Security Experts:

Companies Find It Difficult to Secure Their Mobile Apps: Survey

A new Ponemon Institute study sponsored by IBM shows that many organizations neglect security when building mobile applications for their customers.

The report shows that nearly 40 percent of the 400 organizations that took part in the survey, 40 percent of which are Fortune 500 companies, potentially expose their customers’ data because they don’t scan the code for vulnerabilities.

“In the face of accelerating user demand, businesses are building mobile apps with speed-to-market and user experience in mind. What they are not doing, however, is validating that their apps are safe and secure enough for users to disclose the confidential information — such as billing details and personal information — the apps frequently require,” Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, wrote in a blog post.

A total of 640 individuals involved in application development and the security process in their organizations have been asked about the difficulty of securing mobile apps. Only 7% of them said the task is easy, while more than three quarters of the respondents said securing apps is “very hard.”

When asked about why mobile apps contain vulnerable code, many of the respondents cited rush-to-release pressures, lack of training on secure coding practices, lack of quality assurance and testing procedures, and the lack of internal policies that clarify security requirements.

Malware-infected mobile apps are increasingly common and nearly two thirds of the individuals who took part in the Ponemon Institute survey said their organizations will need to address the growing risk. However, only 29 percent said their companies have the resources necessary for preventing the use of vulnerable or infected applications. Furthermore, well over half of organizations lack the necessary mobile application security expertise, the study shows.

According to the report, organizations spend an average of $34 million per year on mobile app development, but only $2 million, or 5.5 percent of the annual budget, on mobile app security. When it comes to spending money on security, 36 percent of the budget goes to reducing vulnerabilities and threats from proprietary software. On the other hand, only 11 percent is allocated to reducing threats from mobile apps through penetration testing.

“There is no doubt that mobile apps will continue to evolve and become more ingrained into our daily lives. What cannot be overlooked, however, is the increasing security risks as cybercriminals become more sophisticated and aware of the numerous exploits opening up due to our lack of focus on mobile security,” Dr. Ponemon said.

IBM also announced today the introduction of a new mobile threat management technology. IBM MobileFirst Protect Threat Management is designed to identify suspicious activities on mobile devices, and block the attack immediately after the breach is detected.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.