Mobile application security features

What Are the Main Mobile Application Security Features?

Protect your mobile apps with strong data security features! Mobile application security features are crucial for organizations since a minor flaw in a web or mobile app can lead to disasters in data protection and security. Mobile application security features include a wide variety of protection algorithms and security programs which aim to hinder cybersecurity attacks at all levels.

Mobile application security has different requirements, and there are critical features needed for mobile app development. We will explain all these mobile application security features in the following sections. Read this article if you want to find answers to these questions:

  • What is a mobile application attack?
  • What are the common security issues for mobile applications?
  • What are the security techniques for mobile app development?
  • What types of cyber threats can impact mobile apps in your organization?
  • What are the most important cybersecurity regulations for mobile app security?
  • How can a mobile app security test help your cybersecurity?

There are 2 main compliance requirements for mobile applications that focus on improving data security and protection for mobile apps in small and large organizations. Two different organizations introduce OWASP and HIPAA to define some necessary rules that emphasize users’ data protection and privacy.

OWASP Compliance

OWASP compliance is of high priority for organizations that seek to improve their mobile application security features and offer their customers a unique web or mobile application. OWASP is an open community dedicated to providing a trustworthy framework for companies to develop powerful and high-quality applications.

Organizations can implement the 10 rules defined by OWASP and tell their clients that provided applications are free from any security flaw and vulnerability. If your organization is able to pass the OWASP compliance, it demonstrates that web and mobile apps are tested and proven by different security audits and analyses.

OWASP consists of 10 main requirements every web application should be protected against them:

  • Injection
  • Broken authentication
  • Sensitive data exposure
  • XML external entities
  • Broken access control
  • Security misconfiguration
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Insecure deserialization
  • Using components with known vulnerabilities
  • Insufficient logging and monitoring

Financial services, banking, commerce, healthcare, and public services are some of the main sectors that need OWASP compliance. However, all companies that want to offer digital services through web and mobile applications should take the necessary steps and integrate OWASP requirements into their organization.

HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA focuses on health organizations that care about their users’ and employees’ data security. The healthcare industry is one of the main targets of hackers and cybercriminals, which makes it important to have a high level of privacy, security, and integrity of health data and information.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets some standards for sensitive patient data and private information. This type of information must be protected and maintained by health organizations. Common examples of protected health information that mobile applications collect and store include the following list:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Social security numbers
  • Medical records
  • Financial information
  • Patient photos and digital signatures

Note that HIPAA violations can put your business and organization at high risk since there are remarkable fines and penalties for companies that ignore this regulatory law. A data breach or successful cyber attack can cost your organization thousands of dollars and cause significant reputational damage in large-scale data breaches.

To integrate the rules of HIPAA into your organization, there are some considerations that ensure you are protected against the negative impacts of cyber threats:

  • Self audits performed regularly
  • Policies and procedures
  • Employee training
  • Remediation plans
  • Documentation
  • Incident response planning

For providing comprehensive mobile application security features, you need to make sure all the HIPAA requirements are implemented in your organization. This will include data encryption and protection, policy development, incident response planning, employee training, and all programs that make your cybersecurity strategy a robust one.

The Importance of Secure Coding in Mobile Applications

Secure coding is an essential requirement for developing mobile applications. The written source code for mobile apps is the most vulnerable part that hackers can easily exploit. Secure coding is one of the unique mobile application security features that ensure there is no flaw or vulnerability in an application.

  • To ensure your web or mobile application is secure and protected against cyber threats, you need to work with a certified application development team. More importantly, your cybersecurity team is responsible for performing timely audits and analyses to detect vulnerabilities at the right time and report them to corresponding sectors in your IT team.

Mobile DevSecOps is the right solution for improving mobile application security features in your organization. It emphasizes data security and protection and focuses on injecting security into the CI/CD pipelines. DevSecOps guarantees that almost all issues are detected and solved at the early stages of the application development process through the following steps:

  • Integrate security into the software development process
  • Test early, often, and fast
  • Make security a natural part of the application development cycle
  • Automate tasks and leverage the latest technology tools

1.   Using SSL Certificates via HTTPS

SSL certificates have become a vital part of web applications and mobile software tools nowadays. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it’s a standard for keeping the transferring of data secure and safeguarded. If a packet of data is transmitted between 2 systems or networks, SSL comes into play to secure the process and prevent malicious actors who endeavor to access the data and steal sensitive information.

Making use of SSL certificates is one of the critical points to improving mobile application security features and guaranteeing compliance with the required regulatory rules.

In order to achieve the following advantages, websites and mobile applications do need SSL certificates:

  • Encryption: SSL is implemented to encrypt the transmitted information between a user and a server. SSL/TLS encryption is a highly reliable methodology since it makes the data private and protected.
  • Authentication: SSL certificates verify that a web browser or an application is connecting to the correct server, helping prevent related cyber threats such as domain spoofing.

2.   Validating the Content of Certificates

There is a basic certificate process for web applications and browsers. Regardless of any request, browsers must always verify and validate the content of a certificate to ensure there is no flaw or invalid signature when transmitting the content and information.

SSL/TLS is everywhere, and mobile application developers should take the validation process into consideration too. If there is no reliable practice for SSL certification, phishing and pharming attacks are inevitable. SSL certificate validation ensures your web or mobile application is using an authentic certificate and all information and data are valid according to a crypto key.

Remember that implementing validation processes doesn’t take much time from developers, and there are numerous approaches that can make your web and mobile application secure in this case.

3.   Hardcoding Resources of a Mobile App

Hardcoding refers to storing information or users’ data in the source code of an application, which requires a deep understanding of the hardcoding process. Mobile applications are viewed as trustworthy and secure tools. But using insecure data encryption and information storage can put an application at risk of data exposure.

  • Hardcoding is a popular way of keeping data and users’ credentials inside the source code of an application, but it is a popular way of creating a backdoor. As a result, application developers must not include insecure programming practices.

Hard-coded sensitive data in a mobile application can always be used to harm your business, and it can contribute to large data leakage. Even though it is a complex and tough process to extract the coded information and credentials from a hard-coded application, hackers can do this. They use some techniques that allow them to decompile an application and extract the information from a compiled source code.

4.   SHA-2, RC4, and DES Cryptography

Implementing the latest cryptography algorithms is one of the essential mobile application security features. There is a need to include secure cryptographic algorithms and keys in a mobile application, and here is the time selecting the right algorithm and methodology becomes important for application development.

  • It goes without saying that information and sensitive data must be protected against unauthorized access, and cryptographic algorithms offer this feature for mobile applications.

There is a wide range of cryptography standards that aim to improve your mobile application security features and guarantee your data will not be accessed by malicious actors:

  • RSA
  • DSA
  • AES
  • RC4
  • ECC
  • SHA
  • DES

Some cryptography standards are not reliable anymore as they can cause data security vulnerabilities. DES is one of these outdated algorithms because hackers and bad actors have access to advanced tools and computing power and outdated procedures can easily be broken through these tools.

5.   iOS and Android Application Development

iOS is a proprietary mobile operating system that emphasizes functionality, security, and speedy computing for mobile devices. It is supported and maintained by Apple and covers a broad range of mobile devices worldwide. iOS has become a popular OS in recent years, and it needs no introduction. Apple is responsible for securing this operating system and providing necessary updates and patches if needed.

  • Android has emerged in recent years as the market leader, and it is the first in the table when it comes to mobile operating systems market share.

Studies show that mobile malware tools mostly target the Android operating system, and there are fewer attacks on the iOS platform. It is important to check mobile application security features for both platforms since they are taking over the world, and cybercriminals are more likely to target these operating systems in the future.  

What is High-level Authentication?

High-level or strong-level authentication refers to an essential procedure by which software developers include a practical and trustworthy level of assurance within their application. It is based on proving authentication through reliable cryptographic protocols provided by authorities and regulatory organizations.

  • Strong authentication is one of the required mobile application security features, and it is a confirmation process for users’ identity. High-level authentication puts security first, along with creating a simple and ready-to-use registration process. Using this approach, users feel free to register an account in your application, and it ensures all strong authentication factors are included in registering and accessing your application’s features.

Authentication has different levels, and it is up to you to choose from 4 authentication levels for your applications.

  • Level 1: A simple username and password to access the platform.
  • Level 2: A single-factor authentication process and identity-proofing procedure.
  • Level 3: A multi-factor authentication process matched with the latest authentication practices.
  • Level 4: A combination of the previous methodologies enhanced with robust cryptographic algorithms

Achieving a high-level authentication process requires some steps, and you need to take some considerations into account to offer a unique and best-in-class feature in your application. High-level authentication is one of the necessary mobile application security features that consists of the following 4 factors:

1.   Simple Registration Process

Always make it simple if you want to embed the best mobile application security features in your application. Note that simple registration is a necessity for creating a user-friendly interface, which helps users easily and fastly create an account in your application.

When users want to become a member of your application, it is essential to only offer them a simple form, and they will read additional information in the next steps. There are incredibly many benefits to using easy and simple registration forms if you want to offer the best user experience to your clients. It saves time and tells you are a professional service provider compared to others.

2.   External or Social Login

External or social logins allow users to authenticate in a website or mobile application without the need to create a new account or username. It is a unique feature for mobile applications nowadays, and users don’t need to remember a password or username for the next time through this process.

  • Social logins must be securely implemented in mobile applications to deliver safety and security along with simplifying the process of entering accounts. Social logins focus on simplifying the user experience and improving overall satisfaction, and they can benefit organizations by offering simple-to-use services and highly secure login methodologies.

Along with providing secure login methodologies, external and social logins offer the following advantages to users:

  • Mobile-friendly application interface
  • Improved user experience
  • Reduced time wasted on logins

3.   Facilitating Resetting

Users can change account passwords easily through a straightforward method provided by your application. But changing a password is completely different from resetting a password, and you may need to design a secure and step-by-step process for this. Typically, users who have forgotten their accounts’ passwords launch the password-resetting procedure, and you should take secure resetting options in this case to prevent malicious activities.

  • Modern password-resetting systems benefit from multi-factor authentication features, combined with CAPTCHA, PINs, and even email authentication, to offer the best user experience. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an authentication method that requires 2 or more verification steps to provide access to an account or resources. MFA is a reliable methodology these days implemented in almost all applications and web platforms to offer secure logins or account resets.

Users can only access their account options and features if they can perform 2 or more steps. Even though using these practices can improve your application or platform security, you need to make it simple and straightforward. Users like to have easy and fast services combined with high levels of security.

4.   Keeping Users Logged In

When users create an account on your platform and sign in with their usernames and passwords, it is a common practice to keep them logged in. Keeping users logged in can be a great feature for your website or application, but it needs great attention to detail to make it a risk-free mobile application feature.

  • Note that you will need to implement re-authenticate practices if you want to provide better security levels in your application. OWASP and NIST recommend using limited-time logins, if applicable, to prevent a wide range of data security issues and cyber threats.

From a higher viewpoint, balancing data security and keeping user experience at a good level are key to achieving high customer satisfaction and customer retention rate. A seamless login feature in your application can encourage more users to spend time using your application.

Normally, users like long-lived sessions after they log in to your application. Remember that long-lived sessions may cause security threats, and they should be implemented through reliable security practices.

Reliable Data Storage

Stored data is a critical component of a mobile application, and it is considered one of the important mobile application security features. A mobile application can store data and files through different methods, and it is up to application developers to decide on which of these techniques are the best fit for their software product.

  • A reliable data storage technique must guarantee all files and data stored offline or online are secure and protected against cyber threats, and the authorized user can easily retrieve the data when needed.

Below is a list of options application developers can implement for data storage:

Storing data locally or sending it to a remote server is not enough since the malicious actors may access the data or files and make a copy of them in a matter of time. In most cases, users’ sensitive data must be stored on permanent local storage. For example, their credentials or files that are being used may be stored locally. One of the main mobile application security features is to prevent issues related to personally identifiable information and other types of sensitive data.

Reliable data storage refers to implementing data encryption and protection methodologies, especially when your data is stored on a remote server. When such types of data are exposed and hackers can access them, problems arise. Sensitive data is inherently vulnerable when it is not protected by the application that is persistently storing it. A mobile or web application can store data in several places through different methods. For example, the data can be stored on the device storage or on an external SD card.

  • When this occurs, malicious actors can easily make a copy of data files and decode them if application developers have not implemented secure practices to protect personally identifiable information or data.

Data Encryption

Mobile data security is dependent on data encryption, and it’s one of the essential requirements to secure and protect users’ data who are using mobile and web applications. From simple hashing to using a combination of cryptographic algorithms, there is a wide range of data encryption methodologies and procedures used by software developers.

Many cybersecurity experts predict mobile platforms will be one of the main targets for malicious cyber actors. According to reports, the Android platform is more likely to be targeted by cyber attacks compared to the iOS platform. However, cybercriminals are always designing new techniques to target both platforms.

  • Therefore, adding reliable encryption algorithms is vital for ensuring the data security and protection of your web or mobile application. The list below shows some of the mobile application security features for secure data encryption:

1.   Symmetric Encryption

The symmetric encryption methodology has been introduced by the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and is based on using only one secret key to encipher and decipher the information. Both the sender and receiver of a message must have a secret key that is used to convert a message to a ciphertext and extract the information from the encrypted message in the future.

Following the symmetric encryption procedure, applications can communicate without any fear of interception. There is a secret key, and both the sender and receiver have it, which ensures no intermediary actor has access to the information transmitted between the two points.

Symmetric cryptography is commonly used for the following:

  • Banking
  • Financial services
  • Ecommerce
  • Healthcare

2.   Asymmetric Encryption

Unlike normal encryption (symmetric), asymmetric encryption encrypts and decrypts the data using 2 different keys known as a public key and a private key. Together with 2 types of encryption keys, this encryption process is implemented to provide a simple but secure mechanism of data storage and protection.

Within asymmetric encryption, the process of encryption occurs with the private key, and the decryption process is associated with the private key. The recipient of the data will provide the sender with the public key to be used for data encryption. After encrypting the sensitive data, the recipients can decrypt the data because they have their own private keys.

There is a wide range of use cases for asymmetric data encryption methods, and it is used for websites and signing software tools. Note that asymmetric encryption is an essential part of internet security, and there will be an easy and simple way for hackers to steal sensitive data without asymmetric encryption.

Mobile application security features are done with asymmetric encryption algorithms, and application developers can make use of these practices for the following:

  • Website security
  • Email encryption
  • Digital signatures, such as documents and software tools
  • Blockchain tools

3.   Hashing

Hashing refers to the process of transforming any given data or string of characters to another form. Hashing is usually used to ensure that a piece of data hasn’t been altered or modified. Hashing uses an algorithm to map data to a fixed length, and the output value is called a hashed data.

There are a wide variety of hashing algorithms, including SHA-256. SHA-256 means that the algorithm will produce a hash value that is 256 bits. Hashing is commonly used in mobile and web applications, and it is one of the best mobile application security features. Hashing allows you to verify the integrity of a file after it has been stored or transferred, and the ability to compare two files is one of the main benefits of using this methodology.

Different types of hashing include the following list:

  • MD5
  • SHA-2
  • CRC32

A hash function is used to generate new values according to a mathematical method. This function is a necessary part of creating reliable values, which are used broadly in cryptography, cybersecurity, digital signatures, data transfers, and data retrievals.

4.   Digital Signature

A digital signature is a mathematical tool for verifying the authenticity of digital messages transmitted between 2 points. A verified and reliable digital signature gives the recipient very high confidence that the message was created and sent by an authorized sender and everything is OK. Digital signatures are a necessary requirement of modern cryptographic protocols, and financial transactions are in need of these unique capabilities.

Keep in mind that digital signatures employ asymmetric cryptography. Accordingly, these mobile application security features are based on trustworthy concepts, and they provide secure levels of validation and verification when a web or mobile application transfers data and information.

There is a broad range of use cases for digital signatures, and they are broadly used for mobile applications and web technologies. Different types of digital signatures include Simple Electronic Signatures (SES), Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES), and Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES). It is up to you to choose from different types of digital signatures, and there are many choices available for this.

These mobile application security features offer the following benefits to application developers and users:

5.   End-to-End Encryption

If implemented thoroughly, end-to-end encryption is one of the best mobile application security features developers can include in their apps. End-to-end encryption allows users to send data to only one recipient and receive the data from it. Using this approach, the only people who can access the transferred data are the sender and recipient.

  • Note that hackers or any third-party actors cannot access the encrypted data on the server, and the end-to-end encryption process occurs on the users’ devices. End-to-end encryption is crucial in some cases when privacy is of the utmost concern and application developers want to secure the transfer of messages thoroughly. Financial data and medical data are more likely to be targeted by malicious actors, and true end-to-end encryption can be a great solution to secure these types of sensitive data.

E2EE is not the only solution for mobile or web applications, and there may be other alternatives if developers want the secure transfer of messages and files. In other words, there may be better solutions through simpler practices.

If E2EE is implemented in an application, no one except the sender and receiver can read the messages and access them.

6.   Elliptic-curve Cryptography

Mobile technology is growing and flourishing rapidly, and authorities always provide new data protection practices. Elliptic-curve cryptography is one of those mobile application security features aiming at not giving access to bad actors who want to perform malicious activities. ECC is a key-based technique to encrypt data and files by focusing on pairs of public keys and private keys. This approach guarantees trustworthy encryption and decryption of transmitted data, and web or mobile applications can implement this feature to deliver the best data security and protection.

In short, ECC is an alternative technique to RSA, and it is considered an exclusive cryptographic algorithm. Elliptic-curve cryptography has grown greatly in popularity, and its powerful mobile application security features have made it a priority choice for application developers. ECC has a range of mobile application security features, including smaller encrypted texts, reliable keys and signatures, and faster signature generation compared to other encryption methodologies.

The main disadvantage of ECC compared to RSA is that it takes more effort to be deployed and implemented to provide highly secure encryption.

Secure Communication

Secure communication is one of the vital mobile application security features, and mobile app developers must take it into consideration when building mobile applications for small and large companies. Secure communication is when an application and server are communicating and transferring data, and the process should be protected against any cyber threat, such as interception.

In this case, controlling and managing third parties become crucial since malicious third-party actors can enter between and listen to transferring data without being detected. It would be better to say that many communication procedures are not safe and protected against such activities. But, app developers should use the most reliable and trustworthy communication protocols to ensure there will be fewer impacts of malicious activity when 2 points are communicating with each other.

Implementing secure communication as one of the mobile application security features offers:

  • Privacy for transmitting information
  • Integrity in ensuring the information has been transferred thoroughly
  • Authentication to make sure all users are authorized

Different protocols and network rules are used to integrate security communication into a web or mobile application. Here are the most popular and dependable protocols:

  • SSL and TLS
  • IPSec and VPNs
  • SNMPv3
  • OSPF authentication

An effective and successful business relies on secure and efficient communication. In today’s computer network world, establishing secure communication for mobile apps is more important than any other feature. Using the above-mentioned protocols ensures that your organization has been vaccinated against a wide range of cyber threats and data security attacks, and there is no concern with transferring encrypted sensitive data through your web or mobile application.

How Nordic Defender Helps Your Organisation Grow and Develop

If you have read the previous sections, you have probably got a good insight into what mobile application security features are important and how you can achieve these features in your web or mobile applications. Nordic Defender is teamed up with cybersecurity professionals and certified application testers who endeavor to improve your cybersecurity through trustworthy concepts.

We offer the following security services related to mobile application security provided with managed cybersecurity plans:

  • Privacy policy development
  • Vulnerability scanning and analysis
  • Client-side mobile application testing
  • Server-side mobile application testing
  • Cybersecurity program development and implementation

Final Words

Mobile application security features consist of a long list, and application developers need to have a holistic view of the important features to build flawless applications for mobile devices. Web and mobile applications are the main targets of cybercriminals, according to recent statistics. Therefore, cybersecurity teams should help IT teams detect related vulnerabilities and fix them at the right time. If not, a small flaw in a web or mobile application can cause numerous problems in an organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main security issues for mobile apps?

  • Mobile application development may be impacted by different application flaws. However, some of these security issues are more challenging than others.
    • Weak or no data encryption
    • Insufficient use of cryptography
    • Insecure user authentication
    • Poor server-side security
    • Hardcoding information
    • Ineffective session handling

What are the most important security features for mobile applications?

  • There are many data security and protection features for mobile applications introduced by regulatory laws and compliances. Different types of application security features consist of authentication, authorization, logging, encryption, access control, and sensitive data protection.

Why do hackers and cybercriminals target mobile apps?

  • Several reasons persuade hackers and cybercriminals to target mobile applications and spend time finding and exploiting mobile app vulnerabilities. The most common reasons include but are not limited to the following:
    • Stealing users’ sensitive data, credentials, and passwords
    • Obtaining company data
    • Cause reputational damage to a company
    • Delivering and running malware

What are the security techniques for developing secure applications?

  • Choosing only reliable third-party components
  • Testing the source code regularly
  • Hiring professional cybersecurity experts
  • Encrypting sensitive data and information
  • Using secure communication protocols
  • Implementing only authorized APIs
  • Managing sessions in a proper way

How can insecure communication cause data security issues?

  • Secure communication is one of the complementary mobile application security features. Not having secure communication within a web or mobile application can lead to an interception, data theft, and fraud.

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