Cyber attacks and threats are continuously increasing for the mobile apps and mobile users worldwide pertaining to the fact that the cyber threats are more sophisticated than ever before in dealing with standard device and app protections in place.
Combining Apple App Store and Google Play Store there are close to 5 million mobile apps and still counting. Thanks to these exponential growth of mobile apps representing a wide variety of niches, there are increased cyber security threats. At the same time there is an overwhelming growth in the number of smartphone users worldwide.
The niches and categories that are widely known for increased threat perception now pose great security risks thanks to the available smartphone apps and latest technologies. This is why cyber attacks targeting financial and banking transactions or security establishments are increasingly becoming common. With the growing number of apps and mobile users the number of cyber attacks are continuously increasing.
How to take safeguards against such rising instances of cyber attacks and security threats worldwide? Well, while there is not a single security measure to take care of these threats across the spectrum, there are several safeguards and measures that in unison can play a great role in boosting the app and device security.
Here we are going to explain some of these top security measures and safeguards. But before that we need to take a quick look at the principal types of cyber attacks and security threats.
Most Important Types of Cyber Attacks for Mobile Devices and Apps
There are several different types of cyber threats and attacks that can force users to compromise with their data and interactions. Here we are going to explain some of these threats in brief.
Cyber Threat from Cross-Device Compatible Apps
There are many apps that allow users to download an app from their desktop and then use the same on mobile devices. These apps can compromise with the login credentials and authentication data of the users on smartphones.
Cyber Threat from App Stores
There are cyber attack threats that directly emanate from the mobile device platforms or the respective app stores. A vast majority of mobile apps are vulnerable to cyber threats because of the shortcomings in device security. While Apple iOS is a more unified and integrated platform catering to a specific range of devices, Android as a platform represents a wide spectrum of devices with various features and device-level capabilities. Because of this diversified device landscape, there are more security vulnerabilities with the Android platform compared to iOS.
Ransomware represents one of the key and most common security threats that mostly emanate from the PCs. But modern ransomware threats are increasingly becoming common in mobile apps as well. A ransomware allows the cyber criminals to hijack the device remotely and access all the user data including contact lists, call history, images, messages and even email communication. It is named ransomware because the cyber criminals behind such an attack can claim a ransom and even after paying the ransom you may not get back the data.
Botnets and DDoS Attacks
DDoS attack is one of the most common types of cyber attack affecting millions of smartphone users worldwide. Such attacks are carried out by using remote botnets or computer programs. The botnets remotely can increase the user volume for a certain app exponentially so that at a certain point the app server no longer is able to respond to the user commands and make the app non-responsive. Botnets sending malicious spam emails to take control of devices is a common type of cyber attack for mobile devices.
Internet of Things (IoT) or connected device ecosystem bringing together appliances and mobile devices through a connected mobile app in the middle, often contributes to the cyber threats tremendously. Since IoT based device syncing requires the mobile device to establish connection with another operating system of a connected appliance, the incompatibility of the systems cause security vulnerabilities and threats.
Smartphone Malware Threats
Malware threats are common to any computing devices including of course mobile devices and smartphones. Common types of smartphone malware attacks include
Trojan virus attacks, spy-ware, and other malwares. These malware attacks have the goal of thwarting device functions while accommodating the hackers to steal user data.
Traditional malware threats are now getting more sophisticated and advanced with time. As malware threats are continuously growing and becoming more equipped to deal with latest security safeguards, we now have malicious apps that basically come in the disguise of useful applications with some value-driven features. These apps can manipulate your authentication and permission to make in-app purchases or purchases from the respective app stores. The most scary fact is, these malicious apps can even manipulate purchases without your permission or requiring you to download any app.
Cybercrimes with Trading and Finance
Cyber criminals often use the internet forums or places where people can be engaged into conversation for making transactions so that the malicious users can attempt to access crucial financial information and trading data that can further be manipulated for forging transactions and stealing user data.
Since we access most of our digital transactions and data over mobile, security attacks often try to gain unauthorized access to our data and activity information from the back door. Unauthorized access to our banking, email, social media and other apps make the common source of cyber threat.
Most Important Measures to Safeguard Mobile Apps and Devices from Cyber Attacks
Now that we have a basic idea of the various types of cyber attacks and threats, we need to have a comprehensive understanding of the time-tested measures for preventing such attacks and vulnerabilities. Let us explain these measures briefly.
App Design Optimised for Security
When you want to give end to end security for your mobile app, the first and foremost thing is to start with some app design conventions that are historically proven to be effective as secure. Just prepare yourself for the threat model right from the beginning or the app design stage. Generally app design with a lot of cognitive loads and complex architecture are more easily targeted by malicious attacks.
Since mobile devices offer us the flexibility of staying connected with our work and workplace anywhere and anytime, the mobile workforce is steadily increasing and a lot of employees now come to their workplaces or on their respective duty sites equipped with smartphones through which they can stay in touch with the work process and carry out many tasks.
This integration of mobile devices in workplaces also poses great security risks for the device as well as app security. To solve the problem, most enterprises now embraced various device management policies ranging from flexible and open Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to more conservative Enterprise Owned Devices (EOD). A proper device management plan is imperative to maintain optimum security measures.
Check Out the Presence of Ransomware and Scareware
While ransomware directly infects your mobile devices and desktops and after stealing data claims a ransom to return the data back to you, a shareware software cleverly creates a threat perception about your infected device and tries to convince you to buy a fake security software for solving the problem. Both represent pretty big threats for a large number of computing devices including mobile and smartphones.
App Wrapping is another way to safeguard your mobile app from common cyber attacks and security threats. The app wrapping basically disconnects your application from other mobile devices so that the security risks are kept at a minimum. By using the latest Mobile Device Management (MDM) protocol, the users automatically get this app wrapping feature.
Securing Authentication Data
User authentication is the first layer for any mobile app to secure user data. This is why most security threats and attacks basically target stealing this authentication data to manipulate and steal user information and user identity. This is why extra measures are required for securing the authentication data. As of now, multi-factor authentication has been proven as a highly effective measure to safeguard user data.
OS-level Strict Measures
This is also called hardening of the operating system measures to keep security vulnerabilities at low. Though, these measures entirely depend upon the discretion of Android or Apple as the leading mobile platforms. For example, Apple doesn’t provide for certain apps and devices that didn’t upload the latest OS version with updated security measures.
APIs are third-party components that are widely used by the developers to integrate functionalities and features with a mobile app and for that user can hire Android developers or any mobile developers. These APIs can also cause security loopholes or vulnerabilities for the users. Since APIs handle user data as an outsider element, developers need to take certain measures to ensure security. For example, deploying SSL with 256-bit encryption is necessary to ensure optimum data security. Apart from this it is important for the APIs to have app-level authentication.
Finally, for the optimum security of mobile apps and devices, it is extremely important at certain points to leverage the expertise of security professionals. The security professionals should be fully adept with mobile device management protocols, have good understanding of the network infrastructure and should have a clear idea about the wide variety of cyber threats and different types of attacks that are frequently found with mobile apps and devices.
Author Bio: Atman Rathod is the Co-founder at CMARIX TechnoLabs Pvt. Ltd., a leading web and mobile app development company with 16+ years of experience. He loves to write about technology, startups, entrepreneurship and business. His creative abilities, academic track record and leadership skills made him one of the key industry influencers as well.