M9: Insecure Data Storage – OWASP Mobile Top 10 – Best Practices


The OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Top 10 Mobile report underscores a prevalent threat: Insecure Data Storage. In the realm of mobile applications, the security of stored data is paramount. This blog will dissect the intricacies of insecure data storage, elucidate the risks it poses, and delineate effective strategies for response to this critical security challenge.

Understanding Insecure Data Storage

Data Storage Vulnerabilities: Insecure data storage refers to vulnerabilities in the way mobile applications handle, store, and protect sensitive user information. When inadequately addressed, these vulnerabilities can lead to unauthorized access, data breaches, and compromise user privacy.

Common Scenarios: Insecure data storage can manifest in various scenarios, including insufficient encryption, weak access controls, and improper handling of user credentials.

Risks Associated with Insecure Data Storage
  1. Unauthorized Access:
    • Risk: Inadequately secured data may be susceptible to unauthorized access, compromising the confidentiality of sensitive information.
    • Example: Storing user passwords in plaintext, allowing unauthorized parties to view and misuse them.
  2. Data Breaches:
    • Risk: Weak encryption or no encryption at rest may result in data breaches, exposing user information to malicious actors.
    • Example: Storing credit card details without proper encryption, leading to a potential breach.
  3. Credential Exposure:
    • Risk: Mishandling and insecure storage of user credentials can lead to unauthorized access to accounts.
    • Example: Storing login credentials in an easily decipherable format.
  4. Sensitive Information Leakage:
    • Risk: Inadequate protection may result in the leakage of sensitive information, impacting user privacy.
    • Example: Improperly securing health records, leading to the disclosure of private medical information.
  5. Tampering and Manipulation:
    • Risk: Unprotected data storage can allow malicious actors to tamper with or manipulate stored information.
    • Example: Modifying transaction records in a financial app without proper integrity checks.
Responding to the Insecure Data Storage Challenge

To fortify mobile applications against insecure data storage risks, implement the following measures:

  1. Encryption at Rest:
    • Utilize robust encryption algorithms to secure data when stored on the device, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access.
  2. Secure Key Management:
    • Implement secure key management practices to safeguard encryption keys and prevent unauthorized decryption.
  3. Access Controls:
    • Enforce strict access controls to ensure that only authorized users and components can access and modify sensitive data.
  4. Credential Handling:
    • Hash and salt passwords before storage, and avoid storing sensitive credentials in plaintext.
  5. Regular Security Audits:
Real-world Examples
  1. Snapchat Data Breach:
    • In 2014, Snapchat suffered a data breach where attackers exploited insufficient data storage security, resulting in the exposure of millions of user usernames and phone numbers.
  2. Mobile Banking App Insecurity:
    • Instances of insecure data storage in mobile banking apps have led to unauthorized access to financial information and transactions.

Insecure data storage poses a significant threat to the security and privacy of mobile applications. Developers and organizations must prioritize implementing robust encryption, access controls, and secure credential handling practices. By understanding the risks associated with insecure data storage and adopting proactive security measures, mobile applications can better protect user information and build a foundation of trust.


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