The number of vulnerabilities in mobile applications is increasing. When IT departments and users work together, security increases.
Mobile devices are the subject of much discussion about security. Often, however, it is the mobile applications that serve as attack vectors.
Poor data-storage practices, malware, and lack of encryption all add to the vulnerability of mobile applications. It is therefore important that users understand the best practices for downloading and granting permissions to apps. In addition, the IT department should ensure that users have anti-virus programs on their devices.
Bad data storage practices
One of the major causes of vulnerabilities in mobile applications is that inexperienced app developers choose insecure data storage practices. Databases such as SQLite facilitate the compact storage of data on a local device. However, app developers can store such data in the form of unencrypted text or in readable XML format. This makes it easy to gain access to the data of your application.
It does not take much to access data stored on an insecure smartphone with a poorly written app: you just have to extract the file that belongs to the application – and then start matching queries. This procedure gives you everything you want to know about the data stored in the application. This is especially tricky if the database connects to a backend system. Because of these vulnerabilities in mobile applications, sensitive data should always be encrypted at the device level. The same applies to external connections.
The weaknesses of mobile Android applications have become a problem. This is partly due to the open format of Google Play. In addition, users like to source apps from unofficial sources (sideloading), thereby undermining any app security controls. In response to malware, Google has deployed Google Bouncer. Even so, Google Play is still not fully protected from malicious software. Mobile malware developers break it up into pieces to make it difficult to detect. In addition, they use the names of popular applications to trick users into downloading their malicious software.
Some anti-virus applications can protect against the vulnerabilities of mobile applications are available for free or as paid versions. You should tell your staff to use at least some kind of anti-virus on their Android devices. Unfortunately, Android antimalware applications do not receive the same extensive system access as Windows. The sandbox in which they operate allows only relatively superficial protection against malicious software.
The best thing you can do to protect against vulnerabilities in Android mobile applications and malware is to train users to set the correct access permissions after installing a mobile application. Each application requires user consent before it can access other data or applications on the Android device. One can train users in not simply opening some weird attachment to an email. Likewise, they should exercise caution when requesting apps to access data that they do not actually need.
However, the vulnerabilities of mobile applications are not only found in Android apps. For example, some app developers develop an application called Path, which offered a new way to communicate with friends, was widely praised for its fantastic user interface. Later, however, when the network activity of this app was recorded, it was discovered that it was loading all the contact lists onto its servers. Path had to apologize for the unauthorized storage of his users’ personal information.
Even applications that do not support encryption can cause problems. For example, LinkedIn’s mobile app transferred local calendar data to LinkedIn servers when the site provided a new calendar integration feature. All of this data was transmitted as unencrypted text over the network and the Internet so that virtually anyone could have read it. There was a similar incident in connection with the contact data in the mobile LinkedIn application.
It is hoped that future mobile app developers will use frameworks to encrypt their users’ data.
Data leakage during synchronization
For applications where users sync data to a cloud, data leakage is usually the biggest problem. For example, Dropbox fell victim to password theft, leaving a large number of user accounts open to a hacker. Fortunately, the consequences, in this case, were limited to some users receiving spam. Other applications, however, take advantage of the Dropbox APIs to synchronize data between devices and even services. A user could expose their data to a security issue in Dropbox without even noticing.
They do not affect a provider’s protection measures, even if their security policies are officially in line with applicable best practices. In the case of security incidents or password problems, these services often rely on verification by e-mail. However, a reset link to a webmail account such as Gmail or Hotmail is not considered sufficiently secure in most corporate environments: if access to such a mail service is breached, the security of the synchronized data is no longer guaranteed.
Therefore, make sure that users do not use the same password for each app or service. Make sure you follow the one-pass-per-page rule to minimize the vulnerability of mobile applications and, if possible, advise users not to store sensitive data in cloud services. Instead, provide a system that is suitable for business deployment and allows local intervention.
These are some of the vulnerabilities that app developers from app development companies must consider during the development of an app. The security of an app will generate trust with users and this can determine the success or failure of such an app.