Security threats in mobile devices are continuously on the rise. In fact, millions of malware pieces have infected millions of user devices through the years. Hundreds of thousands of malware programs are detected every day, most of which target mobile devices. Take a look at some of the most common mobile app security threats together with some helpful tips on how you can prevent them.

1 Malware

The vulnerabilities of Android mobile apps have become a serious concern in part because of the open format of Google Play and also because users are allowed to sideload apps that removes any oversight when it comes to the safety of applications.

As a way to respond to malware, Google decided to deploy Google Bouncer but Google Play is still not completely protected from apps laden with malware. Developers of malicious mobile apps break up their malware into several pieces to avoid detection. The developers also use the names of in demand and well-known apps to tempt the users to download the malware.


Android Vulnerability

The Android operating systems also have inconsistent patches and updates. You can never rely on Android to just update itself during the best of times. This is because wireless carriers are the ones that control the schedules of updates on all devices, with Google’s Nexus devices being the only exceptions. This makes it even harder for Android devices to stay updated with protection from different vulnerabilities.


Antimalware Apps

There are antimalware apps available that can serve as a protection against mobile app vulnerabilities. These are available in both paid enterprise-class and free versions. It is a must to ensure to have your Android devices installed with some kind of antimalware. Sadly, antimalware apps in Android don’t receive a system-level access as they would in Windows. This means that the sandbox they are operating in makes way for a limited success when it comes to blocking malware.


Color photo of mobile app icons, connected with stripes; with a confused woman in the background. Used to illustrate the meaning of Mobile App Security.
Most of the time, mobile apps are the cause of unintentional data leakage. | Photo credit: Pixabay


2 Data Leakage

Most of the time, mobile apps are the cause of unintentional data leakage. For instance, riskware apps can pose a serious concern for mobile users who fail to check security when giving sweeping permissions. These are usually those free apps you can find in official app stores which do their work as advertised but can also send personal and possibly corporate data to the remote server where this gets mined not only by advertisers but even cybercriminals.

A data leakage can also take place through the hostile enterprise-signed mobile applications. This is where mobile malware makes use of distribution code native to the popular mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS to spread important data across the corporate networks with no red flags raised. You can avoid this problem by giving apps permissions they really insist on and skip programs asking for more than what is necessary.


3 Bad Practices in Data Storage

Among the top reasons why mobile app threats exists is due to inexperienced programmers who have bad habits in data storage. Databases make it easier to store compact data on local devices yet programmers can also choose to store this data in a clear text or in XML format, a plain-text readable file that makes it a breeze to access the data of the app.


Solution: Encryption

To access data stored on unlocked smartphones running poorly written app, you should do simple extraction of attached file to the mobile app, then query. This action will tell you anything you like to know about the stored data in that app, which is troublesome if database connects to the back end system. Due to mobile app vulnerabilities, the sensitive data must be encrypted at device level as well as external connections must be encrypted too.


Color photo of mobile app icons with human finger pointing on the icon "help" - used to illustrate the meaning of Mobile App Security Threats.
Security threats in mobile devices are continuously on the rise. | Photo credit: Pixabay
4 Unauthorized Access

To protect against any Android mobile app malware and vulnerabilities, you should be knowledgeable about access permissions after installing a mobile app. User approval is needed before any app could access other apps or date on Android devices. Just as you teach others not to open some email attachments, they must be cautious with the requests from the apps to access data they must not access to.


Example of Path

Mobile app vulnerabilities aren’t limited to the Android apps. Path, a mobile app, for instance, can offer a new way for socializing with friends and known for its good user interface. After that, somebody sniffing the app’s network activity revealed that Path uploaded the contact lists to the servers without asking for permission.

Most users are not aware of how valuable contact data is and the terms and conditions of apps frequently hide the truth regarding accessing personal data. What Path did was actually an example of the overzealous developers who want to provide good user experience, yet less ethical app developers might use contacts data for malicious attacks, marketing, and spam.


5 Lack of Encryption

Apps that do not use encryption may cause issues as well. For example, the mobile app of LinkedIn transferred local calendar data to the LinkedIn servers when the website rolled out new calendar integration feature. All data transferred in clear text online. Thus, it’s open to anybody searching for data. Similar incidents have happened with contact data in the mobile app of LinkedIn.

That is why many people hope that all mobile app developers use common encryption frameworks to protect the date of users, yet nothing’s guaranteed. It’s almost impossible to determine the details without transparency from app developers or app’s full analysis.


How to Avoid and Determine Fake Apps

According to statistics, millions of apps are available to download in Google Play and Apple App Store. It means that there are lots of competition and struggles to be on the top of ranking. But, several copycats like to take the ride with somebody’s ranking and popularity. The fact that there are some fake apps that could pose harm to every app user, particularly if it involves stealing personal details and money, it is important to know how to prevent yourself from security threats.

It is never wrong to use a mobile app. Nevertheless, when it comes to mobile app security threats, you should be aware of the things that you should or not avoid to prevent some possible issues in the long run.

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Mobile App Security Threats & How to Prevent Them

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