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How to build secure software on both mobile and desktop

It’s not difficult to protect data when both developers and users know how to do it. Hackers would lose their job if all of us strictly followed security rules.  

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In the modern world, security concerns attract more attention than ever. Various hackers and scammers began to flourish with the rise of cryptocurrencies which worth hundreds and thousands of dollars per coin. Sensitive data of celebrities, banking credentials, information about money transfers or new technologies – online rogues benefit from everything because people tend to ignore key protection measures.

However, a fish stinks from the head down. Without proper security features designed by software developers, it’s impossible to protect your data on the client side. Considering the fact that mobile devices gain more popularity because of constantly increasing functionalities while desktop/web platforms remain top-rated, we want to discover how authors can make their products compatible and safe. You will find tips for users in the last section.

Security in a Nutshell

At first, let’s distinguish between applications security and software security. These terms may look synonymous but they are related to different aspects where the first definition stands for the overall safety of the released product and the second one covers both post-deployment and pre-deployment stages.

Basically, software applications are simple tools that help users to interact with data, either via mobile gadgets or desktop platforms. Say, if you want to check a health record or get info about your recent transactions, it’s much more convenient to use a smartphone or hospital/bank website instead of calling or visiting these places.

The problem is that software doesn’t recognize the types of data classified by its sensitivity. Without manually programmed categories and accesses, apps can’t distinguish your name from your credit card’s CVV/CVC numbers. Hence, it’s important to start building a proper security system from the very first development stages. Here are some tips on this process:

  • Carry out secure coding.
  • Classify data and set authorization requirements.
  • Locate bugs and get rid of them.
  • Evaluate security on each development stage.
  • Check the reliability of third-party stuff.
  • Educate developers about scam techniques.
  • Require 2FA from employees.
  • Regularly upgrade software after its release.

Known Safety Issues

It’s barely possible to create a solid protected app without understanding how mobile and desktop platforms are vulnerable for hackers. Put simply, there are a few traditional approaches to breaking into devices with different architecture, so we propose to check them right now. These points should help during the designing stage when you plan the best security measures for both mobile and desktop products.

Smartphones and Tablets

On-the-go lifestyle features mobile devices obligatory. Thus, a lot of people now transfer their core data from computers to smartphones or at least sync information between two platforms. As a result, we get another one point where scammers can get access to valuable data. Technically, there are three vulnerable aspects:

  • Device’s hardware.
  • Software itself.
  • Public networks.

For example, thieves can easily steal your phone in a crowd, root it, and get access to everything inside the system. Hardware also can be rigged if you buy gadgets from unofficial distributors. Apart from this weak spot, hackers are known to break into smartphones and tablets via unprotected public Wi-Fi networks. Finally, it’s worth nothing to install malware through an ordinary game or media application if it’s downloaded from the unofficial store.

Web and Desktop

Both browsers and downloaded software usually work similarly if they require an Internet connection. Here, the application acts as a client’s side which sends requests and gets results while the main database (and interfaces if you use a browser to navigate through websites) is located on the connected server. Hence, security challenges divide into three parts:

  • Client-side.
  • Server-side.
  • Data exchange process.

The most dangerous problem is related to legacy software as online rogues can easily break into old interfaces which are no longer protected by updated systems. As well, page caching, bad encryption services, and addresses/sensitive info exposed by cookies are potential weak links which can be utilized by hackers.

Developing Secure Software

Now, the question is: how to create a reliable system for both platforms if they feature such different weaknesses? Generally, there are three approaches. You can choose the most suitable but be sure to consider the pros and cons of each example.

Mobile AND Desktop

In this case, developers should create two products (for mobile platforms and for browsers/desktops) separately from each other. Apps aren’t interconnected or synchronized, so be ready to high expenses both in money and in time because your team will have to invest twice more resources. As a result, two separate apps will be released, each with own protection designed for target platforms specifically.

Mobile WITH Desktop

This option provides for launching a highly-adaptive website, so it will display all elements properly for web and mobile users. As a result, you get a single platform with only one weak spot based on web vulnerabilities described above. Nonetheless, the final product will be less functional than native mobile platforms, content will load slower, and overall features will be limited.

Mobile PLUS Desktop

Instead of creating separate projects or designing a website with mobile compatibility, there’s the most efficient and secure option. Various teams including Diceus.com developers use this approach. It’s required to create a single back-end platform but install two different front-end systems over it.

For instance, basic software can be realized using RESTful API which supports scalable architecture for both mobiles and desktops. Further, React.js is a good choice for web front-end while Xamarin or Cordova frameworks will suit the needs of mobile cross-platform developers.

Moving to security measures, there are a few time-proven methods for the mobile-desktop approach:

  • Deliver top-notch encryption. For web versions, it’s necessary to have actual encryption technology which prevents hacks.
  • Include detections. You will be able to spot malware anytime if front-end systems have a strong connection with the back-end platform.
  • Include self-protection. Applications can utilize runtime features such as abandoning of inactive sessions or failure notifications.
  • Test software regularly. Use SAST for code testing, DAST for apps and infrastructures, and IAST for data checks.
  • Update and support products. As rogues invent new attacks, it’s better to respond quickly with new defensive measures.

The described model of development is the most balanced in terms of resources, features, and safety. You have to create and protect three points (one back-end and two front-ends) instead of four elements of separate products but you get nearly the same functionality.

User-Driven Protection

At the end of the day, don’t forget about client-side security. Developers can create the best possible system but users’ negligence ruins everything. When using specific software regardless of its type, remember about Internet hygiene: don’t trust suspicious emails, double-check websites’ encryption certificates, use antiviruses etc. Always enable 2FA to get extra verification codes via SMS or authentication apps. Use biometric identification tools such as fingerprints or face detection for smartphones and tablets.

Overall, it’s not difficult to protect data when both developers and users know how to do it. Hackers would lose their job if all of us strictly followed security rules.

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