Since FinTech application deal with sensitive personal and business data, security should be at the forefront of banking and finance software development. However, if you talk about the reality, there are various security issues in digital banking.
Data leakages, Data storage issues, weak encryptions are just some of the vulnerabilities often discovered in FinTech Application.
State Of Application Security Report by Immuniweb revealed that 98 of 100 reputable FinTech startups are exposed to hacker, phishing, and malware attacks. These figures highlight a severe issue: an entire industry, which should be secure entirely and dedicated to protecting clients’ data.
For cybercriminals, the data is a very easy target in reality. The notorious example of the Equifax breach, responsible for some of the most significant data breaches in the past, and, most recently, Earl Enterprise, proves that neglecting security can be disastrous.
The data revealed by independent investigators brings troubling news: some of the most popular FinTech mobile applications are insecure and virtually expose their users’ data to the risk of theft. Under these circumstances, building secure FinTech application with data protection in mind is not only a symbol of a responsible and trustworthy company. Also, it will give your FinTech application a distinct advantage over competitors.
FinTech apps carry many privacy risks, which is why most people feel uncomfortable sharing their financial and private information. Therefore, if you want your app to be used by as many people as possible, it becomes essential to highlight how safe it is, as well as communicating the benefits to users. Below I’ve listed some of the latest data breaches in the FinTech world to make your FinTech app as secure as possible.
Recent Data Breaches and Events
Indeed, customers expect the highest level of security and privacy from financial services companies and banks. These companies control a wealth of information about their customers, including mobile numbers, addresses, personally identifiable information (PII), credit scores, social security numbers, birthdates, credit card numbers, and many more.
In the case of a data breach, frauds and hackers can use this information to create new bank accounts, steal money, open credit card accounts, file for tax returns, and many more. Data breaches have affected various financial service providers, including loan providers, banks, payment processing companies, credit reporting bureaus, and many other financial service providers. For better clarification, here I’ve mentioned a few breaches that happened in recent years:
- 2019 – Earl Enterprises (two million credit cards)
- 2017 – Equifax (In the US 143 million accounts )
- 2014 – Heartland Payment Systems (130 million customers)
- 2010 – Educational Credit Management Corp (3.3 million people affected)
- 2009 – CheckFree Corp (5 million people affected)
- 2005 – Card Systems Solutions (40 million credit card accounts)
As mentioned above, these experiences clearly show that security has to be the top priority for every FinTech company. The reason behind this is they have a huge responsibility to safeguard people’s data adequately. After all, their entire reputation and existence will also depend on this. So here I’ve mentioned essential steps for making a secure FinTech app.
How to Create Secure FinTech Application?
1. Security Starts With the App Logic
If you’re going to develop a FinTech app, integrating security in each step of the app usage process is of utmost importance. But, unfortunately, a lot of imperfections happen in this first crucial step. A security policy for all members in the project ensures a safe environment. Therefore, it becomes essential for you to discover the most sensitive data you will deal with and how you will protect it.
I hope you are aware that the FinTech app you’re developing will have to leverage quite a robust IT infrastructure. In the initial phase, building a secure infrastructure is of great importance. For example, if your app operates on the public cloud, always make sure that you have chosen a reputable cloud merchant who is sincere about security, rules, regulations and complies with modern cloud security standards.
Furthermore, AWS (amazon web services) enterprise cloud has all it takes to stand up against massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks. It will also ensure fast disaster rehabilitation in case of disruptions. For financial institutions developing their FinTech apps on cloud infrastructure, it’s also critical to ensure that cloud merchants comply with the same standards they are using internally. Here, I’ve mentioned a couple of tips for integrating security in each step of your app usage process.
Only Store Crucial Information
Indeed, keeping debit and credit card numbers for payments is usually not necessary in every case. As you know, some servers will only hold the token that recognizes the billing method. The token is then passed to the system, which will charge the customer. The server doesn’t need to know the billing information that requests the payment. As a result, this prevents the breach of the payments database. To narrow the risk of significant data breaches, Apple Pay tried spreading the concept of tokenization.
As a result, creating one-time codes for payments is very beneficial for every FinTech company, and they should have this in mind when looking for the perfect solution. Now, let’s understand PCI tokenization.
A. 2-Factor Authentication
2-Factor Authentication is an excellent method for improving your app’s security and going beyond the primary authentication method of having a username and a password. One of the most common methods for two-factor authentication is using a one-time code via Short Message Service (SMS) or email. Another conventional method is a push notification that enables users to authenticate themselves with a single touch.
B. Think About the Roles and Permissions Structure
Your FinTech app is going to have features that not all users are authorized to access. Since FinTech apps are quite complex, you will require a system for organizing permissions and setting up roles. Here Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) plays a significant role. It is a relatively easy system to implement as it works in the way the administrators think. Moreover, an alternative model is Access Control List (ACL), which lists all the particular user’s operations.
C. Monitor, Alert, Block
It is essential to monitor all transactions and freeze the ones that seem doubtful for later review. Also, you can create your own fraud scoring methods or use them in conjunction with third-party solutions. Indeed, transactions can be rated as low, medium, or high risk. In a high-risk transaction, the system will decline the query and send the alert to the responsible employees who will inspect these log actions.
D. Force the Use of Complex Passwords
Any company that deals with financial transactions requires a strong authentication plan in place. A username and password are the basic credentials that can be easily hacked or stolen. FinTech companies can force complicated passwords and make their users change the password every 2-4 months. Also, enforce the passwords with an extended character set which have at least 14 characters in length.
E. Log Everything
Every time you should log any user activity from every user. This may include the action (e.g., transaction), IP address, geolocation, User ID or account in the platform, device data, and other important information. These logs must be easily accessible during a potential analysis when the incident has to be examined from every angle. Logs are essential for a proper incident post-mortem report, including root cause analysis, the complete timeline, and incident details.
F. Integrate Multi-Step Approval Processes for Key Actions
In the case of some critical actions like large transactions, edits in some crucial, it makes sense to request approval from several members before actually executing it. The FinTech application may integrate sequential or parallel approvements, depending on the business process. In addition, similar policies help to reduce the risks of mistakes or successful attacks.
2. Write Secure Code
Writing code securely is one of the essential components of the FinTech app. Therefore, critical personal data will be saved on the user’s device and secured on the server. This is why it’s crucial to create proper algorithms, which can help you quickly find any flaws in the code. You must scan the source code often and test it for any vulnerabilities. Also, make sure the code is agile and easily portable between different operating systems and devices. As a result, this enables FinTech app developers to quickly act and update code if any kind of data breach happens. Here I’ve mentioned some practices when it comes to securing your app’s code:
A. Include Input Validation
Including input validation is one of the essential security steps for mobile app developers. It will prevent hackers from injecting your app with malicious code by either sanitizing or rejecting the input. But, unfortunately, the lack of input validation is the reason why so many websites and applications get hacked.
B. Check The Data Sent To External Networks & Deny by default
If some sort of data is sent to external networks, make sure it is only the absolute necessity. Review the data regularly to make sure that no sensitive information is being sent. Moreover, the best way to secure your applications is to deny access to all apps functions. Only support it on a need-to-need basis when something has to be accessed.
C. Prevent Broken Access Control & Check for Framework Messages
Defining access control rules is strongly advised when developing a secure FinTech app. This area should include insecure IDs, client-side caching, and file permissions. Also, keep in mind that a failure to implement an access control policy can lead to disclosure and unauthorized use of data. Many mobile app developers use tools with security mechanisms in place via which they can automatically check for any flaws or errors in code, so be sure to pay attention to these types of warnings.
D. Protect Against SQL Injection & Prevent Sensitive Data Exposure
An SQL (Structured Query Language) injection is still an effective hacking method. It is one of the best ways to test the vulnerability of a FinTech app by conducting your own attacks on the app and see whether they were successful or not. It’s also essential to apply patches and updates regularly as soon as possible. The first and foremost step is to decide which data is the most sensitive that will require additional protection that can be executed in different ways. For example, OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) is one of the best resources on anything related to web security. In addition, they publish articles and documentation on this field.
3. Infrastructural Security
Ensuring the best viable infrastructural security is a must for any FinTech app. By implementing perimeter defense, you can achieve this because this layer is similar to proxy servers and firewalls. Also, make sure that routers are adequately configured because that will protect against internal attacks. Here are the best ways you can achieve that:
- Do Not Install Apps or Services on the Server
- Maintain Operating Systems and Application Servers regularly
- Manage Third-Party Components
- Protect Web Server
- Have Redundant Failover Infrastructure
- Use HTTPS and A VPN Layer
- Do Regular Maintenance
4. Integrate Security in Your Regular Workflows
Every business admits that their employees are their biggest weakness when it comes to IT security. Thus, the human factor can significantly impact the company’s security. Lost devices, system misconfiguration, clicking on an insecure URL are just some of the ways that employees compromise their organization’s security. However, in case anything goes wrong, here I’ve mentioned some solutions that can provide quick and easy recovery:
A. Have a Backup Policy in Place
An automatic backup of all files, databases, and code is essential. Also, it is essential to determine the frequency during organizational meetings. In the beginning, you should conduct backups every three-four months. In addition, it’s best to choose an independent backup program that will let you choose which data should be stored and how frequently.
B. Exercise the Disaster Recovery Rehearsal
Businesses that operate in the FinTech space need to have this policy as an integral part of their strategy. It means that a business will simulate an attack, perform recovery, and review its disaster recovery process and some key metrics like downtime, potentially lost data, breaches to search for any flaws, errors, and security issues. Organizations should do these live simulations at least once a year.
C. Separate Development, Pre-Production, and Production Environment
It is essential to separate development, pre-production, and production environments to reduce the risk of production data getting into the wrong hands. This means that FinTech app developers only have access to the development stage without any business-critical production data. At the same time, higher management is involved with the pre-production and production stage.
D. Use Corporate Hardware & Have Non-Disclosure Agreements in Place
Always ensure to use corporate hardware when accessing any back-office or development-related interface. Moreover, an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is an essential document in the FinTech app development process. You should sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with your employees, independent contractors, and anyone else who will access important information on the FinTech app.
E. Implement ISO 27001 Certificate
ISO 27001 Certificate is one of the best certification standards for information security. Many banks and financial institutions need the implementation of ISO 27001 certificate by FinTech companies. The certificate covers fields like risk assessment, security policy, incident management, and many more.
5. Include the Testing Stages
Indeed, Testing is an integral part of every software development process. FinTech apps are specific because they need to be constantly tested for security. While you’re working on building a FinTech app, there are a few testing stages that require to be included in the process:
A. Check Network Security of FinTech Application
While testing, the first thing that should be tested is your network – servers, network devices, and domain name system (DNS). The most crucial areas are the ones that are quickly revealed to the public. That’s why the first focus should be on routers, servers, and firewalls. Also, check your operating system, the database, storage, and other components that are at risk of being compromised. Finally, your system should have all the latest security patches installed.
B. Check Everything From The Client-Side
Client-side penetration consists of checking the application while running in the browser and ensuring no breach can occur. It is also known as internal testing. Through this type of testing, we can get several types of question’s answers, like Can we identify any vulnerable points? If yes, what infliction can be done? Are the access rights for workers set correctly or not? and many more.
C. Server Security Testing
When it comes to the server-side of security testing, you need to ensure that the proper frameworks and tools are in place. Initially, organizations should do security tests in-house. However, the best practice is to have an external audit done at least once a year. In addition, hiring an independent security firm to do a yearly penetration test is often necessary by some enterprise clients.
6. Have a Solid API Security Strategy
Mobile applications use APIs to interact with back-end information. Therefore, API keys and tokens have a crucial role in the app’s security and efficiency. Implementation of an automatic API token rotation has become one of the best practices for protecting an API.
Also, organizations should regularly rotate API tokens. Because APIs are also responsible for the functionality, content, and data, ensuring proper API security is another essential aspect of creating a secure ewallet app or a secure FinTech application. Therefore, the API security stack should consist of three essential security measures – authorization, authentication, and identification.
7. Have an Authorization, Authentication, & Identification System Ready
Your authorization, authentication, and identification system need to function flawlessly with no error. In the information world, identification is similar to entering a username. This means a user is claiming to be someone. Indeed, Authentication is done via a password as one of the verifying methods. In addition, if you want to improve the safety of users and add one more layer of security by adding two-factor Authentication.
Authorization is the last step. After identifying and authenticating someone, the next step is to determine what this person is authorized to do. The API should restrict access to all essential areas. Your users can only get authorization for completing particular tasks and issuing specific commands. Some common authorization types also include IP filtering, bandwidth traffic management, route assignments, and many more.
8. Use Data Encryption
Encryption indeed protects data sent to different entities. However, it is a vulnerable moment when data has the potential to be stolen. This is the reason why it’s one of the most complex parts of securing data. Organizations can use various data encryption algorithms. However, the advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is considered to be the safest one.
As a result, the US Federal Government also uses it. Almost all Android applications and iOS applications run this encryption method. Other industry-tested algorithms include RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman)(2048 bits and higher) and ECC (160 bits and higher).
9. Educate Customers
Organizations should also educate their users on some essential security tips. As they are also responsible for protecting the data, they should be very proactive about it. Here I’ve mentioned a few things organizations should pay attention to in particular:
- Don’t use the app on a public WiFi network
- Use authorized app stores
- Never store the username and password in the FinTech application
- Rooting your device can make you more vulnerable to hackers
- Use VPN as an added security measure and an anti-virus software
- If your organization has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, be extra cautious
Many customers are unaware of how a FinTech application will collect, store, and use their data. So, keep your customers educated by offering a document easily accessible from your company’s website with detailed tips and best practices.
10. Use Payment Blocking
A FinTech app could use a payment blocking feature as this mechanism can block unusual activity such as withdrawing from an unusual place or withdrawing an unusual amount. Many banks and financial services use these measures to prevent their customers’ money and data theft.
Indeed, The FinTech industry is a specific sector where developing a successful mobile solution necessitates some extraordinary measures to capture clients’ loyalty. The takeaway is that a good FinTech app is more than simply an excellent companion. So, if you want to add value to your FinTech app development, prioritize app security as mentioned above, because users demand bank accounts with high safety features rather than a seamless user experience. You should approach an expert FinTech app development company to work with to ensure your FinTech application is integrated with all the necessary securities.
Divya is an outstanding writer at Nimble AppGenie. She is very innovative with her creative ideas. She is very passionate with technology implementation in several industry verticals and always keen to learn new opportunities that brings business efficiency and profitability. Whereas, Nimble AppGenie is an expert in developing solutions for Healthcare, FinTech, and EdTech. Nimble AppGenie is helping small-large scale enterprises by providing innovative solutions that excel in the market.