Security as the Main Focus of the Fintech Apps and Banking Mobile App Development
Despite being young, the Fintech industry is gaining its momentum. Fintech apps can change the way business is conducted, and this is what makes them truly priceless. As a result, electronic transactions are becoming more common, and more and more Fintech apps facilitate easy transactions.
“Fintech” is the umbrella term for technology related to financial services. Fintech has brought great innovations across different areas of the financial industry including banking, education, and cryptocurrency.
The use of fintech apps is growing given the mobile technology trend. A recent report by Juniper Research states that over 2 billion mobile banking apps will be in use by 2020. This number is set to grow as more people use their smartphones to fulfill their shopping, banking and other needs.
Nevertheless, many people say that still do not fully trust such apps and believe that storing financial information on their smartphones is safe. And Chia Hock Lai, the President of the Singapore Fintech Association, has said himself that the rise of fintech may result in increased cybersecurity threats and attacks (Computerworld Singapore Security Summit 2017).
Risks associated with cybersecurity
He pointed out five areas which could see an increase in risks associated with cybersecurity:
1. Rise of fintech startups
A recent report by Accenture and CB Insights showed that global investment in fintech rose up to $23 billion in 2012-2016. The new fintech startups may not put the same amount of stress on their security as they do on innovation. As a result, they will turn out to be more vulnerable to cyber threats.
2. Collaboration with banks
According to a study from IDC in 2016, more than a third of banks said that they are open to using a fintech company to provide their customers with additional services. This creates the risk that banks are entrusting sensitive information to keen start-ups who might not have stringent security measures and could indeed get exposed to fraudsters.
3. Financial inclusion
A recent report from the World Bank Group stated that just 50% of adults in ASEAN have bank accounts. The introduction of fintech makes banking services available to the new audience. But as we all know, with more people comes more risk. Customers unused to the security aspect of banking could unwittingly expose themselves to cybersecurity threats, allowing criminals to harvest their sensitive data.
4. Big data and analytics
Chia states “[Gartner predicts] in the next four years, the number of IoT devices (that will be in use in the consumer sector) will reach up to 13.5 billion.” More devices creating data means that machine learning must increase to generate meaningful insights.
But while these insights are invaluable in the right hands, they might also enable cybercriminals to harvest information and create more detailed fraud emails which convince users to disclose sensitive information.
“Blockchain is a key technology which will shape the future of financial services,” said Chia. A recent report from Aite Group states that banks will increase blockchain investment up to 400 million USD by 2019.
How can you secure your mobile app?
With creating an app comes great responsibility! It’s likely that you have already considered how you can secure your app, and any data belonging to yourself or your customer.
As we all know, there are many different variables in creating a mobile app: software coding, back-end network business logic, databases, the device and operating system, and many more areas which all affect the security of an app. Having tight security measures in place could make your app stand out in the crowded mobile app market.
8 ways to increase your app security
1. Secure your app’s code from the ground up.
You need to consider security from the moment you start planning your app. With web applications, the data and software are secured on the server and the browser is simply an interface. But native apps have additional security needs because the code is downloaded to the device itself.
While many companies are spending their security budgets on network and data security components, it is wise to first look at potential vulnerabilities within the app itself.
- Protect code with encryption to make it difficult or impossible for hackers to read. Obfuscation and minification are great but modern, well-supported algorithms and API encryption are even better.
- Run source code scanning or test code for vulnerabilities.
- Ensure code is agile enough to be portable between devices and operating systems. This means that engineers can easily patch and update should a breach arise.
- Always consider the impact that your security is having on performance and UX. You need to find the right balance between security and user experience.
App store approval isn’t a guarantee of security. Ensure you have tested everything in-house because many unsafe apps have been approved by app stores.
2. Secure your network connections on the back end.
- Ensure all API accessed servers and cloud servers are fully secure and protected from unauthorized users.
- APIs must be verified to prevent the sensitive information leakage during pass-through between the client and the app’s server.
- Containerization can be used to create encrypted containers which will store your data and documents securely.
- Conduct penetration testing and vulnerability assessments of your network using a network security specialist. This is will ensure that your data is protected in the right way.
- Encryptions across databases and connections through a VPN (Virtual Private Network), SSL (secure sockets layer), and TLS (transport layer security) add extra peace of mind.
Federation spreads out resources across different servers and separates key information from users ensuring that they are not all in one place. This typically includes encryption measures.
3. Make sure that identification, authentication, and authorization measures are in place.
- Make sure that your identification and authorization measures are strong so that an app can confirm that users are who they say they are.
- Remember that your app is only as secure as the API and if you’re relying on someone else’s API, you are relying on their code. Make sure that APIs restrict access to essential areas only.
- OAuth2 allows you to grant the user access to the app through 2-factor identification such as SMS questions.
- JSON web tokens are lightweight and perfect for encrypted data exchange through mobile apps.
OpenID Connect is mobile specific and allows user authorization using the same ID token across multiple domains. This means that only one sign in or register is required.
4. Pay closer attention to how customer data is secured and implement a good mobile encryption policy.
Properly running mobile apps rely on onboard code and data to account for many different variables. This higher load of data creates more vulnerability, even if the data is only stored temporarily.
Customer’s data leakage can take place without user’s knowledge, and sensitive information such as age, location and usage habits can be easily harvested without the correct security measures in place.
- Protect data with file-level encryption, which can also be used to encrypt at-rest data.
- Ensure mobile databases are also encrypted using a platform such as Appcelerator, which provides an encrypted SQLite module to protect locally stored data.
- Think about security at the design level and aim to ensure that no sensitive data is stored on the device. If this is unavoidable, use encryption to ensure they are protected.
- Secure key management. Insufficient key management can make all your other security measures worthless.
5. Have a solid API security strategy in place
Secure apps rely on secure APIs. APIs ensure smooth data transfer between users, the cloud and other places to store it at. Each of the groups accessing the data has to be verified and authorized and therefore API security can increase or break your apps security measures.
Ensure proper security at every level of identification, authentication, and authorization.
6. Test your app software. And then test it again
A good developer is no stranger to testing, and the best developers ensure that their app is tested at every stage, despite the time limits pressure.
Security measure testing should be prioritized since it is as important as testing of the UX and functionality, whichever platform it is designed for. This will allow you to make crucial changes before the app goes to the market.
- Probe the network for weaknesses using penetration testing.
- Double check all potential weak points in authentication, authorization, session management, and data security issues.
- Use emulators to perform checks in real-time, life-like situations.
7. Users: protect your devices
Once an app is downloaded to a device its security is out of the developer’s hands. Savvy users can use the following tips to protect themselves in the event of fraud or a lost or stolen device.
- Rooting or jailbreaking your device makes you more vulnerable to hackers by removing the security measures put in place by the manufacturer.
- Use authorized app stores only. Apps downloaded from malicious sources make you vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.
8. If your organization has a “boyd” (bring your own device) policy, use extra caution.
More and more companies are allowing employees to use their own devices which potentially expose sensitive data to security threats. Use good mobile device management (MDM) products such as Airwatch and MobileIron to ensure that all devices are secure.
- Extra measures which you take include:
- Using a VPN to create a secure network.
- Not allowing unauthorized devices, and ensuring that all devices in use are protected with the high-quality firewall, antivirus, and anti-spam software.Checking that all cleared devices are “risk aware” and can block apps from making certain transactions.
- Make apps “risk-aware”, so that they can’t authorize transactions from rooted or unsecured devices. Code apps with “remote wipe” capabilities so that it can be securely removed should an employee leave the company or the security of the device has been breached.
The increase in popularity of mobile applications has created an ideal situation for hackers to intercept data and defraud users.
Hiring a professional and experienced mobile developer who will protect your users from the dangers and vulnerabilities of cyber attacks, is an investment which will reap solid rewards for both your users and your organization.
Should you have more questions about the development and security measure of mobile apps development, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to answer your questions!