A Deep Dive into MASVS-Based Security Measures
Mobile apps have become essential to our daily lives, serving many functions, from communication to entertainment and productivity.
However, this widespread usage has also made them a major target for cyberattacks. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance for iOS and Android app programmers alike to prioritize app security to protect user data and maintain customer trust.
One powerful framework for improving mobile app security is the Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS).
In this guide, we will explore what MASVS is, learn its fundamentals, and find out how to implement it in mobile app development. We will also discuss key methods to improve mobile app security using MASVS.
What Is MASVS?
MASVS, which stands for Mobile Application Security Verification Standard, is a framework created by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). The OWASP mobile security provides guidelines for mobile app developers and security experts to build, test, and verify the security of mobile applications.
MASVS Fundamentals: Understanding Levels and Objectives
The OWASP security requirements suggest to divide the MASVS framework into three security levels, each with its set of objectives:
Standard Security (MASVS-L1)
MASVS-L1 focuses on basic security requirements that all mobile apps should meet. It includes security controls such as data storage protection, communication security, and authentication mechanisms.
Let’s delve deeper into these aspects:
- Data Storage Protection: MASVS-L1 recommends encrypting sensitive data, such as login credentials or personal information, with the help of strong encryption algorithms. Also, developers should use access controls to guarantee that only authorized users can get this data.
- Communication Security: To thwart hackers, MASVS-L1 recommends secure communication protocols like HTTPS. Adding certificate pinning boosts security by making sure the app only communicates to trusted servers.
- Authentication Mechanisms: Verifying user identities is a core security principle. Therefore, MASVS-L1 promotes strong authentication methods like robust password policies, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and biometrics.
MASVS-L2 builds on MASVS-L1’s basic security with more advanced controls. These controls are designed to protect against more sophisticated attacks, such as tampering, reverse engineering, and code analysis.
Here’s a closer look at the objectives of MASVS-L2:
- Code Hardening: To deter attackers from reverse-engineering your app, employ code obfuscation techniques. These techniques make it challenging for malicious agents to understand the app’s source code and discover vulnerabilities.
- Tamper Detection and Response: Implement mechanisms to find out if the app’s code or data has been tampered with. If tampering is detected, the app should respond by taking appropriate actions, such as notifying the user or shutting down.
- Secure APIs and Data Transmission: Make sure your app’s APIs are safe and protect the data you share with external services. This might mean using API security measures, like authentication and authorization, and encrypting data sent to and received from the server.
App-Specific Security (MASVS-R)
The “R” in MASVS-R stands for Resiliency. This level addresses the specific security needs of high-risk applications, such as mobile banking or healthcare apps. It focuses on protecting against advanced threats and attacks that target the app’s features.
Some main goals of MASVS-R include:
- Advanced Threat Modeling: Perform thorough threat modeling to uncover potential risks and vulnerabilities unique to your app’s domain. This means thinking about scenarios that the standard security levels might not address.
- Enhanced Secure Coding: Urge developers to stick to the strictest secure coding practices. This includes regular code reviews, penetration testing, and automated scanning tools for vulnerabilities early in the development process.
Implementing MASVS in Mobile App Development
Integrating MASVS into your mobile app development project is important for improving security. Here’s how you can do it:
Identify App Classification
Whether you’re creating an iPhone app or an Android app, decide on the right MASVS level for it based on how sensitive it is and the risks it might encounter. Different apps need different security levels. For instance, a banking app needs higher security (MASVS-R) than a basic weather forecast app (MASVS-L1).
Integrate Security Early
Implement security measures from the very beginning of development. This includes:
- Secure Coding Practices: Teach your development team secure coding basics, such as input validation, avoiding common vulnerabilities (e.g., SQL injection), and secure error handling.
- Threat Modeling: Conduct threat modeling sessions to find potential security threats and vulnerabilities related to your app’s architecture and functionality.
- Regular Security Assessments: Plan regular security assessments throughout the development lifecycle, including design reviews, code reviews, and dynamic application security testing (DAST).
Conduct Security Testing
Regularly test your app against the MASVS objectives for its chosen security level. This can involve:
- Automated Security Scanning: Use automated scanning tools to find common vulnerabilities and mobile app security issues in your app’s code and configuration.
- Manual Penetration Testing: Hire professional penetration testers to imitate real-world attacks on your app and find vulnerabilities that automated tools may miss.
- Code Reviews: Continually examine your codebase for security issues, even after the app is in production.
If you find weaknesses during testing, fix them right away. Apply solutions and test again to make sure they’re fixed. Also, ensure that your team follows a responsible disclosure process if security researchers or ethical hackers report vulnerabilities.
Key Methods to Enhance Mobile App Security Using MASVS
Improving mobile app security with MASVS includes several important methods:
Secure Data Storage
Implement encryption and proper access controls to protect sensitive data stored on the device. This includes:
- Data Encryption: Use strong encryption algorithms to encode sensitive data, such as user credentials and personal information, when it is stored on the device.
- Access Controls: Use access controls to make sure only allowed users or processes can get sensitive data. This means setting the right permissions and securely storing data.
Secure Network Communication
Use secure communication protocols (e.g., HTTPS) and certificate pinning to safeguard data in transit. This includes:
- HTTPS Usage: Make sure all app-server communication is encrypted with HTTPS. Set up the server to use strong encryption methods and protocols.
- Certificate Pinning: Implement certificate pinning to verify that the app is connecting to a trusted server and reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks.
Employ strong authentication mechanisms, including biometrics, two-factor authentication, and secure password storage. Key considerations include:
- Biometric Authentication: Allow users to use fingerprint or face recognition for added security if they want to.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Offer 2FA as an option to improve user account security.
- Secure Password Storage: Hash and salt passwords before storing them to prevent unauthorized access in case of a data breach.
Employ techniques like code obfuscation and anti-tampering practices to make it more challenging for attackers to reverse-engineer your app. Key practices include:
- Code Obfuscation: Use code obfuscation tools to obscure the app’s source code, making it difficult for attackers to understand and tamper with.
- Tamper Detection: Implement tamper detection mechanisms to catch any unauthorized changes to the app’s code or resources. Take the right steps when tampering is spotted.
Secure API Usage
Make sure that the APIs your application uses are secure and that you handle data from them safely. Think about these things:
- API Security: Review third-party APIs for security vulnerabilities and only use APIs from reputable sources.
- Data Validation: Implement input validation and data sanitization to prevent security issues like SQL injection and data tampering.
The Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS) provides a structured way to boost your app’s security.
By grasping MASVS mobile levels and goals, adding security early in business app development, testing thoroughly, and fixing vulnerabilities, you can greatly reduce the risk of security problems.
Integrating MASVS into your app development guarantees your apps work well and can withstand evolving mobile app threats, safeguarding your users and your organization’s reputation.
Remember that mobile app security is an ongoing effort. So, staying alert and proactive is essential to keeping your users safe in our increasingly interconnected digital world.
Ready to fortify your mobile app’s security? Contact SCAND now to request secure mobile development and ensure your app’s protection from the ground up.