Mobile apps lend more functionality to your mobile devices. They also enable you to perform a lot of tasks–from communicating with other people to shopping online–quickly and efficiently through the limited screen interface of your mobile device.
The price of this modern-day convenience, however, is the increase in security risks. Some apps are inherently vulnerable to hacking and malware attacks. It may be because their developers do not want to inconvenience users with security checks. So the apps are left with backdoors that make them susceptible to different lines of attack.
For a critical mobile app that carries sensitive personal information, having such backdoors already built in to the software can be disastrous. You might not want to deal with a mobile banking app, for example, that can be readily compromised. Thus, it helps if you know whether or not you are using a secure mobile app.
The following three features are typically associated with a secure mobile app.
Attackers can read the private communications sent from your mobile device and transmitted through a wireless network connection. An SSL encryption, which requires a mobile certificate that can be authenticated, helps prevent this from happening. Certificates carry the details related to the entity that operates and owns the web server, offering confidentiality and authentication services to users connecting to the server.
The longer a request to the authorization server remains valid, the higher the likelihood of it getting intercepted by attackers. To address this potential vulnerability, a mobile app developer has the option to make all requests expire after a specified time period. The user may be inconvenienced by having to send another request, but doing so can help lower the chances of attackers exploiting the security loophole.
An intercepted request can also be replayed by an attacker. If it were a mobile banking app, for example, a replayed request can result in sending a money transfer twice. Thus, apps that disallow repeated requests are far more secure.
A more troublesome line of attack involves a modified request. If an app developer intentionally enables a modified request, an attack on a mobile banking app, for instance, can end up with the hacker transferring funds to another bank account. Mobile app developers can block modified requests with a cryptographic key or cipher.
Sessions that Expire
Application sessions that do not expire are far more convenient for users, because they don’t need to log back in to the app. However, mobile apps that stay active for a long time are more vulnerable to attacks.
When mobile apps are active for a long time, they become more susceptible to having malicious requests transmitted to the server. A mobile app that automatically kills a session after a certain period of time is less likely to be attacked, because it limits the attacker’s time to break through the application.
More sophisticated attacks are always possible. But lessening the time that mobile apps are made vulnerable to attacks lowers the chances of them being successfully hacked.