Managing Mobile App Security Risks

mobile app security

There is simply nothing that a mobile app can’t do. Today, there are apps for fetching transportation, navigating cities, tweeting about your breakfast, communicating with co-workers, and accessing work files on the go. Apps are a perfect solution for business owners who want to cut costs and boost productivity.

But even though Google and Apple give apps the thumbs up, it doesn’t mean they are completely secure. In fact, much of the enterprise software that enters the market comes with security flaws. When installed, hackers can backdoor their way into employee devices, infiltrate business networks, and steal sensitive data.

Therefore, executives need to look beyond the fun and efficient functionality of mobile apps; and ask themselves whether using them puts their business at risk.

Assess mobile app security

To support a mobile workforce, organisations must properly vet any third-party applications their employees install.

Android users, in particular, need to be cautious about the apps they download from Google Play; a platform that’s open to major developers, independent programmers, and even hackers. Just last month, Android users were exposed to a malicious Adobe Flash Player lookalike that installed malware without the users’ knowledge.

iOS apps are not entirely safe, either. According to a recent report, dozens of iOS apps are unencrypted and vulnerable to data-interception attacks.

When evaluating the security of third-party software; be sure to assess product descriptions, read customer reviews, validate digital certificates, check for published app vulnerabilities, and ensure they aren’t linked to untrustworthy websites or domains. App reputation analysis tools like Webroot; will determine how well an app is secured and how much data it accesses or shares.

You should also find out how often employees use their apps. Infrequently used apps are often left unpatched and unsecured; leaving mobile devices and data open to cyberattacks.

Once you’ve covered the basics, hire security professionals to perform vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. These will give you a good idea of the possible security risks of each app, which ones should be deleted, and how to protect your data.

Track permissions

When you install an app from Google Play or the Apple Store; you can control what that app can or can’t access. For instance, if you’re posting a photo on Facebook; the app will request permission to access your smartphone’s camera and your location, for geotagging purposes.

During the evaluation process, keep a close eye on these permissions and consider which ones are necessary. Some apps will request permissions to make phone calls, track your location, read browsing history, retrieve personal information, and even share data with other third-party apps.

As a general rule, the more permissions an app has; the less secure it is, so make sure you’re not overly generous with non-essential apps. Also, access to your mission-critical data should be allowed only if; the app employs Advanced Encryption Standards, mobile app VPN, and remote data wipe.

Regulate access

When employees carry business data in their pockets, you, unfortunately; must regard them as a potential attack surface. To reduce the possibility of their being compromised; you need to set access controls for business applications.

Customer relationship management (CRM) apps like Microsoft Dynamics CRM have role-based access controls to limit the flow of sensitive data. For example, you can give salespeople Basic controls to customer records and financial documents; which prevents hackers from accessing information exclusive to executives and senior management.

Train employees

Even after all this, you should still hold security awareness seminars to promote mobile app best practices. In your curriculum; include advice on the dangers of connecting to unsecure hotspots and set guidelines on which employees can access certain applications.

Thinking of moving to a mobile-first business model; then app security is an immensely important prerequisite you can’t overlook. Take the time to understand who can run your apps; what sensitive data can be accessed; and how your business can limit the flow of data. Considering all these steps; will ensure that your attack surface is minimised and that you can take full advantage of enterprise applications.

Here at Empower IT, we believe that app management is of the utmost importance; especially in today’s mobile-centric market. To keep your vulnerabilities to an absolute minimum; give us a call and we’ll help you assess, control, and purge any security issues in your mobile devices.