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The State Of Mobile Insecurity

It's deja vu all over again as mobile app development looks like traditional dev shops did a half a decade ago.

The speedy churn of the mobile application development lifecycle and a lack of testing embedded within this lifecycle is threatening the security of the entire mobile ecosystem. A new Ponemon Institute study out today shows that three-quarters of app developers and security professionals say that securing mobile apps is hard and a lot of the blame is due to a lack of mobile app security expertise, infrequent testing, and the all-important rush to release code to production.

“Building security into mobile apps is not top of mind for companies, giving hackers the opportunity to easily reverse engineer apps, jailbreak mobile devices and tap into confidential data,” said Caleb Barlow, Vice President of Mobile Management and Security at IBM, which sponsored the study.

The study queried over 600 experts involved in the development and securing of mobile applications. Based on their experience, many respondents reported that they expect the next 12 months to be rocky for their organization's mobile applications and devices. Approximately 61 percent of them say they believe the presence of malware-infected mobile devices and apps will increase within their environments in the next year.

Getting a little more specific, over half reported that cross-site scripting (XSS) through insecure mobile apps will increase in the next year. Given that XSS vulnerabilities are a pretty basic flaw -- the sort of security 101 problem that many organizations have rooted out in new code for most traditional applications -- this stat offers a pretty good indication of the overall perceived inadequacies of appsec in mobile apps.

The study found that on average, organizations are spending about 5.5 percent of their mobile development budgets on security. The average enterprise mobile development budget is approximately $33.8 million, while the average mobile app security program receives $1.8 million in funding. As things stand, fewer than half of mobile apps developed in the enterprise are tested for flaws. Of those that are tested, 30 percent are found to contain flaws.

"Rush to release and lack of training makes mobile apps insecure," Ponemon writes. "The practices and policies of organizations are to blame for mobile apps that contain vulnerable code."

More than three quarters of organizations say scheduling pressures on the mobile dev team is the biggest impediment to adding more security to the mix, while nearly the same amount report training on secure coding practices lag. Meanwhile, 68 percent of organizations report a lack of QA and test procedures are holding things up on the security front.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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