12 Best Practices for Secure Fintech Development
Fintech app security concerns all companies in the industry, from startups to enterprises. In 2022, the average cost of a data breach in the financial sector was $5.97 million per incident. More expensive only in healthcare (10+ million US dollars). In addition to financial losses, a security breach carries reputational problems and legal issues. To avoid this, companies use various methods, from encryption, tokenization, and code obfuscation to multi-factor authentication and payment blocking.
At Integrio, we've been building secure applications and SaaS solutions that meet industry standards for more than 23 years. In this article, we want to discuss the common risks of the fintech industry and give 12 helpful tips to increase the security of your fintech application. You will also learn what technology opportunities exist in 2023.
The Importance of Fintech App Security Solutions
Data privacy, customer trust, and regulatory compliance are the pillars on which the fintech industry must stand. Companies face many challenges that can be overcome with security solutions.
Access to personal and financial data makes such applications a target for cyberattacks. Phishing, malware attacks, data leaks, and ransomware can lead to fraud and reputational damage.
Another significant issue is the need for secure authentication to prevent unauthorized access. When implementing security measures, companies must balance the convenience of operations with security.
Also, the financial industry is highly regulated, and every company must comply with data protection, financial reporting, anti-money laundering (AML), and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations.
What Are the Risks Associated with Fintech App Security?
Before advising on how to strengthen the security of your fintech application, let's define the risks that banking institutions, financial firms, and credit unions face.
Non-Uniform App Ownership
Who owns the software? In fintech, we have a peripheral owner, a bank executive, and an IT subsidiary. And the more owners share responsibility, the greater the likelihood of something going wrong. There is also a vendor that develops mobile applications and manages their API.
It is important to have reliable mechanisms and procedures for regulating roles and accesses that allow entering the system, creating, deleting, and modifying data. Possession of data and responsibility for it requires the necessary knowledge of norms and standards, as well as technical and legal processes.
Risky Data Storage
Each mobile solution stores user data. This data is even more sensitive in fintech, and unauthorized access can carry enormous risks (financial, reputational, and legal) for everyone. That is why data storage and transmission security solutions must be very reliable.
Developing a secure fintech app, be sure to protect the application from possible leakage of financial data, loss of program code, or insecurity of storage space. If your internal storage has security vulnerabilities, hackers will surely take advantage of this, gaining access to confidential data and using it to their advantage.
Fintech applications closely cooperate with external data sources, such as Bluetooth support, NFC, authentication tokens, various authorization mechanisms, etc. This creates not only a better experience for customers but also additional security threats. In today's world, you cannot avoid this communication because its absence will affect the proper functioning of the program.
12 Tips for Fintech Application Development Security
Fintech applications should protect users' personal and financial data. Building a secure fintech app, startups and enterprises should implement the following practices:
The code plays an important role in the security of the application. To take the necessary measures and monitor potential implementation gaps, consider the following points:
To guarantee protection in fintech applications, choose a technology stack for a product with automated security mechanisms.
The code must be flexible and easily portable between different operating systems and devices so that it can be quickly updated in the event of an attack.
Plan what data should be stored, where, and who will have access to it. Limit such information to a minimum; for example, allow making payments without saving users' payment data.
Regularly review and update your codebase to fix vulnerabilities or flaws.
Cybercriminals often create clones of fintech applications to collect user data. To protect yourself, use code obfuscation. This involves encrypting some or all of the code, naming classes and variables with meaningless labels, removing potentially exposed metadata, and adding unused or meaningless code to the application binary.
Such measures make it difficult to analyze the product code, understand its algorithm, and, accordingly, decrypt it and create a clone. This will repel many hackers unwilling to spend a lot of effort and slow down the work of the rest.
It is essential to encrypt the data to hide the information from unauthorized users. Encryption involves the implementation of mathematical algorithms that transform data into a code that is meaningful only to the recipient. In this case, even with hacking, attackers cannot access confidential information without a unique key.
We strongly recommend protecting data at rest and in transit, as this is when it is easiest to intercept. What information should be encrypted? Pay attention to personal (user name, address, social security number, contact numbers) and financial (bank card and account numbers, transaction details) data.
The most well-known encryption algorithms include AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), TripleDES (Triple Data Encryption Algorithm), RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman), and Twofish.
Identification involves entering a username and password, and authentication allows you to confirm that users are who they say they are. Multi-factor authentication can use what the client knows (password), what they have (one-time codes, hardware tokens), and what they are (biometrics).
For example, for integrating fintech app security, use dynamic PIN codes, one-time passwords, push notifications, calls, fingerprints, facial recognition, or retina scans.
Many fintech companies use risk-based or adaptive authentication. This means the system analyzes geolocation, access times, registered devices, data entry, and other behavioral details to detect suspicious activity.
Roles and Permissions
In a financial application, it is important to define user roles and permissions to secure access to data. Consider such roles as administrator, IT specialist, manager, support service, client, etc.
You can use RBAC role settings and permission organization. An alternative is the ACL model, which lists all operations for users. This allows each user to be identified as having access to specific data and functionality. At the same time, unauthorized employees and customers will not be able to see too much.
Define access control rules, including insecure identifiers, file permissions, and client-side caching. It would be best to limit rights to the minimum necessary and allow them to be expanded as needed.
To prevent money laundering or fraud, you must activate the payment-blocking function. This allows you to block any unusual or suspicious transactions, including large cash withdrawals, multiple operations simultaneously, logging in from an unusual location, etc.
You can use artificial intelligence or machine learning tools to detect potentially fraudulent transactions effectively and take appropriate action.
Use proper QA to maintain high fintech app security standards throughout the development lifecycle. The process includes defining and reviewing requirements, preparing possible business scenarios, functional and database testing, API specification, authorization and authentication, and user acceptance.
It's essential to perform regular security checks to identify and fix vulnerabilities. Also, don’t forget about penetration testing to simulate real-world threats and assess application resilience.
The card number, validity period, and CVV are data that cannot be stored in the database in an open form. So what to do?
Tokenization allows you to replace sensitive data with newly generated random strings of characters stored securely in a separate system. These strings are called tokens; only authorized users can access their storage. This way, tokenization helps you protect data and online transactions.
Tokens are generated temporarily, making tracking sensitive data through transactions impossible. Use this method for online transfers, redeeming gift cards, NFC payments, and other operations.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) often become a weak point in terms of security and, therefore, a potential target for cyber attackers. To protect the API of your solutions, it is important to implement OAuth 2.0 or JWT (JSON Web Tokens), encrypt data, and use authentication tokens and digital signatures.
To prevent abuse and unauthorized access, implement rate limiting and access control. Use quotas, limits, and API gateways.
And, of course, proactively identify and fix API vulnerabilities to strengthen the overall security of your application.
Regulations and Policies
When creating an application, you must ensure fintech security compliance:
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for secure data storage for EU residents.
The Payment Card Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) optimizes the security of credit, debit, and cash transactions and protects users from misuse of personal information.
The Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) protects electronic payments and cross-border transactions in Europe.
The Electronic Identity and Trust Services Regulation (eIDAS) provides the legal framework for adopting electronic identifiers and signatures.
ISO/IEC 27001 helps organizations secure data management systems.
The company's employees represent almost the biggest threat to security, so it is necessary to conduct regular training and seminars. Getting all employees to sign non-disclosure agreements with your company is also crucial.
Control that your development team always uses corporate hardware to access back offices or interfaces. The correct configuration of routers will also protect against internal attacks.
Don't underestimate backing up your data, files, and code. Use a backup programming program that allows you to select the data to store and the process frequency.
Are you sure about the third-party providers and services you're integrating into your app? Check that they adhere to industry standards for security and data privacy.
An experienced vendor ensures safety throughout the entire product life cycle. Please note that the company is ISO certified, familiar with the regulations mentioned above, and has experience developing safe fintech products.
Top Fintech App Security Solutions to Use in 2023
What should you pay attention to in 2023? We have collected the five most important technologies for strengthening fintech security.
Secure Access Service Edge
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a networking system that combines VPN and SD-WAN with cloud-based productivity engines. It includes cloud security brokers, secure internet gateways, firewalls, zero-trust network access, data loss prevention, and more.
The architecture of SASE allows you to find malware, analyze network traffic, and detect malicious activity and fraudulent transactions. Also, you can provide secure access to applications and data for remote users and branches.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to improve our understanding of financial data and security mechanisms. For example, algorithms can monitor traffic and detect malicious data flows or intrusions. You can also analyze customers, their transactions, habits, and preferences. This helps not only to provide more personalized service and create new financial products but also to detect suspicious activity.
Also, AI and ML allow learning from past incidents, strengthening security measures, and preventing future threats. Use it to identify potential fraud, money laundering, or hacking attempts in real time.
The decentralized nature of blockchain and cryptography increases the security of data storage and transactions. All records are stored in a distributed network of nodes, which protects the data from unauthorized changes. All changes must be agreed upon by all participants in the network, and each transaction is linked to the previous ones, forming a chain. Hence, it becomes impossible to change historical records without detection.
Blockchain makes it easier to track and audit transactions, helping companies combat money laundering. Smart contracts automatically trigger actions or transactions when conditions are met, minimizing human error.
Cryptocurrency is at the peak of its development. And this is explained not only by the speed, convenience, and ease of transactions. Such currencies use cryptography to secure operations and control the creation of new units. It means the protection of digital wallets and private keys and emerging secure exchange and trading platforms.
Regulatory Technology (RegTech) uses artificial intelligence and automation to help fintech companies comply with regulatory requirements. These solutions collect, process, and analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns, anomalies, and potential compliance issues.
The technology also optimizes the reporting process by automating the creation and submission of regulatory reports to the relevant authorities. At the same time, you always have a log of actions and changes, facilitating future audits. RegTech tracks and interprets regulatory changes, so you always have up-to-date compliance policies and procedures.
Fintech represents the future of banking and finance, but the industry needs to address security issues. Safeguarding transactions and stored data is one of the industry's main concerns. However, progress does not stand still, and today, you can protect your data using secure code and its obfuscation, encryption, multi-factor authentication, tokenization, and other measures. However, finding a reliable software vendor will be the most important thing.
Integrio has 23 years of experience creating reliable and secure web development solutions for various industries. Our specialists, with a higher degree in mathematics and computer science, always introduce innovations such as artificial intelligence or machine learning. We can implement them to improve the security of your fintech application. We also guarantee security at every stage of the product life cycle and NDA signing.
Do you want to create a fintech solution that is efficient and secure? Contact our team to discuss the project.
The most significant security issues for fintech solutions are the absence of unified app ownership and risky data storage of sensitive information. Also, you should consider external data sources, such as NFC, Bluetooth support, authentication tokens, various authorization mechanisms, etc.
You can improve the security of your fintech application by using secure code and APIs, data encryption, multi-factor authentication, defining roles and permissions, etc. It is important to safeguard every stage of the product life cycle and perform thorough QA testing.
In 2023, you will be able to improve the security of your fintech software using Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain and Regulatory Technology (RegTech).