Latest iOS App Security Best Practices!

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Apple has set a benchmark for security in mobile apps and other devices. With its closed-source iOS platform, limited third-party access, and monitored app store, Apple provides its customers with a sense of trust, reliability, quality, and premium feel.

Hence, if you want to develop an app for iOS to reap the benefits of its platform, you would need to ensure your app follows the latest iOS security best practices and conforms to Apple guidelines for your app category. Securing your iOS app is essential for publishing your app on the Apple app store and protecting and safeguarding your company’s and customers’ sensitive data points against malicious attacks, app crashes, and other exploitations.

Though Apple makes security look like a cakewalk to its customers, the story can be different on the developer’s end. Here we will discuss the latest iOS app security best practices and protocols to secure your app against any vulnerabilities. Suppose you are from a non-technical background and want to outsource your iOS app project. In that case, you should hire iOS developers from a trusted IT company with a proven record and experience developing secure iOS apps for various clients across different industries.

Key iOS Security Areas to Pay Attention To

Regarding iOS security, there are four fundamental areas to pay special attention to. They are –

1.     Data Transportation Security Best Practices

You need to focus on establishing a secure communication channel between your app and all its remote counterparts. Doing so will make it difficult for attackers to collect sensitive data by tracking the network traffic or other means.

Here are some of the best data transportation security best practices for your iOS app –

  • Making use of HTTPs instead of HTTP Requests using ATS

Most iOS developers don’t pay attention to the communication channel they use. By default, the application is set to HTTP, which is an insecure communication channel. If your app is set to HTTP, attackers can easily inject 301 HTTP redirection responses using a controlled server. They can also conduct a Man-in-the-Middle attack.

An easy fix to this security challenge is using an HTTPS communication channel, not HTTP. This can be set up using App Transportation Security (ATS). ATS blocks insecure connections by default, making it mandatory for developers to use HTTPS rather than HTTP. You can use HTTP domains for certain pages by disabling ATS manually.

  • Securing Push Notifications

For sending push notifications to your customers or app users, you need to leverage Apple’s APNS services. However, most clients worry that this will enable Apple to read the content of your push notifications, and they don’t want that to happen. If you are also uncomfortable knowing Apple could read the contents of your set Push Notifications, you can use UNNotificationServiceExtension to modify the content on the client-side.

Doing so will enable developers to send encrypted messages to the clients or use placeholder content for any sensitive data. The app will then decrypt the message or replace the placeholder content with the sensitive data hidden from the Apple servers.

1.3 Establishing end-to-end encryption

Establishing end-to-end encryption is an absolute must when establishing secure data transportation. It allows you to encrypt messages in a manner that only allows the sender and the receiver to decrypt the data. Both Apple and your servers cannot read the cleartext data.

2.     Data Storage Security Best Practices

Next, you also need to worry about different data storage vulnerabilities and understand the best practices for storing data securely in your iOS app. Here are the top iOS app security best practices regarding data storage –

2.1 Monitor Access to Privacy Resources

Most applications need permissions to users’ private resources or data points such as Bluetooth ID, location, mic, camera, and contacts. This opens up chances for possible leaks if the data is handled in an insecure manner, such as sending data as plaintext over HTTP. To avoid such a situation, iOS developers should follow a certain iOS policy like data encryption before sending it to the server.

2.2 Using Keychain Services Securely

One way to ensure your data remains encrypted is to use Apple’s Keychain Services. Data in Keychain services automatically gets encrypted. Hence you don’t need to save encryption keys, and each app gets its keychain section which other applications can’t access.

There are different kinds of keychains that you can use as per your requirement. Some of them are – Local Keychain and iCloud Keychain. As the name suggests, Local Keychain is only available on the device, whereas iCloud Keychain would sync all devices registered under the same Apple ID.

2.3 File Data Protection

When saving a new file, a developer can use the following options for improving overall data protection. Here are the different file data protection methods –

  • Complete Protection – NSFileProtectionComplete
  • Protected Until First User Authentication – NSFileProtectionCompleteUntilFirstUserAuthentication
  • Protected Unless Open – NSFileProtectionCompleteUnlessOpen
  • No Protection – NSFileProtectionNone

You should make use of ‘NSFileProtectionCompleteUnlessOpen’ and ‘NSFileProtectionCompleteUntilFirstUserAuthentication’ for keeping data protection on all files.

2.4 Apple App Sandbox

All iOS apps run in a sandbox to ensure the app only accesses data stored in the app’s unique app directory. If the app wants to access data from outside its home directory, it will need to use iOS-provided services like accessing iCloud or photo albums. This ensures no other app can modify any data from your app. Everything available outside the app’s home directory is mounted as read-only.

Final Words

These are some of the iOS app security best practices to ensure your iOS app remains secure from most cyber attacks and internal threats. Following these best practices can make your iOS app more secure for your company and clients.

Remember to continuously update your security best practices to the latest trends in iOS app development as it is a continuous process, not a one-time effort. If that is too overwhelming, you can hire dedicated developers from a trusted and experienced IT company.

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