The 14 Biggest Mobile App Security Threats

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The number (and cost) of cyberattacks against mobile applications continues to rise every year. It’s vital to your customers and your business that you stay informed on the latest mobile app security threats and take the necessary steps to guard against them. We’ve put together a list of the most important mobile app security threats to watch out for and what methods and tools you can use to guard against them.

Reach out to the expert team at PreEmptive for more information on how to protect your mobile application.

The Most Important Mobile App Security Threats to Watch Out For

1. Data Leakage

Data leakage happens when sensitive information is unintentionally exposed to unauthorized parties. There are plenty of causes of data leakage, including insecure data storage, improper data handling, or vulnerabilities in the app’s code. To prevent data leakage, you need to implement secure coding practices such as input validation and output encoding to prevent injection attacks. You should also use encryption to protect sensitive data both at rest and in transit.

2. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

MitM attacks occur when a malicious actor intercepts communication between two parties. It allows the attacker to eavesdrop on sensitive information or modify data in transit. You’ll want to use secure communication protocols such as HTTPS to encrypt data in transit to prevent eavesdropping. Implementing certificate pinning can also help prevent attackers from using fraudulent certificates to intercept communication.

3. Authentication Issues

Weak passwords or improper authentication mechanisms can leave your mobile app vulnerable to unauthorized access. You should always use strong authentication methods, such as multifactor authentication, to verify the identity of your users. Additionally, storing user credentials securely, such as using hashing algorithms, can prevent unauthorized access even if the data is compromised.

4. Insecure Data Storage

Poor data storage will lead to sensitive information being exposed if the device is lost or stolen. That’s why you’ll need to use secure storage mechanisms, such as encrypted databases or secure file systems, to protect sensitive data at rest. We always recommend encrypting your data before storing it and using secure key management practices.

5. Insecure Network Connections

Insecure network connections, such as using unsecured Wi-Fi networks, can expose your application to mobile app security threats. It’s good practice to always make sure network communications are encrypted and secure by using secure communication protocols like TLS/SSL. Implementing secure communication practices will help you prevent data interception and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

6. Code Tampering

A common type of mobile app security threat involves modifying the app’s code to gain unauthorized access or manipulate its behavior. That’s why you should use code obfuscation techniques to make it harder for attackers to reverse engineer and tamper with the app’s code. We also recommend implementing code integrity checks and using secure boot mechanisms can help detect and prevent code tampering attempts.

7. Reverse Engineering

Malicious actors will often try to use reverse engineering to analyze an app’s code to understand its functionality and its exploit vulnerabilities. Obfuscation and encryption techniques will make it difficult for attackers to reverse engineer your app, and implementing runtime application self-protection (RASP) can also help detect and mitigate reverse engineering attempts in real time.

8. Side-Channel Attacks

Side-channel attacks exploit information leaked through an app’s behavior, such as timing or power consumption, to infer sensitive information. You should carefully design your apps to minimize side-channel leakage by implementing secure coding practices. Using cryptographic algorithms that are resistant to side-channel attacks and regularly updating the app to patch known vulnerabilities can help mitigate this threat.

9. Phishing and Social Engineering

There are a variety of phishing and social engineering attacks that target users to trick them into disclosing sensitive information. Creating processes to educate users about these mobile app security threats and implementing security measures such as two-factor authentication will help protect them. Your team should also set up email and SMS verification for account recovery processes can help prevent unauthorized access from phishing attacks.

10. Insufficient Transport Layer Protection

Insufficient transport layer protection will expose sensitive information to eavesdropping during transmission. That’s why you should use secure communication protocols, such as TLS, and ensure that all communications are encrypted and authenticated. Implementing certificate validation and using strong encryption algorithms can also help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information during transmission.

11. Insufficient Session Handling

Poorly managed session tokens or cookies can lead to session hijacking, in which an attacker steals a user’s session information to impersonate them. To mitigate this threat mobile app security threat, you should ensure that session tokens are securely generated, stored, and invalidated after logout or a period of inactivity. Using HTTPS for all communications can also help protect session information in transit.

12. Lack of Binary Protections

Binary protections refer to measures taken to protect the app’s binary code from being reverse-engineered. Without proper protections, attackers can easily analyze your app’s code to understand its functionality or extract sensitive information such as algorithms, credentials, or intellectual property. To protect your binary code, you should use code obfuscation techniques and binary encryption, which encrypts the code to prevent unauthorized access.

13. Poorly Secured APIs

APIs that are not properly secured can be vulnerable to various attacks, including SQL injection, XML injection, and unauthorized access. These vulnerabilities can lead to data breaches or service disruptions. You’ll want to implement strong authentication and authorization mechanisms, such as OAuth, and validate all your input data to prevent injection attacks. We also recommend using HTTPS for API communication can help protect data in transit.

14. Inadequate User Permissions

Granting excessive permissions for your apps can lead to privacy violations and security breaches. If your app is compromised, attackers can exploit the permissions to access sensitive data and perform unauthorized actions. 

We recommend that you always implement the principle of least privilege, which means granting only the permissions that are absolutely necessary for the app’s functionality. Your apps should also request permissions dynamically as needed and provide users with clear explanations of why they’re permissions are necessary.

How PreEmptive Can Help

Obfuscation

PreEmptive’s obfuscation solutions can help protect your app’s code from reverse engineering and tampering. By obfuscating the code, it becomes much harder for attackers to understand and modify the app’s functionality, which reduce the risk of code tampering and reverse engineering. We offer obfuscation tools for both iOS and Android applications.

Dotfuscator

A multi-tiered defense strategy for app protection, Dotfuscator combines obfuscation, runtime checks, and attack detection to protect your code from mobile app security threats. It is ideal for protection against reverse engineering attacks, code tampering, and unauthorized debugging attempts.

SDL App Protection

Our SDL App Protection is used to defend intellectual property and application integrity using a layered strategy. It can fit seamlessly into your DevOps process and it does not require coding to secure and harden your applications.

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Ready to guard your application against mobile app security threats? Start a free trial of PreEmptive to try out our tools for yourself.