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Understanding Why SSL/TLS Certificates Are Essential for Securing Mobile Applications

Understanding Why SSL/TLS Certificates Are Essential for Securing Mobile Applications

Mobile applications have become an integral part of society today, so much so that users have completely forgotten to cross-check their security.

They put a lot of trust in the company behind the app, which is why they don’t think twice before feeding in their personal and sensitive information like background details, credit card numbers, addresses, and so on.

While app developers do have good intentions, there’s no guarantee that they’ve taken the necessary security measures. As a result, mobile applications have quickly become an easy target for experienced hackers with sophisticated tools.

The best way to avoid cyber attacks that could be potentially dangerous is by choosing the right security options. This includes Subject Alternate Name (SAN) SSL certificates and Wildcard SSL certificates and knowing how to use them most effectively.

In this article, we’ll discuss why mobile application security certification is so crucial today, along with potential threats and security measures that could be applicable for app development.

Why is mobile application security testing so important today?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when we say SSL/TLS certificates?

Chances are, you might have thought about WordPress or other desktop website vulnerabilities. However, mobile application security should also be given the same importance.

StatCounter conducted a study according to which mobile internet and application use has overtaken desktop computer use, with mobile phones accounting for 51.3% of internet usage and desktops for 48.7%.

Mobile apps have access to almost everything – from your personal information to banking details to passwords. Utilizing SSL/TLS certificates helps app developers ensure that users’ data – stored and in transit – remains protected and uncompromised. Think of it like VPNs – how they encrypt user data, letting them enjoy users' trust. These certificates will let your app appear reliable in a similar manner.

SSL/TLS certificates have become more relevant than ever due to Google pushing for “HTTPS Everywhere.” The scenario is still pretty vague when we consider mobile apps mostly because many app browsers don’t include indicators that a site is secure. Nevertheless, it doesn’t reduce the importance of SSL-enabled apps, irrespective of the platform, be it Android or iOS.

Let’s review a few examples of how you might become a cyber target through the use of an unsecured app:

  • Imagine you have multiple online apps on your cell phone. What you aren’t aware of is while you blissfully surf your newsfeed or play games each one of them is vulnerable. All it takes is one app not following the proper mobile application security protocols, which in turn could make your mobile more prone to getting hacked by bad actors. This would then lead to your private and sensitive information getting leaked.
  • You probably already have a banking app on your phone. Whenever you enter your password for your banking app or other critical banking details, you might be at risk of malicious third-parties getting access to this data without your knowledge.

This is why, as a user, you should ensure all your downloaded apps carry mobile application security certification. Users have to become more vigilant to prevent data breaches or hacks whenever they are using their phones for extremely important things such as syncing their expenses, balancing their books, or getting ready for tax time. More and more people are doing these – and other – important financial tasks with the use of accounting software through their phones

Common threats associated with mobile app security

Recent research has pointed out how nearly half of the app developers haven’t done anything to secure their apps. Further, 60% of organizations have confessed that they have had a data breach in the past.

What’s even more interesting, 86% of respondents taking part in a massive 2020 Digital Skills Survey are saying that AI and machine learning will have the most impact on development in the next five to 10 years. Attaining the goal to secure a mobile app environment is still a distant dream right now, but it's likely that these advancements might change things for the better.

That said, here are some of the most important types of cyber attacks associated with mobile applications:

Viruses and Trojans
Despite popular belief, viruses and Trojans come attached to seemingly legitimate programs and can attack your mobile phone.

Once downloaded, they can hijack your mobile and transfer any crucial information that it might hold or have access to. Additionally, it can also send premium text messages that are usually very costly.

Madware and spyware
Short for mobile adware, madware is a program or script installed on your phone without your consent. It's meant to be collecting your data for the purpose of targeting you better with ads.

To make matters worse, madware often comes attached with spyware, which collects personal data about you based on your internet usage and then forwards it to third parties. All this data is then bought and used by companies to send your product or service advertisements.

Having said that, we have to warn you that seeing more ads is possibly the least worrying thing when it comes to spyware. In addition to internet usage, it can collect information about your location and your contacts. So not only are you at risk, but even people who you know are too.

Phishing and grayware apps
Not so long ago, criminals used to send emails that appeared to come from trusted sources, asking for personal information like your password and whatnot just in the hope that you may be trusting enough to respond.

In this case, things are slightly different. Phishing apps have been designed to look like real apps – the smaller screen of mobile phones further making it difficult to differentiate between the fake and real – that collect your information like account numbers and passwords without your consent.

On the other hand, grayware apps aren’t completely malicious, per se. But they can still be troublesome since they do expose users to privacy risks and other breaches.

Drive-by downloads
These refer to malware that can get installed on your device without your consent whenever you visit the wrong website or open the wrong email.

Being any less careful puts you at a greater risk of being targeted and installing a malicious file on your mobile phone. From malware, adware, or spyware – or even bots that use your phone to perform malicious tasks – things can go bad very soon.

Browser exploits
For those of you who aren’t aware, browser exploits take advantage of undetected security flaws in your mobile browser. In addition to this, this security threat also works with other supporting applications that function with your browser – the most common example being PDF readers.

If you find your mobile phone’s browsers homepage or search page has changed unexpectedly, you could take it as a sign that you‘ve been a victim of a browser exploit.

Applicable preventive measures for app development

While popular search engines like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are securing their websites with an additional layer of protection, users should also take the necessary precautions to avoid falling victims to hackers.

Now that we've covered potential threats, let’s discuss security measures that should be taken by app developers.

Implementing Wildcard Certificates and SAN Certificates

Be it mobile applications or websites, using Wildcard SSL Certificates and SAN SSL Certificates is the best way to prevent hackers from infiltrating.

While the purpose of both these certificates remains the same, there are a few key differences that you should know.

●    A Wildcard SSL Certificate can secure a single fully qualified domain name, along with all of their subdomains. These certificates are recommended for people who have only one primary website with several subdomains.
●    A SAN SSL Certificate is capable of securing a maximum of 250 fully qualified domain names in addition to all its subdomains. There is no need for you to add all the domains when you get a certificate – you can keep adding them as and when required.

You should consider purchasing SSL/TLS certificates for all your websites regardless of whether they can be accessed via laptops, mobile phones, or tablets. If your site is enabled with an organization name and the padlock, it makes you appear more reliable in the eyes of your visitors. Plus, you won’t have to worry about users’ data being compromised when they use your app as well.

You should also consider using a code signing certificate, which helps users verify the identity of the app developer and ensures that the code has not been tampered with. This extra measure is an important step in protecting your users – not to mention your own reputation as an app developer. Learn more about code signing certificates and how they work or watch the short video below.

Summing up

The number of mobile device users is only increasing and, thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, app use is at an all-time high. This puts a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of app developers.

Cybersecurity has certainly demonstrated its significance in the past few years, so it’s safe to say that customers will start choosing secure applications that protect their data and privacy.

SSL/TLS certificates, code signing certificates, and other cybersecurity tools and services are a must to establish proper mobile app security, and in the process, gain customer loyalty.

Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.

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