9 min read  | App security

How can you ensure mobile application security?

It’s safe to say that mobile application security is a constant nightmare that plagues the thoughts of any app developer or mobile application service provider. Given the increasingly sophisticated ways in which hackers gain access to sensitive customer information, especially from the spate of health and finance mobile apps, this threat has never been as real as it is now.

According to the 2019 Bad Bot Report, 20.4% of all web traffic in 2018 contained malicious bots that had been designed, specifically, to attack websites, APIs, and mobile application security. Of these, it is estimated that nearly 74% of malicious bots were classified as advanced and persistent.

While 20% of web traffic doesn’t seem like a big deal, this needs to be considered in terms of the total volume of web traffic we contribute to, every year. Think in terms of trillions.

To understand the state of mobile security, at present, and what you can do to ensure that your mobile applications are free from the reach of malicious bots or undeterred cybercriminals, continue reading this post.


As is self-evident, mobile application security refers to the cybersecurity defences afforded to applications that are compatible with smartphones and other handheld internet-connected devices. 

Understandably, the primary aim here is to protect sensitive user data and enterprise resources that are stored in, both, mobile applications and the devices, themselves. 

There are a variety of processes and strategies involved in ensuring mobile application security, including assessing the infrastructure and the internal workings of apps, identifying which areas are most at risk of attack, and running specialised assessments, such as those that test for the risk of data theft and unauthorised access.

In this process, several questions become pertinent. These include asking oneself how people can gain access to these applications, whether they’re downloaded from the App Store or Google Play or your own website, how powerful your anti-jailbreak mechanisms are, whether other applications can access data from your app, and similar considerations. 


To ensure uncompromisable app security successfully, it’s important to begin by understanding some of the primary vulnerabilities you need to address before your unveil your application to the market. 

Data leakage

Given the numerous aspects, developers have to think about when they build mobile apps, it’s easy to forget about the most important aspect of smartphone cybersecurity: Data storage.

Unintended data leaks or the storage of sensitive app information in vulnerable places on each phone, such as those accessible by other devices or people, can compromise the security of mobile applications.

While this is bad enough, data leaks often violate user privacy agreements and overarching security regulations, like the GDPR, which can lead to serious consequences for mobile application providers. 

To secure your data better, first, understand the difference between data leakage issues and data storage issues. The former often takes place due to bugs in the operating system and defects in the mobile framework. While there’s not much you may be able to do about this, bearing these in mind will prompt you to boost mobile application security in other ways.

Data storage issues, on the other hand, are very much preventable, especially if you pay attention to things like caching, application background activities, logging, browser cookies, and HTML5 data storage. 

Authorisation/authentication issues

Depending on the mobile applications you create, another way in which you can compromise application security is through poor authorisation and authentication mechanisms.

Especially when it comes to solutions like banking apps, authentication is the foundation on which much of mobile application security rests. Here, pay careful attention to apps that require a login when it’s both offline or online.

Offline logging, in particular, can create security blind spots that allow hackers to come in and make changes to app data and even give them admin control. 

Session extension issues

Another thing you might have to keep an eye out for is session handling issues, primarily, the continuation of a previous session, after a user has stopped being active on it. While longer sessions are important to improve website experience, especially for e-commerce companies, it represents a major security risk.

This is especially the case for mobile applications that can be accessed and used if a phone is handled by anyone who’s not its owner. 

Server-side cybersecurity issues

Did you know that one of the biggest targets for cybercriminals is the server that’s used by apps to communicate with each user?

By testing or scanning the vulnerabilities and risks present in your applications, whether within your team or by consulting a professional cybersecurity service provider, you can address most of the vulnerabilities inherent to server communication. 

Usually, automated tools are used to detect these cybersecurity issues and are a part of traditional mobile application penetration testing


Secure your network connections

If your app’s API is accessing other servers, including cloud servers, you need to ensure that your security mechanisms can ward off unauthorised access and data theft. Additionally, APIs need to be tested and verified to ensure that there aren’t any data leaks, perhaps in the form of eavesdropping software, when a client submits information to the app.

This can be done through encryption, penetration testing, and other types of vulnerability testing, which allow you to identify where your mobile application security is falling short.

Don’t skimp on API security

It’s no secret that mobile applications depend heavily on APIs, which are often considered the linchpins that merge separate components of software applications. A compromised API, therefore, represents a major risk.

While it’s common to use third-party APIs in your mobile applications, make sure that these have access to app data only where it’s absolutely necessary. To protect data from being transferred through your APIs, make sure that you only share access to those who need it and that they have verified and authorised access.

You can even use an API gateway for this purpose, which facilitates a single point of entry for a defined group of microservices. 

Keep your app code secure

Your app code is what drives the functionality of your solutions to users. This is where, as they say, the magic happens. It’s crucial, therefore, that your app code is secure. 

As it happens, much of mobile application security issues reside in an app’s code, whether as a result of internal issues like an oversight on the part of a developer or targeted hacking by a determined cybercriminal. Regardless, the end result is still the same - compromised mobile application security that scares users away. 

Here, encryption is a wonderful way of making sure that access to your app code stays within your team. In this process, make sure you’re using the latest encryption tactics to keep your data safe. You can also run scans and test your code for any vulnerabilities. 

Test your apps 

Testing is another important part of ensuring mobile application security, especially if you’re keen to leave no stone unturned. By doing so, you can rectify any issues in your code that give cybercriminals even a little space for exploitation.

Again, penetration testing is a tried and tested strategy, allowing you to explore the underlying weaknesses of your applications. You can also get a good understanding of authentication and authorisation processes, data security, and session management.

You can also use emulators for various devices, operating systems, and browsers, which will tell you how your app performs in each of these environments. 

Authentication and authorisation are just as important

If your app incorporates authentication and authorisation to your login process, it’s a no-brainer that your application is going to be considerably more secure. Whether this is through a PIN or biometrics, this prevents user data from being leaked easily.


Given what we’ve highlighted, it’s easy to understand that mobile application security is no walk in the park.

While your cybersecurity efforts, before launching your app to the market, are crucial, constant monitoring and improvements are just as crucial in terms of updating your defences against evolving threats and to rectify unforeseen vulnerabilities.

While the strategies we’ve highlighted do require some effort and may even be costly, skimping on app security can end up costing more than just a few late nights or consultancy fees. 

If you feel like you don’t have the expertise to enforce these protections or wish to keep your processes in line with the latest practices and certifications, consult professionals who are certified and have the right experience to secure your mobile applications.

At Triskele Labs, we ensure that you never spend a sleepless night, worrying about the state of your mobile application security.