Mobile Device and Application Data Security Introduction

Category
Digital
Author
Ankur Gupta

Mobile devices have become the primary medium for accessing content & services now-a-days. Organizations across the globe are developing mobile applications for new customers and for their employees to increase productivity by making enterprise applications.

As per Gartner, by 2017 mobile app development will generate more than $77 billion dollar revenue. This has led to a major concern of data and application security for enterprise businesses, especially businesses that have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy for their users.

This blog focuses on mobile device and application security and some of the major vulnerabilities and commonly used methods for prevention. Furthermore to discuss the need for customers to have a clearly defined security and risk framework that can be used in the development of secure applications by integrating security very early into the software development life cycle.

Security threats to the mobile devices and application data
Security threats are in large numbers now-a-days which can affect mobile devices. These mobile threats can target mobile apps, device, network, data center or any combination of these.

Vulnerabilities – Mobile Device Security
Mobile application faces security threats due to vulnerabilities found in source code. These vulnerabilities can be the result of poor coding standard or lack of security awareness. The following is a list of mobile application vulnerabilities–

  • Mobile Device Authentication:
  • User should be authenticated before accessing data, mobile devices comes with many authentication options –
    1. Password
    2. Personal identification number (PIN)
    3. Pattern lock
    4. Biometric fingerprint reader (Some devices not many)

    But user bypass these security options unintentionally which causes data lose.

  • Network data transmission:
  • Unencrypted data transmissions over network are a major vulnerability. Few examples are given below-

    1. E-mails sent by a mobile device are unencrypted.
    2. Many mobile applications send unencrypted data over the network.

    This makes it easy for the data to be stolen or intercept.

  • Malware:
  • Unnecessary downloads harms devices because it may have malware. It is difficult to identify the difference between a legitimate application and a malware.

  • OS Vulnerabilities:
  • Over the last few years major security vulnerabilities have been found in operating systems like iOS, Android.

  • Jail-broke /Rooted Device:
  • User may have done unauthorized modifications to devices. It could increase data security risks.

  • Stolen Devices:
  • There is a huge security risk to the organizations associated with stolen employee devices as well.

Mitigation – Mobile Device Security
Mobile app data security threats can be mitigated with the correct implementation of Mobile device management (MDM) & Mobile application management (MAM) tools, following is a sample of some of the controls provided by MDM& MAM tools.

  • Remote lock mobile device or erase data from mobile device.
  • Configure Wi-Fi and VPN.
  • Enforce encryption settings on folder, device, email etc.
  • Use geo fencing rules to enforce location related policies and compliances.
  • Use time fencing rules to enforce time related policies and compliances.
  • Restrict rooted / jail broken devices.
  • Enforce password policies.
  • Blacklist/ Whitelist applications for mobile devices.

Vulnerabilities – Mobile Application Security
Mobile applications provides convenience to the users and also comes up with number of security risks as user’s personal information such as credit card, internet banking, passwords and more are which transfer between mobile devices and backend systems across the network.

  • Insecure data storage:
  • From an application which does not follow security guidelines can result into user data stolen. For Example: usernames, passwords, authentication tokens etc.

  • No / Weak encryption:
  • Encryption systems are upgrading continuously because they are constantly being broken. Apps that allow the data transmission of unencrypted or weakly data are vulnerable.

  • Poor Authorization and authentication:
  • Mobile applications and the backend systems are connected with best practices of authorization and authentication. This ensures that un-authorized access are identified and blocked.

  • Improper or insufficient transport layer protection:
  • Mobile applications are designed to exchange data in client-server architecture. If implementation of source code in mobile application not secured, unauthorized then hackers can use techniques to see sensitive information while it’s traveling across the network.

  • Client side injection:
  • If source coded not implemented correctly in mobile application then, hackers can inject text-based attacks that target data and mobile application itself.

  • Unintended permissions:
  • Permissions of the mobile apps should be granted wisely because unwanted permission also allows hackers to attack on mobile applications.

Mitigation – Mobile Application Security
In mobile application development we can achieve security risks mitigation with strong& well-formed solutions. The following list shows most commonly used measures of data and mobile application protection from a variety attack methods:

  • Not allow to storing sensitive data insecurely.
  • Proper implementation of authentication and sessions.
  • The correct implementation of security and encryption APIs / tools.
  • Resisting runtime data manipulation.
  • Source code obfuscation to prevent reverse engineering.
  • Proper validation of security/authenticity of 3rd party libraries (if required in user’s mobile application).
  • 3rd party tools to run data security tests and source code scanning.
  • Follow the OWASP mobile security project guidelines to keep mobile application source code updated mobile security risks.

Conclusion
Mobile application and its data security is based on device platform, web-services, cloud based 3rd party services etc., Organization should do detailed analysis of risks against all possible known security threats for mobile applications and use findings to form secure strategy. This should be used in early stages of software development life cycles of mobile application. This will result into trustworthy enterprise mobility solutions building with customers.

3 thoughts on “Mobile Device and Application Data Security Introduction

  1. Hi Ankur,

    Very well explained about the mobile device & app security. Presently mobile device security is the primary task for every organization. Due to rise of mobile device users organizations are adopting mobility as their solution. It really helps enterprise businesses in terms of productivity and revenue.

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