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Mobile apps have become an integral part of our daily lives. The emergence of mobile apps after the release of the first iPhone more than a decade ago revolutionized the way consumers interact with brands and each other.

According to research, the number of smartphone users using mobile apps will reach the 2.5 billion mark this year (up from 2.1 billion in 2016).

To remain relevant, traditional brick and mortar businesses have also transformed into “click and mortar” retailers. If we take Macy’s, for example, the company managed to transcend its earning estimates by doubling their online sales through their app. In fact, mobile was Macy’s fastest-growing sales channel exceeding $1 billion in sales last year.

According to App Annie, there were 194 billion downloads in 2018 (the biggest year for mobile apps). Furthermore, $100 billion was spent in app stores (and that number is expected to rise to $120 billion this year).

The Stakes Are Higher Than Ever Before

As mobile apps cement themselves in modern business, it’s important to note that bad actors will also follow the traffic. This makes it critical for mobile app developers to have security at the core of the applications they build.

Smartphones also paved the way for mobile-first businesses like Airbnb, GrubHub, and Uber. For these companies, a security breach can have catastrophic consequences.

However, although the threat is significant, a recent analysis of 45,000 public mobile apps found that as much as 85% had security vulnerabilities that were the result of insecure network communications, data storage, or subpar coding practices.

Most often, mobile apps are left insecure because of the following misconceptions:

  • Passing Apple’s and Google’s reviews confirm adequate app security.

  • Annual penetration testing is enough.

  • Mobile apps are just like web apps.

However, we can no longer afford to think in this manner as the stakes are higher than ever before. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a single corporate data breach is $3.86 million (6.4% higher than the estimated costs in 2017). The average cost of each lost or stolen record containing confidential and sensitive information is $148.

With the costs of data breaches rapidly rising year over year, small businesses and startups run the risk of going bankrupt. This makes mobile security a critical component that can’t be ignored.

Let’s put this into perspective. Canadian telecommunications company, Freedom Mobile, for example, recently experienced a breach that affected an estimated 1.5 million customers. The breach exposed the names of their customers, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, date of birth, account numbers, and credit card details. So the aftermath of a single security incident can be far-reaching.

So how should enterprises respond to the active security threat? How do they successfully reduce their exposure to risk?

Build Security into the Mobile App

Security experts continue to rank mobile devices as the hardest enterprise asset to protect. However, the most successful businesses mitigate risk by building security into the mobile app right from the first iteration.

Mobile security protocols will surely add to the final cost of the digital product, but in the long-term, this approach can prove to be highly cost-effective.

This is because you can automate security testing during the whole development cycle to identify and fix vulnerabilities before the app is released. This is much quicker than engaging in manual penetration testing after development is complete.

As security will be addressed before the app is published, it will also be much cheaper. In fact, dealing with security, in the beginning, has the potential to enhance your brand value.

As security testing will be spread across weeks or months at a time, it will also help ease the burden off your overloaded security team and go a long way to protect your customers.

Some of the leading mobile security testing tools are as follows:

After the mobile app is released, businesses need to continue to monitor and maintain security in real-time. In this scenario, it’ll help to engage an established cloud services provider who implements sophisticated encryption protocols to keep user data safe.

What steps has your organization taken to secure mobile apps? Share your thoughts and experience in the Comments section below.