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Mobile Banking Security: Securing App from Security Breaches

While traditional banking is on the verge of being replaced by mobile banking apps, security vulnerabilities and online threats are on the rise. Since most customers these days whether in offline stores or while shopping online prefer digital payment, cyberattacks targeting mobile transactions and banking data have become a major concern for the developers of mobile banking and wallet apps. 

Here through the length of this blog post, we are going to explain these security vulnerabilities and the measures and steps to tackle them proactively. 

Most common and lethal security vulnerabilities for mobile banking apps 

There are several security flaws and vulnerabilities faced by today’s mobile banking apps. In some countries, security risks for mobile transactions are greater than in others. A mobile app development company in Belgium is likely to have fewer concerns over security flaws than that in India. 

Instead of randomly listing security flaws, we decided to focus on the ones listed by the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) report on the common and key security flaws found in mobile banking apps. 

Not utilising platform-specific security features 

Both iOS and Android platforms come equipped with standout security features like tiered permissions systems, multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication, etc. On top of that, both platforms offer detailed security guidelines to stay away from security threats. 

Now, not utilising these platforms provides security features or not confirming their security guidelines can easily result in security flaws.  

Compromised security of data storage

Every app needs to store some data. When user information, critical business data or technical information are stored in the app, they can be targeted easily by hackers. Not using strong security to prevent data leaks or data breaches is a big security flaw in many apps. Using proper encryption for internal storage and implementing a trusted security algorithm can prevent such risks.  

External communication without security cover

Apps need to communicate with other apps or data sources like NFC terminals, servers, BlueTooth devices, payment gateways, wallet apps, etc. Malicious attempts to get access to this communication data is a common threat. SSL encryption and quality security algorithms can nullify such risks in most cases. 

Security compromised with user authentication data 

The so-called password can easily be cracked by sophisticated bots used by hackers. A bot capable of trying millions of password combinations in minutes can often crack your password and get unsolicited access. This is why multifactor authentication involving at least one authentication measure involving the server is necessary to protect your user identity from hacking attempts.  

Under-optimised cryptography

Cryptography with strong encryption algorithms makes it difficult for any attempt to access data from unsolicited sources difficult. But there are certain algorithms that earlier proved to be vulnerable to security breaches. This is why it is advisable to only use tried and tested algorithms that are already acclaimed for stronger security protection. 

Not enforcing authorisation for data access 

Just as an app limits access to only registered users by enforcing authentication, the app also needs to designate different areas of the app for particular users who need them. You cannot make all app data available to all users. Without enforcing authorisation rules for accessing app data as per context and need, you risk exposing sensitive information leading to security vulnerabilities. Instead of relying on device enforced roles and permissions, make sure every user role is determined based on server data.   

Coding errors 

Coding errors, bugs and bad coding practices also increase the security risks of mobile banking apps tremendously. Apart from ensuring that the app code includes no errors or bugs, it is important to enforce best coding practices. Good coding is often recommended as one of the best practices for enterprise mobile security. It is advisable to consistently confirm the best coding practices for doing away with security risks. 

No detection of code tampering

A phishing attack through a malicious attachment can tamper app code and expose it to more attacks and security breaches. Though all mobile app codes are exposed to code tampering, there should be a runtime detection mechanism to catch hold of such attempts just in time. 

Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is carried out to understand the business logic of the app and check the security safeguards and tools used by the app. By exposing these secrets, reverse engineering can help the attacker to break through the security layer. To prevent this use code obfuscation tools. 

Hidden functions

While building apps, many developers build some hidden backdoor functions for their ease. These hidden functions staying live in an app can be utilised to access sensitive app information. To prevent this, make sure all the unnecessary code and such hidden functions are removed before the app goes live. 

Best practices to prevent security vulnerabilities in banking apps 

Now that we have discussed the biggest security flaws and the ways to prevent them in mobile banking apps, we want to draw your attention to some best practices to strengthen the security of banking apps. 

  • Make sure you have a proactive mechanism in place to carry out continuous app scanning and frequent vulnerability analysis. 
  • Make sure the banking app enforces strong session management protocol enforcing automatic log-off during inactive state and preventing local caching of data. 
  • Make sure the app prevents connection while the device is connected over an insecure public wi-fi network. 
  • The mobile banking app development process should involve all stakeholders to incorporate different approaches and perspectives to address security flaws. 
  • Make sure your app uses the most trusted and acclaimed encryption algorithms to protect banking app data. 
  • Banks should protect their mobile platforms by implementing the best security practices.
  • The banking institutions should also spread awareness and educate the app users and customers for securely using mobile platforms.
  • Banking apps and all stakeholders should comply with the PSD2 regulation to ensure secure online payment processing. 

Conclusion 

For secure mobile banking apps, both banks and customers should be on the same page to prevent online threats. Mobile banking apps should carry out scanning and analysis of security issues and vulnerabilities regularly. It is also important for the banking customers and users of mobile banking apps to use reliable mobile antivirus software to prevent device level attacks.

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