Most challenging iOS App development security issues made Most Easy

6 minutes read

iOS app security

Today security is a crucial thing that is being considered very seriously. Although the closed system of iOS and security restriction outlined by Apple help for secure iOS app development yet iPhone app developers should not neglect security during iOS application development. It is the also a responsibility of iOS developers to ensure user private data is never compromised on any level.

The Highlights:

  • A secure and robust iOS application will protect user data. It is user first priority that there data should be secure. Secure iOS apps are seen as reliable apps.


  • According to apple secure iOS application is done on four parameters:
  1. System architecture
  2. Encryption and data protection
  3. Network security
  4. Device access

This article is framed after going through rigorous research and collecting opinions of experienced iOS developers contributing towards custom iPhone app development.


What are the potential risks associated with iOS app development security


Data leak – Upon using application when the user input his details. This data if stored in an insecure manner can result in data leak if the device gets into wrong hands.

Man in middle attack -It is relatively easy in iOS apps to intercept http(s) requests and responses. Tools like Charles Proxy can reveal the app requests, server responses, and manipulate network traffic easily.


Challenging security issues and how to handle them like a professional iOS app developer


Weak Server Side Controls

The Problem – It is hackers favorite hobby to get access to the server side by exploiting the weakness in the application that to the location that stores huge amount of sensitive data.


The Solution – A professional iOS developer should do the below to secure the iOS application

  •  Neutralise unauthorised user input through whitelisting
  • Simplify data input and optimize processing with canonicalization
  •  Blocking unauthorised and malicious access using the input validation
  •  Encode the output to avoid XSS and format string attacks


Sensitive Information Breach

The Problem – Application contain a lot of private data of the user. This data might become vulnerable if app is not programmed in secure manner. Hacker can implement reverse engineering to extract the data.


The Solution – A developers must ensure that sensitive information should not be on the mobile device. It can be achieved in the following ways

  • Do not hardcode the passwords or session tokens.
  • Never write sensitive information on the log files as it makes them vulnerable to be tracked by hackers.
  • Private data should be in process memory instead of being on iPhone or iPad.


Insecure way of Data Storage

data storage

Image credit: iPadizate

The Problem – It is considered one of the biggest challenge in iOS app development to overcome by most of the iPhone app developers. Although Apple provides a strong security mechanism if the device is lost or stolen but a professional iOS app developer should focus on providing even more strong security solution by implementing the security directly in the iOS application


The Solution

  • Always store the data locally and never store plain text in the application sandbox
  • Don’t store sensitive data in  NSUserDefaults as it is stored inside an unencrypted database file
  • Store sensitive information inside the device’s Keychain.


Client Side Injection

client side injection

Image credit: Medium

The Problem – Dear developer these type of attacks are now not limited till websites. On the contrary,  more injection attacks are being targeted on mobile apps


The Solution – A developer will be able to effectively deal with injection based attacks as below

  • Strictly avoid strcat and strcpy as these are injection vulnerable functions.
  • Try using the parameterized queries in high numbers.
  • During URL schemes implement the extra validating.
  • Maintain the complete control of UIWebView content/pages this will avoid local capacity of the app during hybrid (mobile and web) app development.


Weak Protection of Transport Layer


The ProblemAlmost every mobile application uses a third party network to work which puts sensitive data prone to eavesdropping attacks.


The Solution  

  • Transport layer protection can be ensured as below:
  • Use setAllowsAnyHTTPSCertificate parameter for accepting only the validated SSL certificates
  • SSL/TLS encryption for app data and session tokens
  • Use CFNetwork API that uses NSStreamSocketSecurityLevelSSLv3/TLSv1.2.


Improper Cryptography


Image credit: NIST

The Problem – Practise of poor key management leads to weak cryptography which eventually results in increasing the vulnerability of iOS application security.

The Solution – When below aspects of crypto system are designed and implemented carefully then it makes application strong security wise.


  • Creation of a secure key exchange system to control the key in a secure manner. Do not store it locally.
  • Never hard code or store the cryptographic keys.
  • Storage of cryptographic keys should be done inside secure containers.
  • Device keychain is best to securely store the authentication credential and session tokens.



Leakage of Side Channel Data


The Problem – Among various data exchange process. Keystroke logging is one of the common action used by the keyboard apps for spell check to boost the user experience.


The Solution

  • Disable the screenshots and cut & paste buffers
  • Disable keystroke logging from the sensitive apps.
  • Test the communication channels and data stores of the application to ensure no sensitive data is transmitted or stored without knowledge.

I hope above mentioned security tips will be useful in development of iOS application that are secure and user data is not compromised in any aspect. A strongly secure and robust iOS app will certainly result in differentiating it from insecure application and preferred by user.


You may be interested in following:

  1. How to implement Custom Notification in iOS App to improve the User Experience
  2. Singsys approached again by NBRI, this time for development of NBRI Green Planner iOS App
  3. Mobile Apps Security – iOS or Android?


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