Why Businesses Need Application Security

Published May 16, 2017. Updated September 23, 2020.

Experienced developers, cyber-security experts, ALM consultants, DevOps gurus and some other dangerous species.

There is almost an endless list of reasons why application security is important to businesses. Those range from maintaining a positive brand image to preventing security breaches that impact the trust that your clients and shareholders have in your business.

The Expanding Reach of Hackers

In the early days of the Internet, the majority of hacking occurred through weak links in operating systems and networks. Over time, operating systems and networks have been hardened, although devastating attacks can and still do occur — such as the recent ransomware attack against a hospital in Germany that may have led to the death of a patient. But as quickly as weaknesses in one area are addressed, malicious parties move their focus to third-party software and devices. The result is that data is now at most risk from the weakest link in the network — which is often mobile and web applications.

What that means an app on someone’s cell phone with a connection to your network can become an open door for hackers. That is a general reason why app security is necessary. It does not matter if you are creating the app for in-house use, selling an app, or buying an app. What matters is that the open door is not only closed but secured.

Business goals for app security

Applications are a necessary part of doing business in a world where everything connects to the internet. The Internet of Things, hyperconnectivity, and customer demand require that businesses use apps.

Web and mobile apps help bridge the connectedness of a business with mobile, peripheral, network, and wired devices. They allow you to collect a great deal of information, provide ease of use for consumers and employees, and they make a difference in competitive markets. As such, business goals should address the following:

  • Reduce Risk — Including those from third-parties
  • Protect Brand Image — by projecting security and preventing leaks
  • Protect and Build Customer Confidence — Customer experience is driving competition
  • Protect and Safeguard Data — both your own and your customers
  • Improve Trust from customers, investors, and lenders — Mitigating risk improves trust from all parties

Whatever your industry, trust, image, and risk are three topics that require attention. Without anyone of those items businesses flounder.

The challenge of cyber threats

In 2017, PC Magazine ran an article describing threats to iOS apps. [1] The news highlights the weaknesses in app security. The article, written by Tom Brant points out the current threats that provide a weak link to network security and mobile data. This vulnerability allowed hackers to peruse the information sent by iPhone and Apple devices. Theoretically, hackers could control the flow of data by controlling the Wi-Fi connection.

Even in the presence of HTTPS hackers that control Wi-Fi connections have access to data sent and received via mobile devices. Brant explains that hackers simply route incoming and outgoing data through their servers and bypass HTTPS security by issuing counterfeit TLS certificates. Such a set up would likely go undetected.

The situation in 2020 has not improved. According to the most recent Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of all data breaches were attacks on web applications. This represented a doubling of the number form 2019. In addition, 86% of all breaches were financially motivated.

The Implications for Businesses

Earlier we mentioned “trust.” In 2015, mobile e-Commerce totaled around 30 percent of all e-Commerce in the US. [2] Yet, Statista estimates that by 2018 the global mobile retail market will produce $669 Billion from commerce. [3] Gartner reports that customer experience will be the deciding factor in how customers choose brands. [4] All four of these examples point to the value of trust between b2b and b2c relationships.

  • How do you build trust or maintain trust if application security is not an internal concern?
  • How do you mitigate risks in a world where apps are a primary means of accomplishing goals?
  • How do you protect brand image in the face of a data breach?
  • Do your current application security strategies envision customer confidence?

These questions begin to paint the picture of why application security needs to become a burning issue for businesses around the world. One has only to point to the Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report [5] to feel the goosebumps. The facts are chilling:

  • 2,260 confirmed data breaches
  • The biggest dataset yet recorded
  • The impact affects everyone — big and small companies are vulnerable
  • Data breach is touching every industry

There is clearly a lot on the line and it is moving in different direction. If we go back to the Apple issue and take from that the fact that there is nothing Apple can do to fix the weakness of third-party apps. That fix must come from the developer of each app. We begin to see why the onus of application security sits squarely in our lap. It is our responsibility to protect what we build. Whether that is an application or a fortune 500 company. It is our role to mitigate risk, soothe customer anxiety, and create positive and beneficial relationships with our suppliers, employees, and customers. The core reason that businesses need application security is that businesses have to protect themselves and their assets.

The core reason that businesses need application security is that businesses have to protect themselves and their assets.

The big question is how. Code security is the most advanced way to test and detect vulnerabilities in app code. It is a set of tools that allows businesses to take charge and broadcast that assurance to customers. It is no longer an “if” game but a “when” game and those that prepare will not only have application security in place that meets the toughest standards but also that define what stringent standards are. After all, it is not just about lost data, it is about lost integrity.

Application security is not just about protection — it is an opportunity.

[1] PC Magazine — Report: Security Flaw Lets Hackers Snoop on 76 iPhone Apps
[2] Internet Retailer — Mobile commerce is now 30% of all U.S. e-Commerce
[3] Statista — Global mobile retail commerce revenue from 2012 -2018
[4] Gartner — Gartner Predicts a Customer Experience Battlefield
[5] Verizon Enterprise — Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report

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