Why It's Risky to Neglect Mobile App Security

With competing demands, dev teams are often unable to prioritize mobile app security. Learn more about properly securing mobile apps and the cost if you don’t. (SPONSORED)

August 13, 2023

4 Min Read

In the past few years, the growth of mobile phone ownership and usage triggered an increase in attention from threat actors. Today, there are more than 6 billion smartphones, which can access over 5 million apps. Additionally, mobile apps account for 90% of mobile phone use as compared to a mobile browser.

Image from Guardsquare

Mobile usage statistics like the above point to why mobile apps have become an increasing area of focus for threat actors. In a recent Outseer Fraud and Payments Report, the company found that 68% of digital banking fraud originated from mobile channels and that there was a 274% increase in brand abuse attacks across Android and IOS apps over a nine-month period.

Image from Guardsquare

Failing to protect your mobile app can result in significant negative business impacts and potential financial losses. And yet, developers confronted with the pressures of meeting aggressive mobile app development and launch deadlines often push security to the very end of the development process or neglect it entirely.

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the reasons why development teams fail to prioritize security, the impact of doing so, and how to get started with protecting your mobile app.

Reasons Why Development Teams Don’t Prioritize Mobile App Security

When it comes to protecting a mobile application, there are a number of reasons development teams don’t implement proper security strategies. Here are some of the most common reasons:

Reason #1: The perception that device hardware and OS security protections are sufficient.

Reality: Neither Apple’s “walled garden” nor the Android platform protect apps from being modified or reverse engineered.

Reason #2: The client is thin, and all of the secure information is handled on the server side.

Reality: Whether or not a client is thin, an unprotected mobile application can give threat actors a way to access the outside server.

Reason #3: The dev team lacks the resources/expertise to properly implement mobile app protection.

Reality: The potential cost of neglecting security is much higher than the cost of navigating resource or expertise deficits. Also, there are ways for developers to address mobile app security without having to become security experts.

Reason #4: Adhering to compliance regulations provides adequate protection for mobile apps.

Reality: Compliance regulations are usually broad in scope and don’t ensure the security of your entire application.

Reason #5: Pentesting will catch all of an app’s vulnerabilities and ensure the app is secure.

Reality: Pentesting is valuable but conducted at the end of the development cycle. Implementing mobile app testing strategies earlier in the app development process complements pentesting and reduces the chance for delays and increased cost.

Talking through these topics with your development team can help you identify reasons why your team might not be prioritizing mobile app security.

What Is the Cost of Failing to Prioritize Security?

Whether you’re deprioritizing mobile app security due to a lack of resources, dependence upon device hardware and OS security protections, or over reliance on pentesting and compliance regulations, failing to protect your mobile app can be costly. If your mobile app is compromised through reverse engineering or tampering, your organization can face the following:

  • Fines related to failure to meet compliance requirements

  • Loss of revenue

  • Loss of brand reputation and customer trust

  • Market disadvantage due to leaked app features

  • Stolen intellectual property

How Do I Get Started with Mobile App Security?

If implemented correctly, mobile app security can effectively identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in your app, protecting your organization from the negative effects of an attack. For many development teams, however, it can be overwhelming when deciding where to start. Here are a few tips to help you get started creating a comprehensive mobile app security strategy:

1. Identify why your team hasn’t prioritized mobile app security in the past and resolve to do so moving forward.

The first step of building a security strategy for your app is to determine why you haven’t been prioritizing security, potential costs to your organization, and the benefits of prioritizing security early on.

2. Consider adopting an existing mobile app security framework.

When it comes to mobile app security, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Developers should consider leveraging existing security frameworks and standards from organizations like OWASP.

3. Consider the changes that you’ll need to make to your existing development processes to integrate security.

Seamlessly integrating mobile app security into your development process isn’t a magic trick; you’ll have to make some changes. First, you’ll want to consider threat modeling, which optimizes security by identifying your organization’s security objectives and vulnerabilities. Then, it’s important to evaluate the pillars of your app’s security strategy. We recommend embracing the mobile app security trifecta: protect, test, monitor.

Interested in learning more about protecting your app? Check Guardsquare’s free mobile app security resources.

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