People use their smartphones and tablets for everything from communicating with friends and family to managing their finances and shopping online. As such, it’s no surprise that mobile applications have become a key target for attackers. While there are many factors to consider when designing a secure mobile application, one of the most important is the security of the application programming interface (API). There are many required practices that are very crucial when we talk about users’ data safety and getting away from malicious actors. In this blog post, we’ll share some best practices for designing secure APIs for mobile applications.
Security Requirements for Your API
Securing an API can be daunting, yet it is critical to ensure the protection of all data that interacts with and through the API. To do so, there are certain security requirements that must be defined. These requirements include setting up authentication methods to identify users accessing the API, implementing access control rules so only authorized personnel can acquire or use the data, and conducting regular audits to guarantee the system is secure and functioning as it should. Taking these proactive steps is crucial in safeguarding against potential breaches and ensuring sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access.
Use Authenticated Requests:
For any mobile application that communicates with a server, authentication should be used to ensure that only authorized users can access the resources. This can be achieved through the use of API keys, token-based authentication, or other methods such as OAuth2.0.
All communication between the server and the mobile app should be encrypted using HTTPS/TLS. This will ensure that all data is secure, even if it is intercepted by an attacker.
Rate Limit Requests:
To prevent malicious actors from flooding your server with requests, you should implement rate limiting on your API. This will ensure that requests over a certain threshold are blocked and not processed.
Validate User Inputs:
All user inputs should be validated on the server side to ensure the data is in the correct format and does not contain malicious content. This can be done using regular expressions or other methods such as input sanitization.
Log All Activity:
It is important to log all API requests, responses, and any errors to help with troubleshooting and security investigations. This can be done using a dedicated logging system, such as ELK stack or Splunk.
Monitor for Suspicious Activity:
In addition to logging activity, it is important to monitor for suspicious behavior that could indicate an attack. This can be done using analytics tools such as Google Analytics or more specialized security tools.
Adopt a Secure Design:
It’s important to design an API with security in mind from the beginning. This includes validating user input, sanitizing user-submitted data, and using other techniques to reduce the attack surface.
Implement Access Controls:
Access controls should be implemented to ensure that users only have access to data they are authorized to see. This can be achieved by making use of scopes and roles when issuing API keys or tokens.
Monitor API Usage:
It’s critical to monitor API usage, both in terms of performance and security. This will help identify any malicious activity or potential attacks so that they can be addressed before they affect the application.
Use WebView objects carefully
WebView objects should be used carefully as they can provide attackers with a way to bypass the application’s security measures. It is important to ensure that any WebView’s are configured securely and not vulnerable to attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS).
Perform Regular Security Audits:
It is important to perform regular security audits of your application to identify any vulnerabilities or potential areas of improvement. This should be done by a qualified security audit team to ensure that all aspects of the application are tested and any issues remediated.
Apply network Security Measures
To ensure that all data sent from the mobile application is secure, it is important to apply network security measures such as firewalls and VPNs. This will help prevent attackers from accessing sensitive information or compromising the application.
Use Intents to Defer Permissions:
This is crucial to defer any dangerous permissions until they are absolutely necessary. These can be handled using Android intents, which will prompt the user for permission at the time of use rather than upfront. This reduces the risk of a malicious actor exploiting a vulnerable permission grant.
Store Private Data Within Internal Storage:
Any sensitive data should not be stored in the application’s public folder, but rather in an internal storage area. This will help reduce the risk of an attacker gaining access to the data, as it can only be accessed by authorized users.
Encrypt API Requests and Responses:
To further reduce the risk of data being intercepted or modified in transit, it is important to encrypt all API requests and responses. This can be achieved by using secure protocols such as TLS/SSL or a dedicated encryption library.
Use Two-factor Authentication (2FA):
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an effective way to protect user accounts, as it requires users to provide two pieces of evidence when signing in. This can be done using a combination of passwords and mobile devices, biometrics, or other verification methods.
Do Not Mix Authentication Methods:
It is important not to mix authentication methods, as this can introduce security weaknesses. For example, an application should not use both a password-based and biometric-based authentication system at the same time. Rather, one should be implemented for each user account.
Enforce Application Security Policies:
In order to ensure that users adhere to a set of security policies, it is important to enforce these rules when using the application. This can be done by making use of an authentication and authorization framework, which can be used to restrict access based on certain criteria.
Protect All APIs:
All APIs should be protected to ensure that only authorized users can access them. This can be done by making use of authentication protocols such as OAuth or SAML, or by making use of API keys and tokens. Moreover, it is important to monitor API usage and ensure that all requests are encrypted.
Developing a secure mobile application requires careful consideration of the various security measures that can be taken. This includes using WebView objects securely, performing regular security audits, applying network security measures, deferring permissions with intent, storing private data correctly, and encrypting API requests and responses. Moreover, two-factor authentication, not mixing authentication methods, and enforcing application security policies should also be considered. By looking at these measures you can get a chance to secure and safe data.