August 30, 2018 App Development Security: A Look at Trends That Matter

As app development becomes more prolific and sophisticated, so do some of the risks. In a world of data breaches and ransomware, apps must be secure by design. If you don’t start with this approach, security is an afterthought — which it absolutely can’t be. In a cycle of continuous deployment and integration, apps can often have weaknesses.
It’s important to see what’s shaping app security by dissecting current trends. Here are several that matter right now.

Faster development equals more security concerns

In a race to be both agile and the latest and greatest, development time has continued to shrink. This intensity to get to market is exaggerated by a “want it now” audience. But in the rush to enhance the app, security corners can’t be cut. Time needs to be taken to scan and address anything found.
One tactic that development teams are using to speed things up is automation. Automation is powered by AI. This removes some of the tedious stuff from developers’ workload, so they can focus on security.

Backend breaches

Most mobile apps have a mobile backend, which means that’s another door inside. Banking and retail are the most prolific, with 83% of apps in these industries having backdoors, such as web services and APIs. There are typically flaws in the backends that can be manipulated. To protect against backend breaches, all entryways need to be secure.

Software supply chain attacks

Several stories from the past year indicate supply chain attacks are increasing. Most companies are thinking solely about their own defenses to cyberattacks. These may be in compliance and working fine, but you’re not completely safe; there’s still the risk of indirect attacks. Those are hard to defend against.
Being aware of the threat is just the start. You should take steps to secure your supply chain. Start with ensuring the integrity of your infrastructure. Any third-party source should be managed. Insist they tighten their security and provide proof of such actions.

Security regulations are evolving

The pace of technology has long been ahead of regulations. Some of those are finally catching up. GDPR is such an example, which now requires that personal data be handled in a specific way by law — including Right to Erasure.
Rules could change around IoT devices as well. These devices are often controlled with an app; it’s a full circle of keeping data secure in all channels.

Code changes can exploit vulnerabilities

The code used to support web applications is transforming and become more dynamic. While dynamic code opens up new opportunities, it also makes it harder to check.
Languages like C++ and Java are conventionally static. Source code analysis isn’t a challenge. The world of app languages — Python, Ruby, and JavaScript — is different. It’s dynamically typed and linked. This placement of code makes it hard to get everything with a standard security scan.
App developers should be aware of these dangers when working with these languages. Highly skilled app developers will be aware of the possibilities of exploitation while coding so as to best avoid them.

Machine learning: another tool for security

As developers are relying on AI for automation, they will also find benefits in machine learning; such is the case when an app can be divided into lots of mini systems that are easier to defend. Machine learning works in this scenario, as it would be almost impossible to do this manually. This can reduce errors along the way. It also includes a behavioral safeguard security control for each unit.

Talent could be the weak link

Security is only going to get more complex. Programmers and developers have to keep up with any threat, especially when building apps. When you assign your in-house IT team to build, update, or manage an app, you are counting on them having the specialized skills to carry this out. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. Security best practices may be overlooked simply because app dev isn’t a core competency.
Having a dedicated group of app developers that are available on demand is a great alternative. Outsourcing app development can enhance the security of your project because these teams not only build apps regularly, but also have a good pulse on the latest requirements, which are more secure by design.
There is also the advantage of a new perspective. Your internal team lives and breathes what you do. They may be too close to it to spot every vulnerability. Analysis from outside experts can help form your security future.

Crowdsourcing makes app dev more secure by design

How great would it be to have multiple developers with specialized skills working on your app on demand? With Topcoder, you can. And for many reasons, crowdsourcing is an approach that can be even more secure than traditional software development.

Beth Osborne

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