An Extensive Guide to Android Application Security

The Android infrastructure itself comes with several integrated security features. However, leveraging the best practices can enhance your Android application security more than ever.

Updated 20 March 2024

Sitaram
Sitaram

CTO at Appventurez

Android is undoubtedly the most popular and widely used operating system worldwide. Its ever-rising dominance in the mobile app development market does not seem to fall any soon.

However, when it comes to developing an app, one of the key aspects that business owners can’t skip through is its security. Since cyber attackers have become smarter, they constantly search for new vulnerabilities to exploit your Android app.

Considering that, it becomes imperative for businesses to collaborate with a proficient Android app development company that utilizes the best security practices while creating your app. If you are one such business owner for whom Android application security is the priority, here is a comprehensive guide covering all the vital aspects.

Why Is Android Application Security Crucial for Your Business?

With Android dominating the mobile app market with almost 70% of the share, the platform likely becomes a high-value target for intruders and cyber attackers. Its openness and easy accessibility make it highly susceptible to prominent security threats.

  • Cyber attackers always keep an eye on your apps, waiting for the right opportunity to deploy malicious malware with full remote capabilities into your system.
  • Due to advancements in the landscape of development and technology, cybercriminals have become smarter, too. By using advanced tools and coding practices, they sneak malicious code past the Play Store review process.
  • If your Android app is not secured, it can lead to severe data breaches, further resulting in user data leaks. Consequently, with weak Android app security, you can even lose brand credibility and user trust.

What Are the Major Threats to Android Application Security?

Android application security solutions are crucial to ensure that your data is not misused, altered, or accessed by unauthorized individuals. However, with weak or no Android app security in place, an app becomes prone to major vulnerabilities and threats. Some of the notable challenges of cyber security associated with Android apps are:

android app security

Phone Calls Redirection

Using malware, an attacker can redirect a call made by the user to another number without letting them know about the diversion. This frequently happens with financial apps, when the user thinks that the number is dialed to the customer executive but in reality, it got transferred to the attacker.

Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

Open and Free public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, making them vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. Hackers and intruders can exploit these networks to steal sensitive app information transmitted between Android devices and web servers.

Phishing Attacks

One of the most common Android application security threats is phishing attacks. In this cybersecurity challenge, users are tricked into providing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details, by imitating themselves as legitimate officials. Users may fall victim to these attacks through calls, emails, text messages, or links to fraudulent apps.

Bypassing Play Store Detection

Cybercriminals have found different ways to bypass the Play Store detection and review system by its testing platform and security process. In fact, in some cases, developers are paid to embed the malicious code in their apps so that when users install it, they get a way to access their data.

What Are the Security Features Provided by Android?

Being one of the most popular mobile app platforms, Android ensures to provide certain features that help in securing Android apps. Here are some of the prominent Android security features you must know about:

android security features

Application Sandbox

All the Android apps run in a sandboxed environment, preventing unauthorized access to system resources and users’ sensitive data.

Code Signing

Android asks all app owners to publish their apps with a digitally signed certificate, ensuring that the app belongs to a trusted source and isn’t tampered with.

Google Play Protect

As a built-in security feature, Google Play Protect ensures Android application security by scanning apps on Google Play for any kind of security threats.

Network Security Configuration

When it comes to the network security of an Android app, the platform configures the SSL/TLS certificate pinning facilitated with network security apps for Android.

Secure IPC

The IPC mechanism, also known as Inter-Process Communication, offers secure communication between Android apps and services running on the same device.

What Are the Security Challenges of Android Development Languages?

Android is compatible with some of the top web app development languages used for developing seamless web and mobile applications. The most prominent ones include Java, Kotlin, and C++.

Since every language is unique in its own way, they have specific weaknesses and strengths, as well. Below are some Android application security challenges associated with these languages.

Java

Java is one of the most widely used programming languages used for developing Android apps. It is a higher-level language, making it easier for developers to write and understand code in Java. However, the major security concern with Java is that its libraries and frameworks are easily susceptible to vulnerabilities.

Using and integrating such vulnerable components can lead to several Android app security issues, such as cross-site scripting and SQL injection. Due to this, it is often recommended to leverage up-to-date frameworks and libraries followed by secure coding practices.

C++

For system-level programming in Android apps, C++ is considered an ideal choice. Due to its closeness to hardware, it provides improved battery runtime and performance than Java or Kotlin. However, since it is shared among several components, such as media framework, graphical layers, and WebKit, it becomes more challenging to sandbox the app.

Besides this, the easy code shareability trait must be carefully handled as this shared nature can unintentionally interact with unwanted apps or services, creating vulnerabilities related to Android application security.

Kotlin

Kotlin is an advanced language that is becoming the new normal for Android app development. People often debate over which one’s better — Java vs Kotlin; however, the two have unique features and it’s challenging to determine who’s winning this duel.

Due to its better sandboxing, it is considered more secure than Java. However, due to its relative newness, there are still many features and vulnerabilities that are yet to be discovered.

android app development services

What Are the Best Practices for Android Application Security?

Since there are several threats and vulnerabilities associated with Android app security, it becomes difficult to mention the only best way to secure Android applications. Below we have highlighted some prevalent Android security best practices to consider.

android application security

Enforce Secure Communication

The first and foremost practice is using secure protocols like HTTPS to facilitate data encryption between the app and its servers. Apart from this, one can also implement certificate pinning, to validate the server’s certificate against a known public key. This process ensures Android application security by verifying that the app only communicates with trusted servers.

Request the Right Permissions

Your development team must ensure that the app only requests the permissions crucial for better functioning of the app and nothing more. Requesting unnecessary permissions from the users can frustrate them and impact user loyalty. In fact, Google Play can also remove the app from the Play Store monitoring these activities. Moreover, ensure you request permissions when required, like when the user is accessing the app and wants to use a specific feature of the app.

Keep services & dependencies up to date

Your developers should regularly update their app’s dependencies and libraries to ensure they are not vulnerable to known security issues or bugs. Besides, make sure they are aware of new security threats that can negatively impact your Android application security. That’s why it is crucial to remove outdated dependencies to reduce the attack surface of your app.

Store Data Securely

Utilize encryption methods to secure sensitive data that the app stores locally on the devices. Besides, make sure that the data is stored in safe and private locations inaccessible to unauthorized access. For instance, storing data on external storage devices like SD cards can easily provide access to apps or unwanted users.

Ask for User Credentials

This is one of the most basic yet effective Android application security practices that require users to authenticate themselves before accessing and sharing their information within the app. This can be validated using any of the authentication processes, such as PIN verification, password insertion, or biometric authentication.

What Is the Android Application Security Checklist You Need to Consider?

To ensure complete Android support and protection, below is an eight-point checklist you can consider for developing highly secure and seamless applications.

android os security

Manage security protocols and rights

Maintaining Android application security should be the primary objective while developing an app. Determine potential risks at the project’s outset and establish security protocols in accordance with that.

Furthermore, ensure managing user permissions so that users have a clear understanding of the data their apps are accessing.

Ensure stable and secure communication between the mobile app and its backend

The connection between an Android application and its backend should be safe and stable. You must ensure that both sides are implemented with robust security measures.

Make sure that all data transmissions are encrypted and are happening under secure protocols like HTTPS. Besides, you can also pin security certificates ensuring the app only communicates with trusted servers.

Leverage all the available Android OS security features

There are several Android security features provided by the platform itself, such as secure storage management, API keys management, and sandboxing. These features can be implemented to improve your Android app security.

Determine the permissions your Android app needs

It is important to carefully evaluate the permissions an app requires and request as few permissions as possible, specifically only the necessary ones. For this, it is crucial to plan in advance what permissions the app will require.

In addition to this, users must be informed beforehand about the data an Android app accesses and why it is necessary. This is a crucial step to maintain your Android application security.

Use automation to keep your services and dependencies updated

One of the best ways to ensure fast and secure development is by leveraging automated tools and processes to manage an app’s dependencies and libraries. This not only accelerates the app testing process but also ensures that it is always up to date and not vulnerable to bugs and issues.

Make it clear which OS versions you support

Another important thing that developers must keep in mind is staying transparent about the Android versions their developed app solution supports. Forcefully supporting too many Android versions can be challenging.

Moreover, even if the app supports multiple versions, make sure to remind users to update to the newest version, ensuring that they are using the most secure version.

Proper Testing is key

Leveraging end-to-end mobile app testing services can significantly help in identifying potential security threats. Developers can use Android application penetration testing and other white-hat hacking methods to test their application’s security.

Android app pentesting tools automate the testing process, making the app evaluation process more efficient and applications more secure.

What Are Some Popular Android Application Security Tools and Testing Methods to Protect Apps?

To identify and prevent potential threats associated with Android app security, it’s crucial to get hold of the best Android security tools. Below are some most popular and widely used Android application security tools and testing approaches to consider.

how to secure an app

SAST (Static Application Security Testing)

This security testing approach analyzes an app’s source code without executing the code. The primary techniques used to identify vulnerabilities by these Android security tools include pattern matching, control flow analysis, and data flow analysis.

SCA (Software Composition Analysis)

SCA tools primarily focus on open-source and third-party dependencies of the app to identify security threats and license compliance issues. These tools scan the code for known issues, monitor for new vulnerabilities, and offer recommendations to eliminate them.

DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing)

DAST analyzes an Android app while it is currently running to determine potential vulnerabilities. It ensures Android application security by simulating attacks and evaluating an app’s responses to prevent cross-site scripting (XSS), injection flaws, and authentication issues.

IAST (Interactive Application Security Testing)

IAST tools combine the features of SAST and DAST to offer real-time feedback on potential security threats while an Android app runs. This testing approach is primarily effective in preventing vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and buffer overflows.

Monitoring and Detection

These Android security tools provide safe monitoring of an Android app in production to find potential security incidents. From monitoring logs and user traffic to detecting anomalies and cyberattacks, these tools offer timely alerts to app maintenance and security teams, allowing them to respond quickly.

Fuzzing

Fuzzing is a unique type of Android application testing that involves providing invalid, unexpected, or random data as inputs to an app’s system to identify bugs or vulnerabilities. The tools used in this process generate enormous amounts of test data to figure out potential vulnerabilities and threats in an app’s input validation.

How Can Appventurez Help You with Secured Android App Development?

No matter how great Android apps are, they are not stand-alone. It means they interact with other dependencies, such as APIs and backend tools. These services, if not adopted from trusted sources, can negatively impact your Android application security.

Even if the app is developed using the right practices and Android App development tools, there are still chances that a loophole might be left behind, leading to a significant vulnerability. 

That’s why it is crucial to consider a reliable mobile app development services partner, like Appventurez, who is well aware of the security practices and development methodologies needed to build secure solutions.

Appventurez has been operating in mobile app development for over a decade now. Besides Android app development, our developers are also well-versed in delivering iOS application development services and cross platform app development services.

By leveraging our mobile app development services, we ensure that your application is thoroughly scanned for any vulnerabilities and perfectly ready to counter any kind of potential security threats.

android application security solutions

FAQs

Q. How to secure an app on Android?

There are several ways by which one can secure their app. Some of the prominent practices ensuring Android app security include encrypting source code, utilizing a code-signing certificate, using pen testing, leveraging authorized APIs, and implementing regular updates.

Q. Does Android have built-in security?

The Android platform comes with many built-in security features. For instance, the functions run in a trusted execution environment (TEE), ensuring the operating system remains secure. Besides, data encryption and a protected lock screen also keep the platform safe.

Q. How does Android application security work?

Developers need to leverage secure development practices along with the recommended security measures throughout SDLC. This helps in identifying the design-level flaws and addressing implementation-level bugs.

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    Sitaram
    Sitaram

    CTO at Appventurez

    CTO and Co-Founder at Appventurez, Sitaram Sharma has 10+ years of experience in providing world-class digital solutions. As a CTO, he brought his expertise ranging from product enhancements to advanced technological integrations, while focusing on the consistent growth of the team.