5 Cyber Security Questions Every App Developer Should Consider

By Donald Korinchak, MBA, PMP, CISSP, CASP, ITILv3 •  Updated: 05/11/22 •  5 min read

Cybercrime has become a serious issue. Every year, more than $300billion is lost to cybercrimes worldwide. The responsibility of making cyberspace secure for everyone is on the shoulders of application developers. Whether it is e-commerce, social media, or banking apps, developers need to take every action to ensure that the product they are providing to the users is secure. While cybersecurity is a vast topic, any developer can start by asking themselves the following questions:

What are the Stakes and Risks?

Cybersecurity is important for every application, but the time, attention, effort, and budget that goes into making an app secure should be in accordance with the stakes. An online banking app will need much more consideration for cybersecurity than a food delivery app. When developing the security strategy for an app, the first question that you need to ask yourself, or sometimes the client, is what is at stake here. What would be lost if the app’s security were to be compromised?

Another important question is, what are the risk factors against which you have to secure the app? You can look into the history of similar apps and see how they were compromised and what was used to undermine their security.

Answering these two questions in detail will make it possible for a developer to come up with an initial plan for the security of the app. You’ll know how crucial the security of the app in question is and what are the things against which it needs to be secured.

How to Approach Application Security?

Of all the things that ensure cybersecurity, application security is the single most important one. It is the process of finding, fixing, and preventing any and all security flaws within an application. The majority of cybersecurity attacks exploit a security shortcoming in the application infrastructure. There’s only one way to avoid that: introducing a secure software development life cycle (SSDLC). This is a process where security is made a part of every phase of application development.

One of the most common security mistakes made by developers is that of making security an afterthought or the last step in the development of an application. If you want to develop an application with infallible security, you’ll need to make a concrete plan of how you are going to approach application security during development, testing, deployment, and then throughout the life of the application.

The previous question about the potential risks the application might be facing is also helpful here. In order to make a workable plan for app security, you must know what the risks that the application will face are.

How am I Going to Tackle Encryption and Data Storage?

Even if you develop an app with impeccable security, there can still be a considerable chance of cybercrimes if the data is not encrypted. Proper encryption is one of the most commonly lacking aspects of app security. According to a study, 76% of apps fail to meet the data storage security requirements.

Encrypting the data collected, transmitted, and secured by an application ensures that even if it is intercepted by someone with ill intentions, they’ll not be able to read it. However, not one encryption technique fits all apps and running devices. When developing the cybersecurity strategy for an application, it is important to discuss among the team how to encrypt the data and what standards will be followed? Would there be any backup if the user loses the decryption keys or passwords? All these things need to be considered according to the stakes and risks of the application.

How to make Authentication and Authorization Secure?

The easiest way for a hacker to gain unauthorized access to an application is through weak authentication. However, making the authentication requirements too strict for the users is also not viable. Here, again, you have to weigh the factors like stakes, risks, and user convenience and strike the perfect balance between them. You might not want a social media user to enter a two-factor authentication key every time they want to make a post, but that would be a good security step if the action they are doing is a financial transaction on a banking app.

Likewise, you need to decide if biometric authentication will be secure enough? What would be the password requirements? When should a two-factor authentication key be needed?

Am I Using Reliable Third-Party and Open-Source Components?

The use of third-party and open-source components cannot be avoided in modern application development. As necessary as they are, open-source components can also often be the weakest part of any software, so they need to be selected and checked carefully. Before you use any open-source component in an application, you need to ask a question: how secure is this?

It is a good practice to only use open-source components from reliable sources/developers. Another important thing to keep in mind when using open-source components is to stay up to date on their updates and developments. Vulnerabilities in open-source components are constantly discovered and fixed by their developers. In order to stay on top of the cybersecurity game, you need to keep all the open-source components updated at all times.

Conclusion

Cybersecurity is an important concern in this age as more than $300 billion is lost to cybercrime every year. It is up to the developers to implement proper security practices to make the internet more secure for everyone. The five most important questions that any developer needs to consider regarding cybersecurity are the analysis of the stakes and risks of the application they are developing, the way they intend to tackle application security as a whole, how they will be encrypting and storing the data, and how’ll they make sure they are using reliable open-source components.

Donald Korinchak, MBA, PMP, CISSP, CASP, ITILv3

Donald Korinchak is a Cybersecurity Professional in the Washington DC area. Donald holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business. Donald is considered a thought leader in business, leadership, and cybersecurity issues.