Fintech apps play a huge role in people’s lives. From daily budgeting to banking apps, people rely on fintech companies to make sense of their finances. Given the sensitivity surrounding financial data, cybersecurity is naturally a pillar of any fintech product.
Sensitive data security is not just an add-on, but a pillar of a successful fintech app. Here’s how developers can secure their fintech apps and offer their customers a safer financial experience.
Understand the attack environment
The first step to securing a fintech app is understanding the different kinds of attacks it will be subject to. These days data manipulation, access attacks, and code injections are rife, amongst other attack techniques.
AI’s advancement has made security more challenging too. A good way to begin this process is to examine security risks from the inside. What vulnerabilities does an app have and how could users be manipulated to divulge sensitive information?
Continuously monitoring the app’s network surface for potential attacks is a great move. This proactive stance on security automatically gives developers and security teams information about the latest attack vectors. Most importantly, it helps them test solutions in a controlled environment, strengthening the app’s stance against a malicious attack whenever it occurs.
Examining the security infrastructure surrounding the app is also a good move. Does the app enforce two-factor authentication (2FA)? Do remote employees log in using a VPN? These basic security features secure an app from unauthorized access.
Educating employees, especially non-technical ones, about phishing and other social engineering attacks is also a good move. Companies must reframe cybersecurity training from an awareness-based initiative to an action-oriented one.
Simply put, companies must focus on helping their employees adopt new behaviors in the face of an attack, instead of merely educating them about what might happen. Experian suffered the consequences of this in August 2020, when an employee trusted an attacker posing as a trusted source.
This type of phishing attack is extremely common. However, inadequate security training led to the exposure of 24 million people’s personal information, impacting 800,000 businesses worldwide.
Secure app architecture
Many security loopholes creep into an app during the development stage due to a lack of security awareness. In a constant delivery (CI/CD) environment, developers focus on shipping code as quickly as possible and ignore security ramifications.
For instance, a new codebase might create security risks, even if it delivers smooth functionality. CIOs must examine app architecture to begin. Functions like API keys, encryption standards, and identity management are critical bedrock of any successful app.
Next, CIOs must work with their CISOs or security heads to revamp the delivery pipeline. Instead of positioning security as a hurdle for developers to overcome, fintech companies must integrate it into the delivery process.
For instance, companies can embed security expertise into every Scrum team, helping developers keep security in focus instead of treating it as an antagonizer. Security specialists deployed in teams can create code templates and certify releases for security purposes before shipping.
The result is a robust code development process that always secures user data. No-code testing tools also play an important role in this process. Often, QA teams assume the charge for testing, leaving end users with basic UAT tests.
However, developers and QA engineers do not have complete visibility into the business reasons behind app functionality. This lack of visibility is natural since developers are not an app’s users. While dev teams understand this gap, they rarely go the extra mile in involving users when testing a code deployment.
No code test tools help user groups quickly create tests in a point-and-click UI, giving dev teams valuable feedback on app usage and the context behind functionality.
While an old incident, Westpac’s data breach in 2019 pointed to a severe lack of coordination between development and security teams. The bank launched its platform despite noting several flaws, believing its dev team could fix them. However, without input from security teams, the flaws remained in place, leading to the exposure of over 100,000 people’s personal data.
Encrypt and authenticate
Given the volume of data fintech apps collect, an infrastructure sprawl is inevitable. Cloud containers and microservices dominate the development landscape and while they help teams ship code quickly, they pose several security challenges.
Hard-coded access, for instance, is a common risk. Developers need quick access and often hard code security credentials to prevent app performance from slowing down. However, these hard-coded credentials are a serious risk, ripe for exploitation if any malicious actor pokes around.
Fintech apps must leverage automated access management tools that use APIs to connect their infrastructure sprawl. This way, teams can continue to leverage the best infrastructure choices out there but avoid compromising security.
These automated apps can validate access credentials quickly and even impose agile security protocols. For instance, an access management app can grant a microservice access for a limited time, revoking credentials after the service has used data.
This approach to security minimizes unauthorized access. Data encryption is also a must-have when dealing with financial data. Fintech companies must encrypt their data in motion and at rest with algorithms like AES and RSA. These days, cryptographic encryption is standard, and apps must leverage these protocols to secure user data.
A lack of authentication was the primary reason First American Financial Corp suffered a data breach. On the surface, the reason was seemingly trivial. A sensitive page was not protected by password access. However, the true reason for this incident was oversight. Due to complex technical infrastructure, a simple security flaw was overlooked, leading to 885 million credit card application records being made public.
Sensitive data security is paramount
Fintech apps can suffer irreversible damage if they fail to protect user data. The methods described in this article reduce the chances of a data breach and preserve user trust in a fintech app’s security posture.