Five ways to prevent data leakage in an app
In this digital age, one of the best ways to bring in revenue is to promote your business with the help of an app. This fact, along with the increasing accessibility of smartphones, has led to the app market growing exponentially. Today, there are an estimated 4 million apps on the App Store and Google Play Store combined. As an individual who probably uses several of them daily, you are undoubtedly aware of the importance of ensuring that user data is secure. If you have a revenue model that relies on applications, you must take all possible measures to prevent data leakage in an app you build.
What is a data leak?
In simple terms, a data leak is the unauthorized transmission of sensitive information. This transmission can happen over the internet, or with the use of hardware like external hard drives. As you would imagine, data leaks can be devastating for businesses – from causing them a loss of revenue to a loss of reputation. And, of course, the leaking of consumer data can be dangerous to individuals as well. In general, data leaks fall into four different categories, based on the type of data:
- Customer information (names, addresses, phone numbers, passwords, credit card details)
- Company information (marketing strategies, internal communications)
- Trade secrets (plans for upcoming products, proprietary code)
- Analytics (customer behavior data, data models)
It is essential to note the difference between a data leak and a data breach. The former is when data is exposed inadvertently due to poor security practices. On the other hand, a data breach is when someone with malicious intent uses sensitive data that they discover through a data leak.
What causes data leaks?
Before you can understand how to prevent data leakage in an app, it is helpful to know how this can happen in the first place. Here are some common causes of data leaks:
- Badly configured software
- settings Social engineering (such as phishing)
- Weak or recycled passwords
- Physical theft of devices
Five things you can do to prevent data leakage in an app
Encrypt all data
Using an encryption key to secure your app’s data makes it harder for cyber criminals to exploit data leaks. You can encrypt your data with encryption keys – random strings of numbers or letters that scramble data. The output of this scrambling is called ciphertext. You can only understand this output with the help of a decryption key.
There are two categories of encryption algorithms – one where the encryption and decryption keys are the same (symmetric) and one where they are different (asymmetric). Symmetric encryption is faster than asymmetric schemes, but asymmetric encryption is more secure. Despite this, experienced cyber attackers can decrypt highly encrypted data – sometimes even without a key. This is why you cannot rely solely on encryption to prevent data leakage in an app.
Don’t cache data
Most apps automatically save information that can streamline their users’ experience. For example, an app might save your username and password so that you don’t have to log in every single time. This practice of storing data is refered to as data caching. While this makes the app more usable from an individual user’s standpoint, this kind of app design has its drawbacks as well.
Web-based data such as cookies, HTML form inputs, and URL and transaction histories can easily be revealed through cached information. Some apps may also cache camera images which, if leaked, can seriously threaten an individual’s safety. The same is true for application screens, especially those that contain transaction activity. If your app is going to collect any kind of sensitive data, it is probably a good idea to disable caching.
Monitor network access
To prevent data leakage in an app, you should regularly monitor the traffic that runs through your network. This will help you to identify any security leaks as soon as they show up. If someone is planning a cyber attack, they will first have to understand your security parameters before they can bypass them. By carefully monitoring who is accessing what data, you will be alert to any suspicious activity, making it easier to keep your app data safe.
Use data loss prevention (DLP) software
An effective DLP system uses a mixture of technology and processes to make sure that sensitive data is not leaked, lost, or misused. This kind of software starts by identifying the different types of data that a business handles. It is common practice to use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to help with data identification. Once all the data is identified, it can be classified into different categories according to how sensitive it is. The program will then be able to efficiently tailor defenses for each data category. Sometimes, however, prevention strategies can fall through. In this case, DLP software usually also has tools to detect data leaks and plug them in as little time as possible.
Evaluate third-party risk
Unfortunately, your cyber security is not solely dependent on you. You have to make sure that the vendors you choose to go with also maintain strong data security practices. To do this, you need to perform vendor risk assessments to make sure that all your third parties comply with regulatory standards.
You can carry out this assessment by first creating a list of risk criteria containing the worst possible risks that your organization might face. Once you have this list, you can use it to assess third-party vendors, making sure that they will be able to protect your application from these risks. Even once you are in business with a third-party vendor, you will have to continue with your risk assessment. Having a well-designed framework for your risk assessment and management will go a long way.
Are you looking to prevent data leakage in an app?
iTrobes is a mobile app development company that offers its services the world over. We understand the importance of keeping your data secure and we employ best practices to prevent data leakage in an app. Contact us today to improve your app security!