How to Write a Comprehensive App Security Strategy

By James Tredwell on November 22, 2020

Over the last several years, apps became an integral part of our everyday lives.  We use them in our personal lives to communicate, learn, or simply do things easily. Also, we use them for our professional needs to collaborate with our team, organize our time, perform better on our jobs, and so much more. It’s clear that apps are something we would hardly be able to live without. But, as much as we love them, they could be a potential danger.

If we’re using an app with a weak security strategy, our personal and sensitive data might be jeopardized. App developers mustn’t allow for their apps to have weak security levels. It will ruin your credibility and send users away. That’s why you have to write a comprehensive app security strategy that will cover all the major security questions and issues.

Below, you’ll find the ultimate tips for writing the best app security strategy that covers it all. Just keep reading.

1.  Security as a Top Priority

Before you go any deeper into the actual steps of building a secure app, you should first make sure that everyone on the app development team understands the importance of app security.

Therefore, you should build a culture of security that covers all the teams, people, developers, designers, and everyone involved in the process of creating an app.

To make sure they all see security as a top priority, you need to:

  • organize team meetings to discuss it
  • send them to seminars, webinars, or workshops
  • constantly remind everyone that security is a priority

Educating and helping your team grow professionally is the best way to start building a strong app security strategy. If your team members don’t take security seriously, it can easily happen that they make a mistake that endangers the whole project.

Work on building a strong security culture and have all your app development team members on the same page.

2.  Write a More Secure Code

Now, let’s get to the actual points you should include in your app security strategy. The first one concerns the security of your code.

Your code can be the vulnerable spot in your app that the hackers will use to get access to sensitive and private data of the users.

This is why you need to make sure you’re writing a secure code that won’t allow them to reverse engineer it and use it as they please.

Some of the best practices for writing a more secure app code are:

  • code hardening
  • code signing
  • code minification
  • keeping your code agile and easy to update

Pay attention to your code and make sure you cover all levels of security to make it impossible for the hackers to reverse engineer it. Otherwise, they’ll find a way to use it to their advantage.

3.  Boost Authentication Levels

As the app developer, you shouldn’t leave it up to your users to be fully responsible for the authentication level they’re using for your app.

If you allow them to create any type of password, chances are a ton of users will go with something like “123456”. And that’s unacceptable.

That’s why it’s your job to boost authentication levels and make sure all your users are protecting their data by using strong passwords and other authentication forms.

Here’s what you should do:

  • make it obligatory that the password is alphanumeric and strong (contains a number, a sign, at least 5 different letters, etc.)
  • make your passwords renewed every couple of months
  • add security questions that are not easy to guess the answer to
  • use biometric authentication for the most sensitive data

By adding a strong authentication practice in the app development process, you’re making sure all your users are protected. You’re encouraging them to act wisely with their sensitive data and thus making it harder for the hackers to break through your security walls.

4.  Encrypt All Data

Data encryption is another obligatory step in making your app more secure. Encryption is one of the most surefire ways to secure your data and prevent malicious third parties from accessing it and reading it.

Encryption works in a way that it makes the code unreadable to anyone except the parties who have to key to read it. That means that, even if the hackers manage to get access to your code, it will be just meaningless text to them.

Encrypting your data using any encryption technique and keys will:

  • boost your app security
  • prevent malicious attackers from reaching your data
  • protect your app users

This means that you should encrypt every single piece of information that is being exchanged over your app.

5.  Don’t Ask For Unnecessary Access

When you’re writing your app security strategy, you need to keep in mind that the access your app has over users’ private data is also jeopardized to be hacked and abused.

This is why you should only ask to access the data you actually need for the app to function.

So, let’s say you’re building an e-commerce app that allows people to shop online and buy their favorite products. Do you really need access to your users’ contacts list?

No, you don’t. So don’t ask for it since you’ll be exposing this data for no reason.

This means that you need to:

  • carefully choose the data you’ll need access to
  • only ask for the basic user information
  • ask solely for the privileges you need

Most apps will need as little as the user’s name and email address. Sometimes you’ll need a bit more, but make sure you’re not overstepping.

If you limit the app’s access to sensitive information, you’re also limiting the hackers’ access to it. It’s that simple.

6.  Update & Patch Regularly

Even once you believe your security strategy is completed and you can finally relax, you’re still not completely safe. The truth is, no security level is ever going to be 100% risk-free.

And that’s exactly why you need to continue to keep an eye on your software and vulnerabilities to fix whatever problem might pop up.

So, if there’s a bug or an issue that appears in the process of app development or after its completion, you’ll need to:

  • update your software using the fixes and additional features released
  • patch your software with a minor, but an important bug fix

It would be a huge mistake to consider your app eternally secure only because you’ve finished the initial and most important phase of building a strong app security strategy.

Constantly updating means actively working on keeping a high level of security. It also means providing your users with the best possible experience and keeping their data safe and protected.

7.  Limit Employee Privileges

Another way to further protect your applications and data is to limit the privileges of the people within your company and your team. Not everyone has to have access to everything.

The truth is, the fewer people have access to sensitive data, the more protected it is. We’re not saying any of your team members will sell you out or perform a malicious attack themselves.

But, there are other scenarios that could happen:

  • a team member loses their laptop and allows access to all sensitive data
  • a hacker manages to penetrate one team member’s credentials and use it to access everything they need
  • a team member accidentally sends a file with sensitive data via email

There can be so many different situations that could harm your app security.

Therefore, only allow access that is essential for the people to do their part of the job. Don’t let someone from design have access to finances or marketing.

Limit their privileges and make sure nobody is jeopardizing the security of your apps.

8.  Perform a Test-Attack

App security is not something you can put on paper and then hope it will work out in practice. And, even when a team of professionals gives it their best to create a super-secure app that the users can use without any fear, there can still be some room for the hackers to get to the sensitive data.

This is why testing is obligatory.

The best way to test app security is to:

  • automatically check app security after each development phase is completed
  • check for security risk, potential breaches, and weak spots

If you discover any vulnerabilities, make sure your team fixes them immediately. Once the entire development process is finished, it’s time for the big test.

You should have one of your team members try and perform a security attack on your app. Let them try and penetrate your security gates any way possible.

This will be the ultimate test for your app security and will show you just how successfully you’ve built the app security strategy.

Final Thoughts

Building a comprehensive app security strategy is one of the most important links in the chain of successful app development. If your app isn’t safe for the users to use and enjoy, all your other efforts will be in vain.

Hopefully, the tips shared above will help you write a better app security strategy and protect your users against malicious hacker attacks. Use them to strengthen your app and make it more powerful.

Dorian Martin is a freelance writer and a passionate blogger with years of experience. He mainly focuses on technology and web development topics. He also works as a proofreader and editor, giving help writing a thesis statement.

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