How to ensure mobile app security through teamwork, processes and training

By Will Kelly

Improving mobile app security is key to keeping your company’s data secure inside and outside the office. Making such improvements requires the work of multiple teams including app developers, IT security and business users.

Here are some tips to improve and optimize your mobile app security:

Send your developers to app security training

Lifewire notes one fundamental investment you should make to improve your organization’s app security is sending your developers to security training that covers secure app development practices. Your development team can then create security strategies and processes as part of your app development lifecycle.

If you rely on citizen developers with low-code tools to develop your mobile apps, you’ll need to deliver security training to them as well. Work with your IT security team to set up mentoring and training around app security. You should also check with your low-code tools vendor to review its security documentation and see whether it offers any security training.

Download Gartner report on managed mobility services

Bake security into your development process

Today, mobile app security starts on the first day of development. Back in the day, QA testers and the security team didn’t worry about testing app security until the final stretch before release. New realities of agile development, DevOps and employees’ desire to have a more consumer-friendly app store experience have changed the way teams develop, test and deploy mobile apps.

According to CSO, it also requires the right skills and tools to develop and secure a mobile minimum viable app, which has the potential to lower the attack surface against your corporate-developed apps.

The following are other ways to bake in mobile app security from the very beginning of a project:

  • Make app security considerations nonfunctional requirements
  • Conduct a threat modeling analysis
  • Write user stories full of enterprise and OS specifics

Use mobile application management and an enterprise app store

Mobile application management (MAM) needs to be in place to secure all the mobile apps across your corporate devices. MAM should also serve corporate-approved apps for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives.

There should be a curated enterprise app store at the end of your DevOps toolchain to serve up the latest versions of your corporate mobile apps. Today, MAM solutions and enterprise app stores will let you set priority-based rules for app updates across your user community so you can respond to routine updates and, more importantly, critical patches. You also want to set policies to let you erase selected apps from a corporate mobile device.

Protect app data in transit and at rest

There’s a risk whenever your mobile app exposes data in transit across the internet, your network or at rest. Typically, enterprises secure data in transit using encrypted connections such as HTTPS, SSL or FTPS for protection. Data at rest resides in encrypted storage on the mobile device. You should set data encryption on devices through your enterprise mobility management solution.

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Lock down your mobile endpoints

Implementing cloud-based mobile endpoint security may not be considered a mobile app security measure, but it does detect malicious behavior in applications. The behavior might come from man-in-the-middle attacks, side-loaded applications or other risky behaviors.

Use SSO for app authentication

Chances are, your corporate mobile apps open up access to all sorts of confidential and proprietary information. As such, you need a single sign-on (SSO) authentication solution to secure employee access to your apps.

Harden your mobile operating systems

Your security team should be conducting periodic reviews of your mobile operating systems as part of your mobile security strategy. The review should include the vendor’s operating system, application programming interface and security documentation.

Medium to large businesses, government agencies and higher-education institutions should consider creating their own checklists for hardening mobile operating systems.

PC Authority reports hardening Android security includes the following tasks:

  • Restricting the side-loading of apps
  • Using encryption
  • Setting granular app permissions
  • Using a virtual private network
  • Installing security software

Your security and app development teams should review any documentation your mobile device vendor has that covers best practices for hardening operating systems.

Developing true app security at your enterprise is possible, but it takes collaboration with many groups across the organization.

Written By

Will Kelly

Technical Writer & Content Creator

Will Kelly is a technical writer and content creator focusing on cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and enterprise mobility. He started his writing career writing technical documentation for commercial and federal government clients but now focuses on thought leadership content.…

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