The Complete A to Z Reference of Android Based Mobile Application Development and its Security

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Android is a software technology stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware, and applications. Mobile companies of today face the challenge of meeting the growing expectations for innovative and secure mobile applications. Developing secure mobile applications involve a wide range of dynamic and innovative approaches. An ideal mobile security application should secure the phone from threats like viruses, malware and operating system exploits. There are two types of mobile security risks: the category of malicious functionality and vulnerabilities. Malicious functionality is the risk of unwanted mobile code behaviors and vulnerabilities are errors in design.

How to Secure a Mobile Application?

Design only authenticated applications

Lockdown internal and external storage

Encrypt sensitive user information

Safeguard the mobile app against viruses, worms, malware, and buffer overflow exploits

Use Google Android emulator and third-party security tools for debugging

Configure the Apple iPhone interface to prevent overflow

Use private and public-key cryptography on Windows mobile devices

Enforce security policies using the Blackberry Enterprise server

Plug loopholes in Java mobile edition, Symbian OS and Web OS applications

Test for HTTP, XSS and CSRF redirects on WAP and Mobile HTML applications

Identify threats from Bluetooth, SMS and GPS services

Android application sandbox can perform static and dynamic analysis on Android programs to detect suspicious applications. The static analysis consists of decompilation, decryption, pattern matching, and system call analysis. The operating system creates a new user profile associated with the application when an application is installed. Each application runs as a different user with its private file on the system, user ID and secure operating environment. It is important to design secure and robust Android mobile applications in order to prevent security attacks. Secure Android mobile application development has become need of the hour and every Android developer needs to have a comprehensive understanding of application security.

It is important to restrict access to some part of the Android mobile application including the database. Different cryptographic functions can be used to make Android application secure and Android application security has become a big deal today. Mobile application development companies are concerned about the security of custom mobile applications. According to cybersecurity experts, typical mobile threats include data flow, functional and abuse cases. Insecure data storage, poor authentication, weak server-side controls, improper session handling, broken cryptography, insufficient transport layer protection, sensitive information disclosure, client-side injection, and side-channel data leakage are the prominent mobile security risks.

Malicious functionality of mobile app

Activity monitoring

Data retrieval

Unauthorized dialing

Unauthorized network connectivity

UI impersonation

System modification

Logic or time bomb

Vulnerabilities

Sensitive data leakage

Unsafe sensitive data storage

Unsafe sensitive data transmission

Hardcoded passwords

The success of an Android mobile application depends on its security and users need safe app environments. The data protected in apps can be protected by clearing the cache, obfuscating code, protecting local storage and keeping sensitive data inside the app. HTTPS protocol is designed for secure communication over the computer network and the communication protocol is encrypted by transport layer security. The cryptographic protocols ensure privacy and data integrity between server and an application.

The Essentiality of Secure Mobile Apps

HTTPS validates a server’s identity and it encrypts the content of communications along with verifying the integrity of communications. The HTTPS ensures that messages are not modified by an attacker and it verifies the authenticity of communications. According to ace network security experts, app owners should protect apps with https and it is a requirement for new browser features. Clearing the app cache is necessary part of the troubleshooting process and Android usually manages the cache very effectively.

Securing the Android application includes preventing unauthorized access and intentional destruction. Secure mobile application development is one of the most demanding services of today and risk analysis at the initial development stage is a step to ensure app security.

Steps to Ensure App Security

Risk analysis at the initial development stage

Identify threat at the definition phase

Inspect at the code development stage

Fix risk at the deployment phase

Refer the industry standards

The mobile app security team should work with application development team to examine the initial risk associated with mobile app security. Security team and mobile app developers should work together to identify threats in areas dealing with sensitive information. Secured mobile application development is one of the key priorities for majority of the mobile application development companies. Reviewing the design at the design phase is useful to resolve security risks and the review should be performed by an independent moderator. Mobile app development security measures should be practiced at the end of every development phase. Security testing should be performed throughout the security mobile application development process. According to the opinion of smart mobile app developers, reviewing codes and testing each unit is recommended for better mobile security.

Secured Mobile App Development as a Top Priority

Mobile app developers should pay attention to software, hardware and corresponding network environment. The risk should be fixed at the deployment phase of mobile application development itself. The errors should be checked before the app goes live and security check is a must at the time of deployment. All mobile application development firms should rely on the industry standards like HIPPA and OWASP guidelines. Mobile app security has become an absolute necessity and the essential mobile app security measures are given below.

Write a secure code

Encrypt all data

Be cautious with libraries

Use authorized API

Use high level authentication

Use tamper detection technologies

Deploy proper session handling

Use the best cryptography tools

It is important to keep the code of mobile application agile and code hardening and code signing should be used in order to make it more secure. Every single unit of data in a mobile application should be encrypted and the code should be thoroughly checked before using third party components. Some libraries can be extremely insecure for the mobile application and mobile app developers should use controlled internal repositories. Mobile app developers should use only authorized APIs and APIs should be used centrally for maximum security.

Data Encryption in Mobile Applications

Typical mobile application developers use high level authentication in mobile applications and stronger authentication has become an absolute must for mobile applications of contemporary age.

Multifactor authentication is becoming popular in noted mobile applications of today and it involves a combination of static password and dynamic OTP

Biometric authentication like retina scan and fingerprint are used in top rated sensitive mobile applications of the contemporary age.

Active tamper detection ensures that the code will not function if modified and a code should be run with only permission that it needs.

It is ideal to choose the best conventional cryptography tools and techniques in an ‘Android mobile application. Most trusted cryptography APIs like 256 bit AES encryption are recommended for providing high level security to mobile applications. It is to be kept in mind that securing an Android mobile application is a process which never ends. Penetration testing, threat modelling, and emulators can be used to test mobile applications for vulnerabilities. It is expected that security will become a big differentiator in the success of Android mobile applications. Mobile app security experts are looking for new ways to harden the security of mobile apps against most common security failures.

The focus of security in mobile application development is on the mobile device, the application, authentication, development and data. It is absolutely important to protect sensitive enterprise data used with mobile applications and mobile security starts with the device. ‘Android for Work encrypts the mobile device and it separates personal and professional apps into different profiles. Securely deploying the mobile app is of paramount importance and app wrapping segments the app from rest of the device by encapsulating it in a managed environment. App wrapping can be used to address business problems for specific applications and one easy way of authenticating users is through a combination of MDM (Mobile Device Management), virtual private network and Security Assertion Markup Language. It is easy to implement this method if the business organization uses single sign on and the usage of Oath 2.0 is recommended for mobile security.

It has been reported that Azure AD, Okta and Ping are some of the prominent vendors who support OAuth 2.0. Two factor authentication in Android mobile applications asks for user id, password, PIN or fingerprint. It is pointed out that OAuth 2.0 service is supported by Android, iOS, Windows, and latest web browsers.

Android for Work encrypts the side of Android phone used by the enterprise and security should be essentially applied to all APIs.

Mobile app’s data in transit and at rest should be secure and SSL with 256 bit encryption is a popular choice for Android security.

Each API requires app level authentication and mobile software security should be the priority from day one onwards.

Network and data security components are key components of Android mobile application security.

Ace mobile app developers opine that the code in a mobile application should be secret and hard to read.

Mobile app developers should stick to modern and well supported algorithms coupled with API encryption. The code should be tested for vulnerabilities and the app code should be portable between vulnerabilities. Code of an Android mobile application should be easy to update and it is important to secure network connections on the backend. Successful ‘Android mobile applications make use of containerization, a method of creating encrypted containers for storing data and documents. Database encryption with a VPN (virtual private network), SSL (secure sockets layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) add an extra layer of security. Federation is a security measure which spreads resources out across servers and it separates key resources from users.

Putting identification, authentication, and authorization measures in one place is recommended as a mobile app security measure. OAuth2 has become the standard protocol for managing secure connections via user specific tokens. JSON web tokens are ideal for Android mobile security and OpenID connect is a protocol designed specifically for the mobile. It is necessary to implement a good mobile encryption policy in every Android mobile application. File level encryption should be enabled for Android mobile applications and mobile databases too should be encrypted. The Appcelerator platform provides an encrypted SQLite module so that data can be stored very safe.

Key management should be made a priority for Android mobile applications and it is necessary to secure APIs. Application Programming Interface security stack has three security measures: identification, authorization and authentication. Testing the app code is a crucial step in Android mobile app development and native, hybrid and web apps should be tested for security. Penetration testing refers to probing a network or system for weaknesses and a mobile app should be tested thoroughly for authentication and authorization. An Android mobile application should be tested for data security issues as well as session management.

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