As discussion of app and data security continues to heat up, it has become increasingly common to see references to application shielding. With increasing numbers of companies embracing mobility and cloud computing, App shielding is an even more valuable safeguard against hacking and data leaks. Application shielding technologies can bring several advantages to securing applications.
- Preventing reverse engineering
App shielding to prevent the reverse engineering of apps is one of its biggest benefits. Hackers can reverse engineer an app by dissecting its contents, studying its code and data, and discovering potential loopholes. With access to the source code, hackers can easily add malicious code or steal sensitive data from an app.
App shielding makes reverse engineering vastly more difficult by converting the app code into a form that cannot be easily understood by humans. The app logic is transformed so that it is hard to decipher the original code. This helps conceal the app’s internals, algorithms, APIs, data flows, and other IP within the app. Effective shielding can frustrate and stop attackers from compromising the app through reverse engineering.
- Protecting Against Tampering and Modification
App shielding also protects the integrity of apps by preventing unauthorized tampering and modification. Hackers often try to get apps to behave in unintended ways or exploit weaknesses by tampering with the app code.
With app shielding, any attempts to modify the app programmatically will fail. The obfuscated code and inserted guards make it extremely difficult to tamper with the app’s functionality or data processing. Any tampered version of the app will be detected as invalid and blocked from running. This application integrity check prevents hackers from manipulating apps to bypass security controls.
- Securing Sensitive Logic and Data
The data flows and business logic within an app often have high sensitivity and value. This proprietary app logic and confidential data can be exposed through reverse engineering. App shielding allows companies to apply focused protection to sensitive portions of the app.
Critical algorithms, logic flows, encryption, decryption routines, and data processing can be isolated and shielded. Even if a hacker is able to reverse some parts of the app, the critical IP remains protected. Sensitive data such as encryption keys, credentials, or personal data can be shielded to avoid leakage. The strategic application of shielding preserves the confidentiality of app IP and data.
- Avoiding client-side attacks
App shielding provides security against client-side attacks by making the app more tamper-proof. Two common client-side attack techniques are hooking and bytecode tampering. Hooking intercepts app function calls to steal data or modify app behavior. Bytecode tampering modifies the compiled app code to inject malicious functionality.
App shielding defeats these client-side attacks by adding guards against hooking, obfuscating the bytecode, and continually checking the integrity of the app. Even if hackers are able to get into the client environment, they cannot manipulate the shielded app. Hardening apps through shielding significantly improves resilience against client-side attacks.
- Complementing Platform Security
Mobile platforms like iOS and Android have built-in security features, including app sandboxing and access controls. However, hackers regularly find ways to bypass platform security controls through weaknesses in apps. App shielding extends the defensive security measures already on the platform.
The layered combination of platform security and app shielding makes hacking mobile apps orders of magnitude more difficult. Shielding secures apps against common threats like injection attacks, runtime manipulation, cracking, and tampering. Complementing the platform protections with app shielding creates an end-to-end security solution.
- Enabling Safe Use of Open Source Libraries
Open-source libraries allow developers to save time and build on proven code. However, they also come with the risk of including vulnerable components. App shielding allows the safe use of open source libraries by blocking many of the attack vectors.
The app shield prevents tampering with the library code and fortifies the app against attempts to exploit library weaknesses. Applying controls around the open-source components limits the attack surface. This enables leveraging open source to accelerate development without compromising app security.
- Protecting intellectual property
The source code of apps often represents a significant investment and contains proprietary IP such as algorithms, logic, and data. App shielding explicitly protects the IP within apps from theft and unauthorized use. Obfuscation, anti-tampering, and data shielding features prevent reverse engineering and copying of app IP.
Shielding allows apps to retain high business value by keeping the IP confidential even after they are released. Competitors are unable to extract and reuse the app’s IP. The originators of the IP are able to maintain their competitive advantage.
- Avoiding costly app rewrites
Rewriting or re-architecting apps to address security issues is often slow, expensive, and risks introducing new bugs. App shielding provides fast security improvements without rewriting the app logic. Fixes can be applied directly by shielding vulnerable code, data flows, and user inputs.
The ability to quickly shield parts of apps allows for responding rapidly to new threats and vulnerabilities. Focused shields can be added to bolster the protection of specific app components. This surgical approach avoids application rewrites when securing apps.
- Reducing the Security Risks of Third-Party Code
The use of third-party libraries and SDKs can unintentionally introduce vulnerabilities into apps. Weaknesses in third-party components allow hackers to penetrate the app through the third-party code. App shielding reduces the risks associated with third-party code.
Isolating and shielding third-party libraries locks down the attack surface they expose. A third-party code can be quarantined from the rest of the app, preventing a compromise from spreading. Selectively shielding risky third-party code removes its vulnerabilities.
An application shielding delivers multiple layers of protection without changing the app code. The ability to hide sensitive app logic, prevent tampering, and isolate vulnerabilities provides strong defenses. As threats evolve, new shields can be added to efficiently adapt security.
With minimal impact on developers and performance, app shielding is emerging as an essential complement to other app security methods. The approach can be customized to the risks of different apps and applied selectively. Companies are adopting app shielding to cost-effectively secure intellectual property, comply with regulations, and ensure apps remain resilient against hacking.