Data security & App Development—Technology, Strategy & Obligations

As the popularity of mobile apps grows exponentially, so does the need for companies to ensure customer data stays safe and the integrity of their systems and intellectual property remains protected. More than ever before, data security is paramount.

We delve into ways your business can navigate the treacherous waters of app development and discuss ways to customer data safe. We discuss the various security measures your business can implement to ensure industry compliance and build customer trust. 

Are businesses obligated to keep customer data safe?

In Australia, data sovereignty laws require personal data to comply with Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and kept in Australian data centres.

The Australian Government has provided guidelines on how responsible business owners handle personal information under the Privacy Act 1988, which includes;

  • theft
  • misuse
  • interference
  • loss
  • authorised access
  • modification
  • disclosure

Information covered under the Act includes personal information such as a customer’s name, signature, contact details, medical records, bank details, photos and videos, IP address and even their opinions.

Every business is responsible for protecting customer data and obligated to notify affected individuals, the Notifiable Data Breach (NDB) scheme and the OAIC about any security breach. 

What is meant by data security?

Data security is the process that ensures sensitive data remains safe and inaccessible by unauthorised persons. There are several types of data security, such as physical security, network security, internet security, endpoint security and encryption which are in place today to protect personal information and prevent devices and individuals from being exploited by a malicious attack.

What are the types of data security?

There are several security measures data companies can take to protect client information;

  • Physical security: Physical security refers to a more traditional but essential process of protecting corporations from data loss or corruption from individuals intent on inflicting severe loss or damage.  
  • Encryption: Encryption is the process of disguising or “scrambling” data to make it unreadable by people not authorised to access it. 
  • Password Protection: The first line of defence in safeguarding sensitive company or customer data.
  • Tokenisation: Tokenisation refers to the process of replacing sensitive data with a unique numerical code. This process can also be referred to as “data masking” and protects data by destroying the original information and using a code instead.
  • Multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication is a process where two or more pieces of information are required to authenticate to gain access to sensitive data.

Why is data security important?

The legal implications of a data breach are extensive, with consequences far-reaching, including the loss of business, fines, damaged reputation, even fines from retailers who sell products associated with your company.

The risks don’t stop there, even from within your organisation. The abundance of mobile storage devices such as laptops, USB, flash drives and smartphones add to the complexity of keeping data out of the hands of would-be thieves or hackers.

With these types of consequences in mind, why would companies delay securing their data and make it a high priority?

What is the primary threat to information security?

The largest threat to information security corporations need to be aware of is malware located on mobile devices. These are also referred to as “malicious apps” and are a popular way hackers gain access to company data.

Think of your smartphone as a mini-computer, and every app you download is like an “application” that can be added to, opening access to sensitive personal and corporate data. Hackers often use apps as a front for their hacking operations to gain access to valuable user information.

What is the difference between data privacy and data security?

Data privacy and data security are two terms often used interchangeably; however, the two are quite different.

The term data security refers to the various security measures that ensure a company’s data remains safe and not accessible by unauthorised individuals. Data privacy refers to an individual’s rights who entrust their personal information/data to a specific company or organisation.

Combating security threats to your organisation.

Companies are required by law to keep customer data safe and secure. Many businesses do not know how vulnerable they are until a breach occurs.

The biggest security threat from the data that your company has is its location on a server. It might be possible for an employee to download a virus onto an unsecured server or external hard drive that can make copies of itself and then transfer the virus into other computers and devices.

Common security threats to organisations include;

  • Mobile apps
  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks.
  • Viruses and worms
  • Phishing
  • Ransomware
  • Trojans horse
  • Spyware
  • SQL Injection
  • Malware
  • Password attacks

For an extensive list of the best cybersecurity tools to help detect and close security holes and block network attacks, we recommend reviewing the article from Software Testing Help.

What is website vulnerability?

Any weakness in the security system of a website classifies as a ‘vulnerability. The first step in preventing hackers from exploiting website vulnerabilities is performing a website and server audit and conducting them periodically. If you cannot find any vulnerabilities, at least you will be aware that none exist.

PCI security compliance and corporate obligations.

PCI security compliance standards resulted from a combined effort from credit card organisations and introduced in 2004. The standards dictate corporate obligations and operational requirements raised to protect customer credit card and account data.

PCI guidelines include:

  • installation and maintenance of firewalls
  • protection of stored cardholder information
  • encryption of cardholder information transmitted across public networks
  • use of anti-virus software
  • tracking and monitoring of all network access

For those looking for a more detailed outline of the PCI DSS requirements, you check out the PCI Security Standards Council website.

What type of information do these hackers use?

Hackers often target data that pertains to your business and technology assets to get access to sensitive information, often for criminal purposes.

According to the PCI Security Standards Council, “a data breach happens when personal information is accessed or disclosed without authorisation or is lost.”

Organisations are obligated under the Privacy Act 1988 to notify affected individuals immediately upon detecting a breach whenever personal information is likely to have been compromised and cause possible harm.

App-level security issues every developer should consider.

Security breaches are increasing in frequency and have become a major concern to governments globally and the private sector. Some of the vulnerabilities often overlooked include;

  • not scanning their code for vulnerabilities
  • insufficient budget dedicated to mobile security
  • lack of testing
  • pressure to rush to release
  • lack of mobile expertise in app development

We spoke to Rocket Lab for their thoughts on app development and security. Julien’s advice was for those considering building their app in-house, “be sure you have the expertise to not only develop your application but also thoroughly test its usability and security.”

Testing the integrity app security before launch.

Testing is crucial to the success of your app, as it is a way to catch errors in the design and implementation and ensure your app is ready for public release.

Some of the essential components to testing your app are;

  • create personas that reflect your audience’s problems and their needs and consider how closely your product addresses those needs
  • choose the right beta testers, qualified testers to help you detect bugs and provide constructive feedback on your product before its official launch.
  • consider all feedback
  • be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.

Final words

As you can see, data security is not something not to approach likely; the prevalence of hacking and phishing have had enormous ramifications to corporations and individuals over the last two decades.

As the audiences become more and more reliant on mobile technology and apps to deliver the services they need, so too does the window of opportunity widen for unscrupulous individuals. How well your organisation takes up the challenge to secure its data will determine whether your company becomes a victim of cybercrime or becomes a trusted source in the marketplace.

FAQs

What is File Encryption?

File and database encryption solutions serve as a final line of defense for sensitive volumes by obscuring their contents through encryption or tokenization.

What are the key challenges facing businesses today?

The sheer volume of data that enterprises create, manipulate, and store is growing, and drives a greater need for data governance.

What are the new privacy regulations?

Fueled by increasing public demand for data protection initiatives, multiple new privacy regulations have recently been enacted, including Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).

What is AI and how does it affect data security?

AI AI amplifies the ability of a data security system because it can process large amounts of data.

What are the challenges facing data security?

These include understanding where data resides, keeping track of who has access to it, and blocking high-risk activities and potentially dangerous file movements.

What are the key data protection solutions?

Data discovery and classification tools Sensitive information can reside in structured and unstructured data repositories including databases, data warehouses, big data platforms, and cloud environments.

What are the key areas of data discovery and classification?

Data discovery and classification solutions automate the process of identifying sensitive information, as well as assessing and remediating vulnerabilities.

What are the key security concerns?

Physical security of servers and user devices Regardless of whether your data is stored on-premises, in a corporate data centre, or in the public cloud, you need to ensure that facilities are secured against intruders and have adequate fire suppression measures and climate controls in place.

What are the key security measures you can take to protect your data?

Backups. Maintaining usable, thoroughly tested backup copies of all critical data is a core component of any robust data security strategy.

PRIYA JAMES is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Certified Ethical Hacker, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Author at GBHackers On Cyber Security

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