How to Design a Secure Mobile App

How to Design a Secure Mobile App

Gartner predicts that 75% of all mobile security breaches will happen through Mobile Apps. Assuming this figure to be accurate, we have a clear indicator of how critical it is to secure mobile apps. The present mobile phone user has started using mobile apps for multiple purposes ranging from finance to healthcare, increasing the frequency of Mobile App downloads and the security risk involved. Users update much important and personal information on mobile apps, which can be hacked and used for frauds, identity thefts, stealing and other malicious activities.

Let’s go through a few steps which can be taken by developers to design secure Mobile App, with a tool like Damn Vulnerable iOS Application (DVIA)  which our team at Nickelfox worked on:

  1. Strong Server Controls: To avoid any security breaches in the app, it is important to integrate safe coding and configuration practices on the server side of the application. These security procedures must be integrated into the app at the early stages of development to avoid any hassles later. The application code must be protected well. String algorithms and an encrypted API is a successful way of securing the codes of the Mobile App.
  2. Securing the Network Connections: Mobile App’s API accesses a number of cloud servers, mostly a third party server. Providing security from unauthorized access to information and data through networks must be restricted. Verification of the information passing to and fro through the API must be checked. Data can be secured through containerization, where it can be saved in encrypted containers. There are different vulnerability tests also which can be conducted on data to check best methods of protecting certain data. Encrypted VPN and SSL connections are also one of the most commonly used ways to maintain security.
  3. Securing Customer Data: With Mobile App, the threat posed to customer data is more than what is in regular Web Applications. The data stored on any device locally, as happens in the case of Mobile Apps, is more vulnerable and insecure. To stop data from being read through interception, file- file basis encryption is helpful. The developers should design application in a way that all the sensitive information, like bank account details and other critical passwords of the user, are not saved directly on the device.

  4. Authentication and Authorization: Having multiple layers of security for any mobile application is always a recommended thing to do. Data can be viewed and copied through different ways, cached data, data backups, screen capturing etc. To secure these unintended leakages, it is essential to never assume that authentication done by a Mobile App user once is enough. Any unsecured wireless network is a convenient way for hackers to steal data. Developers must use frameworks like OAuth2 to provide user-centric, secure connections. This framework allows you to customize the permissions for both the clients and end users of the application.
  5. Secure Mobile App Software: Securing the Mobile App code is one of the most crucial parts of any Mobile App development process. Before publishing the Mobile App on any software and checking for the functionality of the Mobile App, checking the security of the Mobile App software and Mobile App code is mandatory. The weak links in any network can be discovered through Penetration Testing and the performance of the Mobile App in a simulated setting can be tested by using emulators for operating systems and devices.
  6. Organizations with Bring their own Devices (BYOD) options: All firms that allow their employees to Bring their own Devices must understand that they have to employ extra security measures during the authentication and authorization processes. There are innumerable devices that share the organizations’ network. The IT department of the organization can regulate what data can be shared or viewed on the employees’ devices. Along with security, the developers must also have strategies to combat the bugs and hacks quickly. Devices should be “risk- aware” so that all the threat prone transactions can be avoided and restricted by the app itself. Jailbroken or rooted devices often have more proclivity for making application vulnerable.
  7. Strong Binary Protection Measures: It is possible for hackers to reverse engineer the applications and tamper the applications which have not been secured by developers. Protecting the Binary codes of the Mobile Apps is very important


In a market where mobile applications are available in abundance and there is immense competition between organizations to succeed, a strong security system can become a unique selling point. The various factors which together form a Mobile App, like the API, the back-end servers, the database, the operating system have to be specifically thought about while building the security system of a Mobile App.

Author: Nilesh Ukey

Mobile App Consultant, IIT graduate with 8+ years of experience in Mobile App & Web Development and Strategising complex projects with substantial architectural design. Nilesh is responsible for accelerating growth and driving new business opportunities while understanding and keeping in the forefront, our clients’ vision. His focus is on guiding end-to-end strategy to advance Nickelfox position in high-growth markets across the globe. He brings a rare combination of creative, analytical and operational skills.