How to Make a Secure Mobile Banking App?

    While building mobile banking apps companies very often face the following challenges:
  • How to build a secure app?
  • How to make the app attractive and good selling?
  • How to make the app helpful and convenient on the go?
  • How to stand out of the competition but at the same time not to exceed the budget?
The answers to these and other questions on the latest security issues and the widely used technologies to protect your mobile banking app against the most common vulnerabilities you will find in this blog.

With the development of the Internet and high-speed computing, banks are starting to leverage modern security measures in order to prevent highly sensitive data of their customers from being breached. Learn how to build secure and reliable mobile banking app and provide an outstanding experience to your customers, while keeping out the cyberattackers and not compromising the speed and innovation.

Mobile Disruption Has Already Disrupted

Mobile Disruption

Everything has gone mobile. Gadgets are now the preferred devices. The extreme proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and wearables brought the innovative idea of constant connectivity into the minds of consumers. People see their smartphones as Omni-functional gadgets for everyday life, performing money transactions, buying goods and services, storing personal data like ID cards and passports.

As a direct result, methods of accessing information changed dramatically, including the most critical and the most vulnerable information – financial. A massive shift has happened in financial services as the recent technology revolution made it possible to perform transactions almost instantly.

Mobile Has Irreversibly Transformed Banking

The demand for state-of-the-art mobile services increased dramatically. The modern generation of customers expects to do less and to have more. They want to have all their financial data on top of their fingers and manage their finances with a single touch.
Today’s market requires a modern banking system to leverage instant connectivity and total mobility. To answer new market needs banks are looking for advanced and exceptional methods to improve the quality of their services and exceed their customers’ expectations. Thus, banking services have migrated from banking branches and even from desktops to tablets and smartphones.

What Does a Good Mobile Banking App Need to Be?

Good Mobile Banking App

Before starting to develop a mobile banking app, you should ensure it meets all the customers’ basic needs and expectations and is going to be helpful and convenient.

The app should not be a one-to-one mapping of the features available in online banking. It should possess only the core features, made as easy as possible. The app should not be in any case overloaded with all the complicated functionalities, but have core stuff right, obvious and usable, like balance checking, quick and easy payments and transfers, and transactions history reviews.

Before you start developing a banking app, think about the features that are low on the app’s priority list and are easy to drop, and drop them. Deciding what not to do is as important as making up the list of features you are going to provide for sure.

Minimalistic yet Attractive UI/UX

Don’t forget about the look and feel in the process of your mobile banking app development. Good UI/UX is integral to the process. Effective UX can be critical to the success of your application. Look closer to your potential target audience, carry out usability studies, conceptualize ideas, and write user stories to understand what users expect from your application. Build it with these results in mind.

UI/UX should add convenience to the app, not to detract from it. The app can benefit from pagination, animation, and other techniques that make it “live”, but too many bells and whistles will be abundant.
Incorporate key UI/UX principles:

  • Intuitive navigation
  • Customized experience based on frequent transactions
  • Consistency with all gadget sizes and platforms (iOS and Android)
  • Set up notifications settings

What’s Inside?

Now let’s dive into the most common banking activities users reasonably expect from m-banking apps.

Core features custom mobile apps for a bank should offer are the possibilities to:

  • Create an account easily and quickly. Users prefer to complete the enrollment process from start to finish without even having to set their foot inside a branch.
  • Check an account balance and recent transaction history. In the contemporary era of technology, users don’t have to find the ATM to check the balance, or ask the paper copy of transaction history in the branch.
  • Person-to-person payments.
  • Remote deposit capture using a smartphone camera.
  • Receive text messages and push notifications on the user’s activity, as well as alerts.
  • Make bill payments (utility services, payments for mobile communications and the Internet, electronic tickets).
  • Locate the closest ATM or a bank branch.
  • Get on-demand reports and summaries for the user’s account activity.

Security is Paramount

So, you know what your mobile banking app should look like and what to fit in it. You’re half-way to providing an outstanding banking experience to your customers. Now put security on the forefront. Make it a top priority.
The last couple of years are infamous for notorious security breaches. Apps are getting smarter and smarter, and this opens wide doors for cybercriminals. Mobile opens up tremendous potential for data theft and fraud. The more customers access their banks through their gadgets – the more opportunities for fraud arise. Moreover, the imagination of cybercriminals has barely any limits. Innovative methods of infecting mobile devices are expected to rise. What makes the ground so fertile for banking apps security breaches?

Mobile operating systems are vulnerable to bugs, viruses, and malware. Secure mobile application development requires a development team to possess extensive expertise in modern security practices. Unfortunately, only a few mobile banking app development companies are capitalizing on the possibility to gain a competitive advantage by offering strongly secure mobile apps. Still, the majority of customers are highly concerned about the security risks involved with mobile banking.

Key Threat Factors

  • Jailbroken or rooted devices. Jailbreaking and rooting remove some of the security features and inherent limitations that prevent mobile devices from passing information back and forth when they shouldn’t, and, thus, expose account information to extreme risk. Jailbreaking allows mobile malware and rogue apps to infect the device and gain control over critical functions such as SMS.
  • Storing customers’ data on their phones, with obvious privacy implications. Anonymous developers create fake bank apps that attempt to exploit information on users’ devices in order to commit banking fraud.
  • Non-SSL links throughout the application. This allows an attacker to intercept the traffic and inject arbitrary JavaScript/HTML code in an attempt to create a fake login prompt.
  • Insecure UIWebView implementations make apps vulnerable to JavaScript injections.
  • Sending activation codes for accounts through plaintext communication (HTTP) provides the cybercriminal with the possibility to intercept the traffic and hijack the session to steal the user’s account details.
  • Outdated OSs and non-secure connections. Open Wi-Fi connections are not as secure as office firewalls. Anyone can watch a user typing a password, as well.
  • Insecure data storage. Unfortunately, mobile file systems are easily accessible to cybercriminals.

The Most Frequent Security Threats to Mobile Banking App:

Man-in-The-Middle (MiTM) attacks. The app is communicating with the bank to verify it. Sometimes hackers intercept the data and pretend as if they represent the bank and gain access to your account.

  • Credential harvesting. This hackers’ technique is aimed at obtaining valid usernames, passwords, emails, and other personal information through infrastructure breaches.
  • App piracy. Hackers unpack the app’s source code using reverse engineering and produce an infected version of mobile banking apps.
  • Bypassing security mechanisms. Cybercriminals use mobile malware to disable, alter or remove security mechanisms of your smartphone or app.
  • Malware (Malicious software). Upon installation on your device, this software can steal anything you enter – usernames, passwords, account numbers and send it to hackers.
  • Clickjacking. Tricks users to click on a button that appears to perform different functions or on an invisible element to unwillingly download malware or reveal confidential information.

Ensure Solid Data Security

It’s critical to prevent security breaches in the early stages of the mobile banking app development process. Timely identification of potential risks helps develop a product safely from start to finish of SDLC.

To drive this point further, here is what you can do to mitigate the most common flaws:

  • Make sure your existing security policies are technologically enforced and are dependent on user compliance.
  • Have a full thought-out security plan at every stage of application development.
  • Build your app safely. Carefully consider risk mitigation, security management, integrity checking, blocking external screens, repackaging detection, regulatory compliance obligations, and Web-based/mobile application source code vulnerabilities prior to deployment. Store data encrypted in your app. During the development ensure your app is as self-protecting as possible.
  • Multi-factor authentication. Also known as multi-step verification. The practice of sending SMS with a one-time passcode every time the user tries to log in, as well as biometric data authentication (fingerprints and face-recognition features). The use of multi-factor authentication instantly adds a significant layer of security to the application.
  • Integrate the latest digital signature technologies into the mobile app to make all the transactions more secure. These mathematical techniques are employed to ensure the authenticity, integrity, and nonrepudiation of a message. Digital signatures possess the same legal significance as ink on paper signatures.
  • Strong password protection and build-in password strength checker. The app shouldn’t allow users to save their passwords. This is great for the quick opening of the app, but this means someone who snatches their phone has full access to their accounts. A strong password should contain a certain number of capital letters, symbols, special characters, and numbers. It should be impossible to guess.
  • Auto log-off after X seconds of inactivity.
  • Incorporate security into the app development process. Last-minute fixing may affect the whole functionality.
  • Ensure that all connections are performed using secure transfer protocols.
  • Improve additional checks to detect jailbroken devices.
  • Remove all development information from the production app.
  • Enforce SSL Certificate checks by the client application
  • Use end-to-end encryption (proved algorithms like Triple DES, RSA, AES, Blowfish, Twofish)
  • Utilize User Behavior Analytics (UBA) to search for patterns of user behavior and to include real-time text notifications about the unusual activity for further investigation. Track statistics like user location, speed of entering data, the most common channel of authentication.

Threatened Men Live Long

In addition, one of the preventive security measures you should adopt is sufficiently educating your customers about the security risks and best practices to follow. A well-informed customer using a mobile banking app can serve as an additional layer of protection in itself. Promote security among them as your core differentiator and remind your customers to:

  • Password-protect their smart devices
  • Avoid saving login data
  • Log out when they are done
  • Keep their apps and smartphones updated for maximum security
  • Set up SMS notifications on every transaction
  • Use fingerprint and facial recognition technology
  • Provide your customers with the official application or inform them where it could be downloaded
  • Never use public Wi-Fi for working with the mobile banking app
  • Obtain software that automatically erases data on a stolen device

How to Pay Less and Get More

Mobile Disruption

How much may it cost the development of the mobile banking app? The world’s leading banks spend approximately $132,000 for the development of mobile banking app from scratch. The middle-sized outsourcing company will charge you for the solution of this kind between $40,000 and $60,000, which can help you gain maximum benefits for a very reasonable price.

If you decided to leverage an outsourcing company and cut costs on the app development, contact the company you chose to identify the final price. Usually, mobile banking and development cost depends on the developers’ salaries and a number of working hours needed to complete the project. For example, the average hourly rate in Eastern Europe is $35-50, as compared to the US’ $100-150.

Get Experts Onboard

Having proper security onboard, mobile banking applications may be highly profitable. However, they are not only about money, but they are also about trust. A secure and reliable mobile banking app may serve as your best driver for customer acquisition. Keep in mind that costs incorporated with an attack can be much higher.

When starting a collaboration with mobile banking app developers remember to engage security experts with experience in the financial domain and invest in preventive security measures. Romexsoft has years of experience helping startups and enterprises develop financial technology solutions. By delivering top-notch applications, we help our financial clients gain visibility traction, and in the result, acquire substantial market shares in financial and banking domains.

Our knowledgeable and skilled team of developers will create a tailored software solution with the highest security standards to empower your customers to perform financial transactions from anywhere at any time while preventing hackers from intercepting sensitive data.

Written by Romexsoft on October 6, 2016 (edit 2019)

Ivan Shulak
Ivan Shulak Delivery Manager, Romexsoft
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