Top five security holes in mobile apps

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In today’s day and age, the mobile phone has become a quintessential part of everyone’s life, and mobile applications have become a necessary tool for existence. One of the reasons for the popularity of mobile applications is its inherent ease of data access and capability for faster data sharing. While the mobile devices are subject to major security discussions, it is the applications, which are run on these apps that face the wrath. These applications also have some risks and this is the reason why one needs to be careful and employ security measures when using mobile applications.

With the dramatic increase in the number of devices, their technical capabilities, and their use for information-rich transactions attached to back-end enterprise applications, mobile platforms have become an increasingly attractive security target. Here are some of the top security risks, which might be a great threat to the mobile app users:

Data Security
The data sent and received on mobile apps is not completely secured. Companies and users are seeing an increase in security breaches due to scammers and spammers. Research suggests that many apps don’t encrypt information properly. So, if one plans to use a mobile app to conduct sensitive transactions — like filing taxes, shopping with a credit card, or accessing bank accounts, it is advised to use a secure network. That way, even if the app doesn’t encrypt the information, the network does.

Most public Wi-Fi networks are not secured. It is hence a smart choice to disable automatic connectivity to such networks to prevent loss of important data. According to a recent report by G-Data, there are 4,900 new Android malware samples every day, which a 21 per cent increase compared to last year , further is strengthening the fact that Data Security is imperative.

One of the most prominent threat to applications, especially on Android platform, is the presence of malware. Most malicious mobile application developers’ break up malware into pieces to avoid detection, and developers use the names of popular apps to entice users into downloading the malware.

Inconsistent updates and patches to the Android operating system further aggravates the problem. In most of the Android devices, the updates are conducted by the wireless carrier, which makes these devices more susceptible to malware threats. Malicious mobile application developers break up malware into pieces to avoid detection, and developers use the names of popular apps to entice users into downloading the malware.

Untrusted Inputs
Mobile applications become an easy access to cookies and environmental variables due to the absence of encryption. When security decisions on authentication and authorization are made based on the values of these inputs, attackers can bypass the security.

It becomes imperative for apps, which accept data from external sources, to include checks to all inputs used to build the app. All this is complex but not something that doesn’t happen frequently. An easy-to-use app would really only work if it doesn’t put the consumers data at risk.

Unauthorized access
In order to be protected from mobile application vulnerabilities and malware the important aspect is to be aware about access permissions after installing a mobile application. Any app requires user approval before accessing data on a device. The apprehension in opening an email with a strange attachment should be extended to the request received from mobile apps as well.

The contact data can be subjected to greater vulnerabilities and applications’ terms and conditions often hide the truth about personal data access.  The attack methods that cybercriminals use on mobile devices have evolved significantly in recent years. Mobile phone number serves as the ultimate user identity in digital universe. Digital applications whether on web or on mobile; verify mobile numbers of their users to ensure user authenticity. An OTP or One Time Password serves as added layer makes it difficult for unauthorized users to access information, networks or accounts that don’t belong to them. The most important shortcoming that is addressed by OTPs is that in contrast to a single static password, they are not vulnerable to replay attacks. This essentially means it is not possible to re-use to an OTP!

Data leaks from syncing
In applications where users sync data to the cloud, data leaks are the concern. The vendor’s protection mechanisms can’t be controlled, even if the company’s published security policies comply with best practices. In the event of a security breach or a password issue, the services rely on verification through email. A reset link to a webmail account such as Gmail or Hotmail is hardly secure in most enterprise environments, and when they get hacked, the security of the synced data is put at stake.

The recommended ways to tackle this issue is to ensure a different password for every app or service or ensure the app generates an OTP that is shared with the user on the shared mobile number. The one app one password rule must be followed.

In the rare case that someone even thinks about security, consumers always believe that developers would have taken care of it. They think that the app is safe and obviously nothing could possibly go wrong. While the developers and vendors keep in mind all the security measures, as consumers it is only wise to double-check these points. Data security is very essential especially in business and if one doesn’t pay attention to it when using mobile applications, data could be damaged, lost or worst of all fall in the wrong hands. On the other hand preventive security measures are applied before downloading a mobile app, the benefits of the mobile applications can be enjoyed.

(The author of the article Sandeep Ganguly, is the CEO of U2opia Mobiles)

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