Setting up application security for banking apps: the simple way hero graphic

Setting up application security for banking apps: the simple way

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By Paul Butterworth


Banking and financial institutions have realized the massive potential that online banking brings to both their business and their users. In many markets, they are deploying a mobile-first strategy, where mobile becomes the preferred and primary method of interaction with the bank. In this cut-throat race to outdo the competition, banks are investing heavily in applications that will drive business growth, customer acquisition, and operational success. However, in an effort to keep up with innovation and drive growth and profitability, banks must not lose sight of security. They need to ensure complete protection of everything from user security and data protection to financial security to brand protection. This is where setting up application security for banking apps the right way becomes critical in ensuring that every stakeholder’s best interest stays secure.

Many businesses have started to realize that although mobile applications come with many benefits, they have also opened up new and unexplored channels of exploitation. Hackers usually turn their attention to businesses with more significant resources and higher transaction volumes, which makes financial institutions the perfect target.

Common mobile banking risks

Security risks for mobile banking apps manifest in various ways. Financial institutions should mitigate against them during the early stages of strategy and planning. Vulnerabilities are inevitable, attackers are always scouting for banking apps that are most susceptible and profitable. Below are some threats applications face.

  1. Reverse engineering
  2. Modification or tampering of the application
  3. Corruption of the execution environment
  4. Mobile malware
  5. Poor app design, configuration or corrupt apps
  6. Unsecured Wifi networks

Each of these threats presents a specific risk, and they all need to be addressed in a strategic manner to improve your business’s security posture. Moreover, securing a financial institution application is an ongoing process that needs to be managed and included as an integral part of the application build process.

Security basics for financial apps


Security is not a product or a solution. It is a mindset and an attitude. In the past, most businesses have relied on a reactive attitude towards security. Although this is starting to change, it is important to note that this mindset is responsible for making an attack possible. Unless this is addressed, layering on additional security won’t solve the problem.

Addressing security early in the development stage as well as having the right strategy, team and security solutions in place can help you proactively identify risks and mitigate against them. This approach can help save your institution millions in the long run.

How do you set up application security for banking apps?

Building a security strategy and plan for your financial institution can be a complex and daunting task. We’ve put together several suggestions to help you set up application security for banking apps. These measures can lower your risks and help sustain business growth in both the short and long term.

  1. Secure Application Design
    Application design is a seldom discussed concept in security but a design flaw can result in high risks for an application. Even static or dynamic security testing solutions find it difficult to identify security threats at the design level. It takes an individual with great skill and detailed knowledge of the application infrastructure and layout to uncover them manually. In order to build a robust application, security by design practices should be adopted from the outset. Following a DevSecOps framework will ensure that security is part of the development lifecycle and not something that is an afterthought.
  2. Fortify Apps with Application Shielding
    Application shielding is the act of hardening or adding a layer of security to an application so that it’s much more difficult to penetrate, modify or reverse engineer. It is usually performed by using a set of tools that makes modifications to the application’s binary, byte or source code. Application shielding is usually carried out by deploying a number of techniques including code obfuscation, anti-tampering, anti-debugging, and key encryption. Taking this protection approach ensures you have a self-defending application that is more resistant to attacks.
  3. Threat Monitoring and Detection
    Security is not a one-off task, it’s an ongoing process. For this reason, it is important to ensure you deploy a robust and proactive threat monitoring and detection program for threats that are both known and unknown in nature. Add reliable automated security tools to your arsenal to help you test your app in real-time and eliminate vulnerabilities or loopholes that may cause serious harm to your banking application.
  4. Malware Detection Tools
    Attackers often reverse engineer apps and embed malware into them, ensuring they still look and feel like legitimate applications. Users are tricked into downloading and using these apps filled with malware while attackers simultaneously take control and seize sensitive information. The best protection is to implement application shielding to stop hackers from being able to reverse engineer your apps in the first place. Additionally, ensure you choose the right malware detection solution to help effectively secure your banking apps from malware.
  5. Implement Security Compliances
    It is imperative to stay updated on the latest regulatory changes and compliance requirements as well as new laws being discussed by security governing bodies. Security requirements like GDPR and PCI-DSS contain important provisions requiring businesses to protect the collection and storage of sensitive data. Proper risk-assessment requires that you be aware of your user’s security status as well as your own. Failure to comply with security and compliance regulations that result in a security breach can lead to heavy penalties.


It is important for financial institutions to get ahead of risks before it gets the better of them. Ensuring strong and reliable application security for banking apps makes your financial application sturdy and ready to face the harsh and punishing environment filled with attackers with malicious intent. Talk to us if you’d like to learn how Intertrust solutions can help you build strong applications that are resilient to attacks.


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About Paul Butterworth

Paul Butterworth is an experienced payment and security professional, having spent almost 30 years in the card, payments and IT security industries. Paul is responsible for global product marketing for the Intertrust Secure Systems’ market leading application shielding and device identity solutions.

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