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A Reactive Approach to Security can Catch Insurers Off-guard.

On July 2018, SingHealth, the largest network of healthcare institutions in Singapore, had been under a severe cyber-attack and the personal data of around 1.5 million patients, including those of Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, was stolen. – Straits Times reports

The insurance industry is one of the richest data-driven business, and the consequences of a data breach extend far beyond the reputational damage that results from negative news headlines.

Insurance companies: An appealing target to hackers

Data is both, asset and liability, and the business of insurance is based on dealing with various uncertainties. In the past couple of years, the insurance industry performed badly in the cyber-battle. Despite having collected all the sensitive information, technology innovations and new business models caught insurers off-guard.

In September 2017, AXA suffered a cybersecurity breach in Singapore, in which the data of 5,400 of its customers were compromised. Such recent attacks highlight the fact that the companies which collect individual personal data are attractive prey for the cybercriminals.

A single security breach could cost more than a company earns in a year, however many organizations still don’t recognise the vitality of investments to combat the potential data security incidents.

Prevention of Data Breach:

Eugene Lee, director of business development at Connectivity Global, while sharing his insights to Insurance Business; on measures to be taken to mitigate cyber risks said:
“Companies which collect individuals’ personal data are an attractive target for cybercriminals and these companies should ensure that necessary steps are taken to mitigate these cyber risks.”

The insurance industry cannot afford to take a reactive approach. The insurance industry is entrusted by the customers with a vast array of non-public, personally identifiable information. By securing the customer and their financial data will not only protect the brand reputation but also add to the profitability.

To combat with the incidents of a security breach, the insurance firms must ensure that the policy and procedures relating to cybersecurity are clearly communicated to the workforce. They must formulate a sound response plan to recover their assets in case of an event of a breach.

According to the World Insurance Report 2018, Apple is partnering with CISCO, Aon and Allianz on cyber risk management solutions to protect the middle market and other enterprises from malware and ransomware.

The insurance company should prioritise its investment in efficient, professional, and specialized IT teams and consultants, to deal with new emerging threats.

A digital committee is the need of the hour for every Insurance organization.The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India is requiring all insurance companies to appoint a full-time CISO. The CISO helps to understand the IT infrastructure and operations and build effective security in IT across the organization in support of business requirements and objectives.

Effective E-mail security solutions should be adopted, as over 90% of the malware are transmitted over this most common channel for business communication.
An AI approach for security in insurance is the new wave of innovation. AI adds to the power and speed required to tackle huge volumes of attacks of countless variety. One such application is Connectivity Global’s Receive Guard product, which is an AI-enabled email security solution.

No one has a crystal ball this accurate, to make future predictions as to how many data breaches we will see in the not so distant future, and how big are they going to be.
However, Insurance firms must rapidly increase their agility to adopt these new business models; to cater to the security breaches in insurance, evolving customer preferences and to deliver definitive business value.

https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/asia/features/interviews/protecting-the-insurance-sector-from-cyber-threats-109124.aspx

https://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20180205/NEWSO6/912318975

World Insurance Report 2018

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12 Tips To Secure Your Mobile Application

Cyber attacks and data theft have become so common these days especially when it comes to mobile applications. As a result, mobile apps that experience security breaches may suffer financial losses. With many hackers eyeing to steal customer data, securing these applications has become the number one priority for organizations and a serious challenge for developers. According to Gartner’s recent research, Hype Cycle for Application Security, investment in application security will increase by more than two-fold over the next few years, from $6 billion this year to $13.7 billion by 2026. Further, the report stated, “Application security is now top-of-mind for developers and security professionals, and the emphasis is now turning to apps hosted in public clouds,” It is crucial to get the fundamental components of DevOps security correct. Here are the 12 tips to secure your mobile application: 

1. Install apps from trusted sources:

It’s common to have Android applications republished on alternate markets or their APKs & IPAs made available for download. Both APK and IPA may be downloaded and installed from a variety of places, including websites, cloud services, drives, social media, and social networking. Only the Play Store and the App Store should be allowed to install trustworthy APK and IPA files. To prevent utilizing these apps, we should have a source check detection (Play Store or App Store) upon app start.

Also read, https://andresand.medium.com/add-method-to-check-which-app-store-the-android-app-is-installed-from-or-if-its-sideloaded-c9f450a3d069

2. Root Detection:

Android: An attacker could launch a mobile application on a rooted device and access the local memory or call specific activities or intents to perform malicious activities in the application. 

iOS: Applications on a jailbroken device run as root outside of the iOS sandbox. This can allow applications to access sensitive data stored in other apps or install malicious software negating sandboxing functionality. 

More on Root Detection- https://owasp.org/www-project-mobile-top-10/2016-risks/m8-code-tampering

3. Data Storing:

Developers use Shared Preferences & User Defaults to store key-value pairs like tokens, mobile numbers, email, boolean values, etc. Additionally, while creating apps, developers prefer SQLite databases for structured data. It is recommended to store any data in the format of encryption so that it is difficult to extract the information by hackers.

4. Secure Secret Keys:

API keys, passwords, and tokens shouldn’t be hardcoded in the code. It is recommended to use different techniques to store these values so that hackers cannot get away quickly by tampering with the application. 

Here’s a reference link: https://guides.codepath.com/android/Storing-Secret-Keys-in-Android

5. Code Obfuscation

An attacker may decompile the APK file and extract the source code of the application. This may expose sensitive information stored in the source code of the application to the attacker which may be used to perform tailored attacks. 

It is better to obfuscate the source code to prevent all the sensitive information contained in the source code.

6. Secure Communication:

An attacker may perform malicious activities to leverage the level of attacks since all communication is happening over unencrypted channels. So always use HTTPS URLs over HTTP URLs.

7. SSL Pinning:

Certificate pinning allows mobile applications to restrict communication only to servers with a valid certificate matching the expected value (pin). Pinning ensures that no network data is compromised even if a user is tricked into installing a malicious root certificate on their mobile device. Any app that pins its certificates would thwart such phishing attempts by refusing to transmit data over a compromised connection

Please refer: 

https://owasp.org/www-community/controls/Certificate_and_Public_Key_Pinning

8. Secure API request & response data

The standard practice is to use HTTPS for the baseline protection of REST API calls. The information sent to the server or received from the server may be further encrypted with AES, etc. For example, if there are sensitive contents, you might choose to select those to encrypt so that even if the HTTPS is somehow broken or misconfigured, you have another layer of protection from your encryption.

9. Secure Mobile App Authentication:

In case an application does not assign distinct and complex session tokens after login to a user, an attacker can conduct phishing in order to lure the victim to use a custom-generated token provided by the attacker and easily bypass the login page with the captured session by using a MiTM attack.

i) Assign a distinct and complex session token to a user each time he/she logs on successfully to the application. 

ii) Terminate the session lifetime immediately after logging out. 

iii) Do not use the same session token for two or more IP addresses. 

iv) Limit the expiry time for every session token.

10.  Allow Backup 

Disallow users to back up an app if it contains sensitive data. Having access to backup files (i.e. when android:allowBackup=”true”), it is possible to modify/read the content of an app even on a non-rooted device. So it is recommended to make allow backup false. 

11. Restrict accessing android application screens from other apps

Ideally, your activities should not give any provision to the opening from other services or applications. Make it true only when you have a specific requirement to access your flutter screens from other apps otherwise change to android:exported= ”false”

12. Restrict installing packages from the android application

REQUEST_INSTALL_PACKAGES permission allows apps to install new packages on a user’s device. We are committed to preventing abuse on the Android platform and protecting users from apps that self-update using any method other than Google Play’s update mechanism or download harmful APKs.

Conclusion: 

Mobile Apps have become more personalized than ever before with heaps of customers’ personal data stored in them every day. In order to build trust and loyalty among users and prevent significant financial and credential losses for the companies, it is now crucial to make sure the application is secure for the user. Following the above-mentioned mobile app security checklists will definitely help to prevent hackers from hacking the app.

About the Author:

Raviteja Aketi is a Senior Software Engineer at Mantra Labs. He has extensive experience with B2B projects. Raviteja loves exploring new technologies, watching movies, and spending time with family and friends.

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