. There are also available web application security testing tools that can help in evaluating the integrity of encryption used in an application. A foolproof check of the application security is important because nearly 83% of the apps have been found to have one or more security flaws.
Evaluating the Safety and Security of Your Application
Now that you know that the success of your app is dependent upon its perceived safety and security in the eyes of your end-users, it becomes important to get the app checked and tested from the eyes of the experts. There are many ways to check the security levels of your application but all these tools and techniques can be divided into two main categories.
Pen Testing is a term that has become very popular among companies using mobile applications to stay in touch with their customers. A pen is a short form of penetration here, and pen testing gives a certain level of confidence to businesses that their apps are free from common security vulnerabilities. Pen testing is also referred to as ethical hacking as a web or mobile application faces cyberattacks aimed at identifying its security vulnerabilities. For checking the security risks present in your web or mobile application, you need pen testers having the right set of qualifications and industry experience to carry out pen testing in the most satisfactory way. The following is the list of stages in pen testing that require careful planning and execution for a successful endeavor.
Planning and preparation– It is during this stage that the client and the pentester must align their goals to ensure proper and effective testing of the application.
Discovery phase– You can consider this phase as reiki of the target where the pentester tries to gain information about the target. This information can include IP addresses, firewall details, and knowledge of other connections and networks.
Attempt to infiltrate– Packed with the relevant information about the target, the pentester attempts to infiltrate the environment. He tries to check out the security vulnerabilities in an attempt to demonstrate how deep he can go inside the environment.
Reporting the testing results– This is a very important phase of the pen testing exercise. Here the pentester creates an honest report that contains detailed information about his ethical hacking as well as any security flaws that were identified during the process. The report also contains recommendations of the tester to bolster the security of the application.
The clean-up process– It is not that the pentester can leave behind any traces of his ethical hacking. He needs to conduct a clean-up drive before leaving the app as these artifacts can be traced and used by a real hacker in the future.
Retesting– Ethical hacking is repeated once the recommendations of the pentester have been followed and remedial steps are taken to get rid of security flaws present in the application.
Penetration testing is not a one-time tool or technique to identify and remove security vulnerabilities inside a web or mobile application. It should be performed regularly on the application as new threats are constantly evolving on the web.
Tools Meant for Security Testing
Tools for checking the security of applications are made by tech giants like IBM, MicroFocus, and CA Technologies. These testing tools are available in the market and also made available as subscription services by the vendor. They can be used to evaluate the safety and security levels of your mobile application. These tools are high quality as their makers are the market leaders and certified by the industry as manufacturers of top-notch security tools. Gartner, the research and advisory global leader in the field of IT divides these security testing tools into the following categories depending upon how they are used for the testing of mobile applications.
- Static testing
- Dynamic testing
- Mobile testing
- Interactive testing
Products That Shield Applications
You can enhance the safety and security of your mobile application not just by running testing tools but also through the use of products that are meant for shielding them. These tools harden applications so that hackers find it difficult to impregnate their security shield. While this is a lesser-known way of enhancing the security of mobile applications, it is nonetheless gaining popularity in recent times. The important thing to remember with these tools is that they are more for providing a protective shield than to test the vulnerabilities of mobile applications. Shielding tools are divided into several categories that are as follows.
Runtime application self-protection– RASP tools are designed to protect a mobile application by making it difficult for the attacker to run reverse engineering. It can end the process initiated by the hacker or send an alert to the maker whenever it takes place.
Code obfuscation tools– As the name implies, these shielding tools use the same tactics used by many hackers through their malware. They obfuscate the code to make it difficult for the attacker to understand the code.
Threat perception detection- These testing and shielding tools are designed to assess potential threats in the environment or the network in which the mobile application is running. Some of these tools can send alerts to the owner of the device if it has been compromised or attempted for rooting.
Free Mobile App Security Testing Online
Realizing the needs of the developers of mobile applications, many security testing websites have mushroomed on the web these days. These websites offer free testing of mobile applications to check their security vulnerabilities. Any mobile app developer can check his app for the safety and security of the app by uploading the app on any of these websites. However, much like the free antivirus available on the web, these free mobile app security testing websites are not of much use for the developers. However, they also have paid services that are much more useful and reveal vulnerabilities in the security of a mobile application.
Steps You Can Take to Make Your App Safer and More Secure
If you are the developer of a mobile application, you need to prove in front of your target group of customers that your app is not only beautiful and functional but also absolutely safe and secure. Here are 5 important ways to enhance the safety and security of your mobile application.
Keep Code Libraries Updated
As a developer, you make use of dozens of libraries on various platforms such as iOS and Android to develop your application. If you are desirous of achieving the goal of a hack-proof app, you need to update your code libraries all the time. You take advantage of these open source libraries for the development of your application, but the same libraries become vulnerable to attacks from hackers if you do not keep on updating them. Your job is made easier by these platforms as they keep releasing security patches to fix vulnerabilities. Don’t invite trouble for your application by keeping code libraries outdated. Keep an eye on the updates as and when they are released by various platforms.
Make App Safer Through Use of Biometric Login
Hackers are always on the lookout for mobile applications that they can gain access to with the help of passcodes for authentication. If you use a biometric login for authentication, hackers would stay away from your application. It could be face recognition or fingerprint but you can be reasonably sure of the safety and security of the data of your end-users from the prying eyes of the hackers.
Let Security Professionals Review Security of Your App
If you are the developer of the app, it is difficult for you to identify security vulnerabilities in the app over time as your focus remains on the technical functionalities of the application. Let professional security experts take a closer look at the codes from time to time to identify and fix the vulnerabilities if any inside the application. Authorization and authentication are two aspects of code security that are mostly taken advantage of by hackers. Security experts are professionals with qualifications and training to identify the flaws in these two aspects of the codes of any application. One of the best ways of making your mobile application hack-proof is to get it reviewed by security experts periodically.
Send Notifications to End Users Whenever You Sense Suspicious Activity
Have you seen how tech giants like Google send notifications to its users whenever it notices any suspicious activities in their accounts? It may seem like an innocuous activity on the part of this behemoth of a company but it sends a clear signal to the end-user that the company is concerned about the safety and security of their accounts. When your customer receives a notification from you asking him to verify if the suspicious activity was carried out by him, it reassures him and makes him feel confident about the safety and security of your mobile application.
Web and mobile application security testing is a crucial part of their development and deployment journey. Leaving apart applications related to entertainment, the safety and security of the data of the end-user is the responsibility of the maker of the app and the business that intends to use it. No business worth its weight in salt will take a chance of introducing a mobile application that contains security flaws as it directly affects the reputation of the business. There are many different ways of checking whether the app is safe and secure against hacking. However, these testing methods cannot guarantee the safety of the app forever. This is why businesses must take help from security experts frequently to enhance the safety and security of their applications.