With features like event handling, conditional rendering, cross-platform support and declarative UI, React Native allows developers to craft native applications without compromising on the user experience. But, with a lot of good comes some bad too. It’s true that every framework tries its best to provide virtual Fort Knox security to its architecture but that’s practically impossible.
Nothing in the virtual world is impenetrable and React Native is no exception. No matter how impeccable one tries to be, React Native security issues do pose as headaches. Luckily, there are ways through which one can subdue the security threats and stop users from being the victims of vicious malware.
This article talks about some common security issues which are often faced during React Native app development. There are also suggestions for addressing these issues which will help in protecting sensitive information and tighten network security.
Common security issue while developing react native app
Issue no. 1 – Sensitive Information Storage
During application development, developers often need to integrate third-party authentication. This means that developers have to let in app secrets to access services of these third-party platforms like Facebook, Google or any other networking site. This can lead to leaking of sensitive information.
It is a wise choice to keep sensitive API keys away from an application’s code as those keys can be accessed as plain text during inspection of the app bundle. React native offers tools like react-native-config to add environment-specific variables and keep API keys safe.
Issue No. 2 – Storage Security
To have a React Native secure storage is a work-in-progress thing. It still lacks foolproof ways to store sensitive data because of which developers have to rely on pre-existing solutions of the platform meant specifically for Android and iOS. It has Keychain Services for iOS and Encrypted Shared Preferences and Keystore system for Android which enable React Native encrypted storage.
While Enrcypted Shared Preferences provides automatic encryption of values and keys, the Keystore system offers the facility of storing cryptographic keys in a container. On the other hand, Keychain Services for iOS enables developers to securely store sensitive user info including passwords and tokens that do not make use of Async Storage.
Issue No. 3 – Cross-site Scripting
Cross-site scripting, also known as XSS, is a notorious issue which can result in leakage of sensitive user information or can spread worms. A malicious attacker can even gain control of other users’ browsers.
In React Native, an XSS attack affects its react-native-webview package, which is a WebView component for macOS, Android, Windows and iOS. This vulnerability is caused by injecting malicious codes. One of the most effective ways to escape this vulnerability is upgrading the react-native-webview package to version 11.0.0 or higher.
Issue No. 4 – Network Security
Network security has always remained a high-prioritized issue for apps. Mobile applications have made things easier to do but they have also given rise to digital frauds, malware and cyber attacks which may lead to leak of personal and financial information. In React Native, those threats can be neutralized by using proper measures.
1st Measure – SSL encryption
SSL encryption should always be used for APIs because it prevents the data to be read as plain text. If your website starts with https://, know that it's SSL encrypted. But there still lies a problem with it. SSL encryption is not fully secured because sometimes, the client side lacks a pre-installed valid certificate signed and authorised by a trusted Certificate Authority.
An attacker can use this to its leverage by putting a malicious root Certified Authority certificate into the user’s device. So, how to resolve this problem? The answer lies in the next step.
2nd Measure – SSL Pinning
SSL pinning is the technique which is used to reinforce the security on the client side. When an application is in its development phase, a list of trusted and valid certificates is embedded into it so that self-signed certificates are rejected and only the ones with signs of trusted Certificate Authority are accepted.
Issue No. 5 – Deep Linking
Have you ever noticed that while Google-searching a product from an online store, clicking on the link automatically opens up the app? This happens through deep linking, a technique which can be called the ‘paradox’ of the mobile world. That’s because it’s useful for users but at the same time exposes the app to security vulnerability.
Deep linking is a technique through which data is sent directly to a native application. This means that through the influence of an outside source, the users are sent directly to applications instead of websites. But the problem is that deep linking puts sensitive information at risk, and this applies to React Native applications too.
Some consider deep links to be influential as it sends users right where they want to be, but at the same time attackers can take advantage of it by registering harmful applications on the same scheme. The security vulnerability can give them access to data.
Android presented users with opening options to choose from. This means that if you have one or more apps installed for a link, then it asks you to go with the preferable app. Apple came up with Universal Links and made changes in iOS 11 and beyond to address this issue. By using Universal Links, content linking to applications became more secure.
React Native has evolved to become one of the most advanced platforms for building native applications, but when it comes to resolving React Native security issues, there’s no absolute way to do so. However, by following the above-mentioned suggestions, one can at least mitigate the risks involved.
Proper and precise risk assessment of React Native’s vulnerabilities will help developers to map the security contours and aid in decision making. But in case you wish to go for a stand-alone app, then it’s better to team up with a reputed React Native development agency. Doing so will help you to proceed with caution and will also provide you the assistance of mobile app engineers who possess expertise on the security issues of all major platforms.