There are a few categories of mobile apps that need security as much as medical apps. Due to the sensitive nature of health data they collect and process about their users, it’s important to make sure that your medical app has got the necessary cybersecurity standards in place from day #1 of its rollout. Without proper security best practices not only can your app jeopardize the security and privacy of its users but also put the viability of your business at risk in case of a major data breach, because attacks on medical systems generally tend to be costly. The most recent one – called WannaCry – which affected the network of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), cost them £92m or $115 million.
So how do you ensure the security of your health app? Well, it turns out that the essentials can be cut down to 7 simple steps. Those steps we’re going to explain in this article, and once you put them in place your medical app will be quite secure from any major type of cyberattack. Let’s get started:
#1. Ensure Regulatory Compliance
The first thing you need to ensure while building a medical app in compliance with local as well as global regulations related to data security. There are a number of jurisdictions where regulators have outlined various guidelines that are to be followed mandatorily by every publisher of health-related apps to ensure the security and privacy of user data. In addition to that, there are some general data security and privacy regulations too. Examples of such regulations include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and Payment Cards Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS).
Without complying with these regulations you won’t only risk the data of your users but also increase the risk of hefty penalties. And in some cases, you can’t even roll out your app in the desired manner unless you comply with the necessary regulations first (i.e. payment functionality can’t be integrated without complying with PCI-DSS).
#2. Protect user data with Encryption
The second important thing that you need to build a secure medical app is encryption. Not only do you need to securely store the health data of your users on their devices and your server but also you need to transmit it through a secure HTTPS connection to your server whenever they’re using your app. Here’s how you ensure both:
- Encryption for data at rest: The user data should be stored in encrypted format wherever it’s stored. Implement encrypted storage of user data generated by your app, both on the device of the customer as well as your server.
- Encryption of data during transit: Install an SSL certificate on your server. SSL certificates facilitate the transmission of data over secure HTTPS protocol, which requires data packets to be encrypted before transit. That way your data remains safe even if someone manages to steal the data packets being transmitted. You just need to buy an SSL certificate and install it correctly on your server.
3. Use 2-Factor Authentication
Health data is one of the most sensitive types of data about anyone. Therefore, even if someone has logged in to your app with their username and password it’s your responsibility to ensure that the person who logged in is the real owner of that account. And in order to ensure that you can add the functionality of 2-factor authentication to your app. That will not only help you in ensuring the identity of your users before you give them access to their accounts, but also provide them an additional layer of security for their accounts that can’t be broken by anyone who managed to steal their login credentials.
4. Optimize your code for security
It’s also necessary to keep security in mind while coding your app. If your code is not secure enough, hackers may try to find out the vulnerabilities in it by reverse engineering your app. So when you’re coding your app, obfuscate and minify your code so it can’t be revealed by reverse engineering. Test it multiple times to ensure that there are no bugs and vulnerabilities in your app that can be exploited to hack the app. Also, keep agility in mind while coding your app, so you can patch and update the app easily whenever you discover any bugs or vulnerabilities in it.
5. Keep testing, debugging and developing
Besides optimizing your code for security and debugging it multiple times before the rollout of your app it’s also absolutely necessary to keep testing your app’s functionality even after it has become available to download. When you’re the owner of a medical app, you should always be on the lookout for any bugs or vulnerabilities in your app because new vulnerabilities keep emerging every day and if not fixed in time they can turn out to be catastrophic for your business.
6. Stick to the principle of least privileges
We live in a world where almost all apps ask for dozens of permissions. Because the more permissions you have, the more data you can collect from your users and the more features you can add to your app. However, more app permissions can also open new gateways for cybercriminals to track the behavior of smartphone users and even surveillance their activities through your app. For instance, if your app is continuously accessing the location of a user, and if there’s a vulnerability in it, the hacker may exploit that vulnerability to track the location of all your smartphone users anytime. By reducing the number of privileges you ask for you can seriously limit the ability of hackers to extract any sort of information about your users through your app.
7. Collect less data
Marketers absolutely love data. That is because it helps them make personalized offerings to your customers, which can boost sales significantly. However, the more data you’ve about others the more becomes your responsibility to protect it. In any worst-case scenario, if your app or business is hacked, the extent of damage that can be done to you will depend directly on the amount of data you’ve stored about your customers. So try to find out a balance between the demands of marketing and the element of security. Do not collect too much data about your customers, because even if you manage to store it securely you’ll end up increasing your cost of data security.
So that’s how you can build a secure medical app that protects user data and isn’t hacked easily by anyone. As cybersecurity becomes ever more important in the future, the importance of these steps is only going to increase. It’ll become even more important to obfuscate your code, including 2FA, and to buy an SSL certificate for protecting data during transit. Therefore, it’ll be better if you implement them in your app from the very beginning. And if you’ve any questions regarding their implementation, feel free to ask in the comments.