5 common misconceptions about mobile app security

Companies across all industries deploy mobile apps to deliver products and services their customers rely on - your enterprise might be one that uses customised business apps as part of your daily activities. With the high demand from mobile users, these apps need to be developed faster than ever. However, there is a natural assumption that a mobile app, even from reputable vendors, are safe and secure to deploy within your organisation - without risk. Here are 5 common misconceptions about app security.

questions about app security

When you consider the fact that attackers will continually be creative and find new methods to exploit security vulnerabilities, it is clear that businesses need effective strategies to minimise risks.

Firstly, it is important to understand some of the common misconceptions about app security, as the reality of the situation will allow you to implement and deploy an effective security strategy.

  1. Penetration testing apps is enough
  2. The app is too small to be targeted
  3. Commercial apps are immune to vulnerabilities
  4. Firewalls are enough to protect apps
  5. Security doesn't matter before apps are launched

1. Penetration testing apps is enough

There's no denying that penetration testing comes with its benefits. This includes the ability to identify exactly what the weaknesses are, and how they can be exploited when attackers begin to leverage several smaller vulnerabilities, such as employee breaches of security protocols. Penetration testing of mobile apps should include both manual techniques (from a certified professional), as well as the automated scanning tools. However, penetration testing simply isn't enough when looking at app security, as it is unlikely to identify zero day exploits.

A zero day vulnerability refers to an new security vulnerability that a vendor is unaware of. Attackers are able to exploit this before anyone is even aware of it and before a security patch can be issued. By then, the damage may have already been done.

2. The app is too small to be targeted

Not every mobile app will be downloaded 100's of thousands of times. Naturally, niche business apps or utilities may be only used by small numbers of individuals, so it's easy to assume that attackers won't be targeting these apps.

Attackers utilise automated tools, which allows them to relentlessly probe for weaknesses in apps. Regardless of how obscure the app might be that your organisation is using, it's not safe to assume that the lesser-known app is safe, as there's no guaranteed protection without the right solution in place.

3. Commercial apps are immune to vulnerabilities

Even popular apps from major vendors are likely to contain open source and third-party code, which can contain security vulnerabilities - and as more and more devices within your enterprise use the app, this naturally increases your risk exposure.

As these vendors will release regular updates to patch new security vulnerabilities, it is especially important to ensure you have a solution and process in place to aid update of mobile apps across your enterprise. For businesses, this would typically be managed via a Mobile Device Management platform, like IBM's MaaS360

4. Firewalls are enough to protect apps

Don't make the mistake of assuming that perimeter security solutions such as firewalls can fully safeguard your apps and IT systems. Attackers are more creative than ever and will continue looking for newer ways to attack, such as SQL Injections - a type of attack that can easily bypass a firewall.

So, while a paid, reliable firewall is a good first line of defence, it's simply not enough. A SIEM (Security Information & Event Management) platform will monitor security threats traversing your IT infrastructure - or you can employ a Security Operations Centre (SOC) to perform your security monitoring.

5. Security doesn't matter before apps are launched

Apps need testing at all stages of developments, from the initial design phase to post-launch. But in reality, the significant testing phase comes from beta users, as well as from the full release into the public domain. It is only then, that users and the security community (both hackers and ethical security professionals) can fully test the app and expose any weaknesses.

It's critical that you're aware of the history of any app you're trying to download and use, as you might find that a mobile app in its early stages of release was filled with bugs. Again, an effective mobile app security patching process will minimise your organisations risks, particularly as the rate of mobile security threats continues to increase significantly.

How IBM MaaS360 with Watson can help

Deploy, manage and secure enterprise apps with ease. IBM's MaaS360 with Watson lets you take control of your private and public apps, managing app, deploying security updates across the entire mobile workforce, monitoring for malware - across all device operating systems, including iOS, Android, macOS and Windows - ensuring mobile security is not a concern for your enterprise.

MaaS360 incorporates an app container for your enterprise and third-party appsQuickly and easily distribute, update and manage apps across your enterprise, or blacklist those which are not permitted, or pose a risk. 

Want to learn more about IBM's MaaS360? 

As the leading mobile device management platform, MaaS360 let you take back control of your mobile security - and solve the mobile management headache.

Understanding and deploying IBM's MaaS360 with Watson doesn't need to be a time-consuming task. To help, download our free guide to implementing MaaS360 across your business, and see start solving the mobile management headache.

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