mobile app security

7 Reasons Why Mobile App Security Testing Is Crucial for Enterprises

“By the end of 2015, 75% of mobile apps will fail basic security tests.” Gartner

Over two-third of large enterprises have been breached via mobile. Each security breach up costs up to $3 million per year. The estimated annual cost of mobile cyber breaches is around $50 billion, globally, and this number is increasing every year.

Previously, we wrote an article dissecting the number one reason attributes to the abysmal state of mobile application security.

To prevent and reduce security breaches, we need to uncover security vulnerabilities in every part of our environment. We need to check the perimeter (firewalls, routers, balancers, etc.) through network services, network segmentation to web services, mobile and static applications and their components.

We need to find security holes of the app before attackers by making security a part of the design and development of the mobile application. We can also discover vulnerabilities through mobile app security testings.

Why mobile app security testing?

1. Prevent future attacks by guessing the behaviors of attackers and anticipating their moves

You don’t know and can’t be sure whether hackers will or will not hack into your mobile app, attack your backend systems, and steal your data. However, you can anticipate possible future scenarios and mitigate related risks. You can guess the behaviors of hackers to uncover flaws in the code and fix them before hackers exploit them.

A penetration test is a type of security test designed for this purpose. In a penetration test, testers use sophisticated tools and advanced knowledge of IT to guess the behavior of an attacker who penetrates the client’s environment to gain information and/or access higher permissions without proper authorization.

According to Bruce Schneider, a renowned security expert, during a penetration test, testers can try to break into a network/application to show that they can or to document vulnerabilities. During a penetration test, testers can simulate a “remote attack, physical penetration of a data center or social engineering attacks.”

2. Going live with the new mobile application without excess worry about security risks

Before the deployment of a new mobile application to an IT environment, the mobile app goes through mandatory technical and user acceptance testings to ensure its alignment with the technical and business requirements. These acceptance testings assure that this mobile application satisfies the end-users and can be supported by IT teams.

On top of meeting technical and user requirements, this mobile app needs to meet operational requirements, keeping the production environment as-is and not introducing security risks.

Experienced software engineers and security experts recommend us to adopt the security-first approach from the idea through Design, Build, Go-live, to routine RUN and Support activities.

3. Change the architecture such as network, components of the mobile application if necessary

Through mobile app security testing, you might discover security vulnerabilities that might later lead to major security breaches after the mobile application goes live.

Having knowledge of flaws in the source code, attack vectors, bottlenecks and security holes before rolling out the mobile app, you can change the architecture, the design and the code of the application. Fixing issues at this stage is cheaper than addressing them later on when you discover that the architecture of the application is flawed or when a breach happens. The cost at these stages will cover not only technical issues but also legal, PR, and more.

4. 3rd-party vendors are unfamiliar with enterprise IT environment and specific enterprise security standards and compliances

Almost every mobile application uses some web services that run on the backend. Mobile app security testing is not only testing the source code but also the behavior of the application at the endpoint: how it works with storage, certificates, personal data, how secure the communication between the mobile application, its backend systems, and the web service.

When hackers want to leak data, they don't need to hack the mobile application because hacking the web services is enough.

Thus, it is even more important to perform mobile app security testing if it is developed by a 3rd-party mobile app development agency. An external software vendor does not know or can’t know all security policies and standards. Mobile app developers from a third-party, lacking experience with enterprise IT infrastructure, are not able to properly implement application security requirements to fulfill enterprise requirements.

They often mistakenly think that mobile app security is out of the scope of the app delivery or that security will be solved by someone else from the enterprise on the infrastructure level.

Alternatively, even worse, developers might underestimate mobile app security and knowingly decide on substandard application security measures.

False security is even worse than an unsecure application. If we expect and assume high level of security, confidentiality, and integrity, but in reality the security level is low, we may send sensitive data directly to attackers. If we know that the security is not set, we don't send this data through this insecure channel.

You can only find out by performing mobile app security tests.

5. Know the skills and experience of the app development agency that builds your mobile applications

Security and app development are two different areas, and you don’t expect mobile app developers to be security experts. Developers’ primary skillset is in the frontend coding and User Experience (UX). They are trained to make sure the application contains required features and business functionalities. Developers are focused on the User Interface (UI) to make their application easy to interact and beautiful to look at, not so much on security side.

However, you want to ensure that the end-delivery of the mobile app has security measures baked-into it. If the vendor doesn’t have the security skillset in-house, they should partner with companies that have security as one of their core competencies.

Application security is a hygiene thing that every mobile app development agencies need to have and adopt in their apps. Unfortunately, very few do this because application security is not cheap. If the business doesn't specify security as a requirement, security won't be implemented or implemented only a little.

By testing the security of the mobile app, you can access the skills of the vendor.

(Read this article to learn about the top 5 mobile application security issues you need to consider when developing mobile applications.)

6. Test the responsiveness of your enterprise IT team

By adopting mobile app security testing as part of a mobile app development process and a mobile project, you can test the responsiveness of your enterprise security team. We can check the time of the response, quality of the response, and the reaction accuracy.

If the security team doesn’t properly react, then there is something wrong in the process which need to be addressed. Alternatively, if the support is outsourced, we can test the quality of this service.

7. Meet tough industry security standards and comply with regulations

Security testing is essential for highly secure ICT environments. It is necessary for the ISO 27001 certification, HIPAA, FIPS 140-2, OWASP methodology, and in some case mandated by cyber security law.

Security testing has been a necessary part of a software application development cycle, and there is no reason security should not be a mandatory part of a mobile application development cycle.

Today, at the speed enterprises go mobile and the rate of mobile cyber breaches, mobile application security testing is necessary if not mandatory.

“Security is like putting brake into the car. The purpose of the brake is not to stop or slower the car, but to make it go faster.”

How fast and how far does your enterprise want to ride this mobility wave?

If you’d like to get a true assessment of the security of your mobile application and its backend, please check out our Mobile App Security Audit service. Alternatively, request a FREE Demo to know how we can assist you with the security of your mobile solutions.

About the Author

Cindy Dam

TeskaLabs’ Marketing & Community Manager, Cindy Dam, has a penchant for hacking and storytelling. When she's not reading and writing about cyber hacking, she reads, writes, and comes up with mind and travel hacks.

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