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Smart Security Right from Your Palm: Is Automation the Key to App Security?

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With everything from window blinds to grocery stores undergoing automation in this new age of technology, the question of security has grown to be of utmost importance. This is because smart home application providers now hold endless datasets regarding every aspect of our most personal lives. As such, smart device purchasers should be knowledgeable about the security features of the products that they interact with if they wish to keep their privacy intact.

Typical smart products

In an everyday setting, most people now interact with at least one smart product throughout their day – a smartphone. Smartphone usage has skyrocketed around the world. Indeed, when it comes to accessing the internet, mobile usage has actually surpassed desktop usage worldwide.

Smart devices have also broken out of factory floors and into family homes in recent years, with smart home technology becoming ever more powerful with each year. While self-checkout systems have been in place in many urban grocery stores for years, homeowners are now purchasing everyday household items that leverage IOT (Internet of Things) technology. Automated window coverings, smart air purifiers, lighting and security devices have all become very popular with average consumers.

Consumers who have completed decked out their homes with the latest smart technology therefore produce a wealth of data throughout their day. Without the appropriate app security measures in place, their private information can be exposed to just about anybody.

App security measures

App developers and product managers are deeply conscious of their role in protecting private consumer information, with 88% of development and operations teams citing that app security is a top concern of theirs. Several security best-practices have been created throughout the years to ensure that consumer-ready products and services do an appropriate job of safeguarding incoming data.

One important change in recent years has been to integrate security into an app from the get-go, rather than retro-fitting security measures to a developed product. Here are a few typical steps that highlight this security integration process.

The initial review

During the initial review stage, members of a development team and a security team will work together to address various quality assurance procedures and processes. They will also consider business policies, needs and the app’s market use context in order to properly assess potential product/service risks.

Threat modeling

Threat modeling might sound like something ominous out of an 80s sci-fi movie, but it’s really all about discovering those important parts of a given app that deal with sensitive information. This process is often done more than once, as an application grows from its initial conception into something bigger and more complex. Development and security teams work hard to identify critical points, so that they can come up with strategies to mitigate potential security threats, as product growth does not mean that consumer privacy should be sacrificed.

Application design reviews

Modern tech products and services are often developed in cycles, which is one reason why consumers receive notification updates for different apps they might interact with on their phone, desktop, tablet, etc. At the end or at the beginning of a given development cycle, many development teams hand off their project to an independent reviewer to go over their work in order to identify and deal with security flaws they may have missed. Two eyes are always better than one, afterall!

Testing and code reviews

Developers are humans, and humans make mistakes. This is why many developers ensure that they always have their code tested and reviewed before an app goes into production mode. This can involve having another coder check over one’s work, or more often than not, automated testing; over half of mature development and operations teams implement automated testing. By having another computer program check over bits and pieces of code, it is often possible to identify complicated security flaws and deal with them before a product hits the market.

Risk assessment and mitigation

While there are evidently many security processes involved throughout the development process, most app developers also go the extra mile of assessing risks and coming up with controls to deal with potential risks prior to the final deployment of a given product. This means going over potential security vulnerabilities and figuring out ways to circumvent them, whether by changing or removing bits of code, or undertaking some other form of compensating measure.

Benchmarking

Another common step taken by app developers is to benchmark their products against industry standards. These may be legal standards set by a given government, or industry groups such as the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). If a consumers is hesitant about making a product purchase, it may be advisable to do some research or ask a company representative to find out how a given product measures up against common standards.

The future of automation security

With a 50% increase in open source technology security breaches in the last year, security will undoubtedly continue to be a main focus of app developers around the world. This is especially true given that smart home devices are becoming more and more prevalent with each year. Automated technology is bringing about the rise of Big Data in a significant way, and with consumers’ private lives on the line, businesses will certainly be taking app security more seriously than they have in the past if they wish to survive under customer scrutiny in a highly visible, competitive market.

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