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can your back-end support your front-end responses

Why is 8 afraid of 7… Because 7,8,9!!! If you’re wondering what this joke relates to in the realm of banking and fintech, the answer is clear; banks, mobile banking users, and third party platforms such as payment processors, data providers, and cloud-native apps are ruled by cloud-computing and IoT, where consumer data, The New Gold, is consistently under jeopardy; if the analogy is not yet clear, maybe some numbers can help:

  • 2005 Card Systems Solutions- 40M credit cards stolen
  • 2014 Heartland Payment Solutions- 130M private data compromised
  • 2019 Capital Overseas- 106M private data compromised and 220K Payment cards stolen
  • 2019 Earl Enterprises- 2M Credit Cards Stolen

Now how does a company, so focused on data and its protection, lose to malicious activities and hackers, the very core of its business? In this thought piece we discuss in theory, the causality of secure coding at API stage, and the importance of PCI compliance across all stages of developing and deploying a banking application.

Malicious –Hacking Activities that Can Happen when you’re Paying Through your Banking App

Hackers have found a way to plunder one’s nuances and banking APIs through those highly loop-holed and much-downloaded mobile-banking apps. The mobile banking apps let consumers do on their smartphones everything they can do on their desktops and physical visitation with regard to their bank accounts – plus added features, including digital KYC, bill payments, third party data storage and digital wallets– are leaving them potentially vulnerable to the digital underworld. And it raises the question of who is liable if a heist occurs?

Everyone is, and in this modern world of digital enabled industries, we run our daily lives on the palm of our hands, leaving us all under scrutiny when it comes to data breaches. According to CSO Online, there is a 28% chance that companies will face one data breach incident within the next two years.

For consumers:

  • Use a secure and trusted internet connection when performing any payment transaction functions on your mobile banking app
  • Subscribe to real-time banking alerts to stay vigilant on any suspicious activity
  • Avoid device malware and a keep an up-to-date software.

For Banks and financial institutions:

  • Leverage real-time payment systems to ensure proper monitoring of suspicious payments
  • Include regular app security upgrades, such as secure algorithms and security best practices at Back-end development stage
  • Adhere to PSD2 laws from development till deployment of mobile banking app.

Securing the Backend of your Banking App- Desired Approach

Many industries, alongside banks and financial institutions depend on mobile applications. From the point when building a mobile application, it’s crucial to be sure to have protocols to check vulnerabilities as the development evolves to avoid security breaches, data leaks, and financial issues.

The most dangerous web attacks are those that occur on the server-side where data is stored and analyzed.

Securing API code

The data that financial institutions leverage are protected widely by a variety of regulatory ordinances, and as such, this data has to be stringently controlled, secured, and managed – hence why high-grade API security is such a serious concern. We look below at the 3 key components that can meticulously provide the desired level of security.

  • Encoding:
  • Credentials data are encoded using Base64 which is an encoding technique that converts the data into a set of 64 characters to ensure safe transmission.
  • Use of Dynamic Access Token Keys which are in place are generated session by session to encrypt transmitted data.
  • Validate every bit of user input using whitelists on the server.
  • User sensitive data are never transmitted back in clear format to avoid Phishing.
  • All API requests and responses must use a UTF-8 character encoding.
  • Client requests are always encoded using a Hashing algorithm or using private stored keys which are after decrypted on Server side.
  • Authorization:
  • Some APIs reveal far too much information, and much too often are revealed at the API endpoint; this typically occurs when an API leaves the task of filtering data to the user interface instead of the endpoint.
  • Keep a foundational security principle that allows subjects (users, processes, programs, systems, devices) be granted only the minimum necessary access to complete a stated function.
  • Organizations should incorporate scanning tools and more than adequate auditing process to limit accidental exposure of private data.  At this developmental stage APIs can essentially still be a developer’s tool, containing keys, passwords, and other volatile private data that should be removed before they’re made public.
  • Ensure that APIs only return as much information as is necessary to fulfill their function. In addition, enforce data access controls at the API level, monitor data, and audit if the front-end and back-end response is exposing any private data.
  • Authentication:
  • Authenticate calls to the API to registered users only. In simpler terms it refers to identification of a justified user.
  • Involve API Keys to add a low-level security to any personal, financial, or transactional data involved. The API generates a key that is used by the system to identify the user every time they are involved in a ‘data-sharing’ activity.
  • Induce web tokens, a very efficient, lightweight methodology of communication in the API network
  • Authentication Servers functions as an internal server that verifies account ownership, and uses a web-token function as a sort of ID, verifying ownership and rights 
  • Authenticate each request and authenticate the request even after post-login. This will prevent any session hijack. Common practices involve a multi-layered password policy, two-step verification of each ‘data sharing’ activity, and consistent identification requests.

PCI Compliances Rules

How can we be sure that these mobile apps and their providers who store our private personal, financial, and transactional data, are taking the appropriate measures to store it?

PCI compliance is in our words an infrastructural element that oversees all the security locks and functions in a banking application or any respective payment service; adhering to PCI compliance is an ongoing process that we perform to ensure that our clients and partner banks are keeping up with security standards defined by the PCI DSS authority. A financial institution can take this lightly, but following up on 12 major requirements and 251 sub-requirements that are outlined in PCI DD 3.2, can end up in delinquency as the bank fails to apprehend and act on fortifying them.

At Infotec Systems, a culture of zero tolerance towards security breaches evolved as we gained more experience and deep understanding of the ever changing payment security requirements set by PSD2 and other payment services authorities.

Infotec Systems as a Trusted and Secure Banking Applications Developer

As a leading payment solutions provider for banks and financial institutions across the MENA, we lead the way by continuously being innovative, and evolving our security features. We had led the largest openWay Way4 implementation in the Middle East, introduced the first Digital Commerce Gateway for smart android devices, to lead acquirers to the world of real-time payments and seamless payment journeys. 

We hold pride in our first-timers, and have a track record of utilizing the advantage of technology to our benefit. Our technical expertise and business-first approach eases the maneuver through the whole range of difficulties involved to make a mobile banking App a victory.Our team is ready to help you on all the aspects of your digital transformation journey.

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