When creating iOS apps for regulated industries like healthcare, finance, and insurance, you need to ensure that it meets industry-specific security, privacy, and compliance requirements. Unlike typical consumer app development, building for these sectors demands careful consideration of core iOS features that can enable sensitive data protection, encrypted connections, and access controls.
Here are a few considerations that can improve your iOS app development endeavor.
Leverage App Transport Security (ATS) for encrypted connections
For apps in regulated industries, the risks of not utilizing ATS are substantial, including violations of compliance regulations and loss of user trust.
App Transport Security (ATS) is an essential iOS feature you should adopt to enforce encrypted connections between your app and web services. ATS prevents accidental disclosure of data over insecure connections by requiring apps to connect only over HTTPS. For any external service that your iOS app integrates with- that handles protected health information, financial data, or other sensitive user information -confirming ATS compatibility is a must.
With ATS enabled, you can verify that user data remains securely encrypted in transit and cannot be easily intercepted by third parties.
Protect sensitive data with iOS data protection
For apps dealing with financial account details, healthcare records, or insurance claims, properly utilizing iOS data protection features ensures robust security controls on par with industry expectations. It enables you to secure sensitive user data stored locally on devices.
iOS implements robust hardware encryption to safeguard files, databases, and other persistent app data. Protecting stored data is accomplished through an integration of file-level encryption and access controls tied to user passcodes and biometrics like Touch ID and Face ID. iOS app developers can designate protected data via file attributes that will automatically encrypt the data, requiring user authentication to decrypt.
Manage access controls with care
To comply with regulations like HIPAA and GLBA, having granular control over user access to features and sensitive data is essential. iOS provides tools to restrict app functionality and data based on factors like user location, time of day, device state, and more.
For example, a healthcare application may choose to revoke access to patient records when a device is remotely locked. Or an insurance app may require users to re-authenticate after thirty days to continue accessing a policy file.
Leveraging the access control mechanisms in iOS allows you to selectively provide and restrict features aligned to industry rules. Document how you are utilizing these controls to demonstrate compliance to regulators.
Securely store credentials with iOS keychain
Securing user login credentials and API keys is imperative for regulated industry apps. The iOS Keychain API enables you to safely persist user IDs, passwords, certificates, and other secrets encrypted on a per-app basis.
Using Keychain rather than unsecured storage provides “defense in depth” for protecting accounts on user devices. This helps avoid the liability associated with compromising user credentials due to improper storage.
Keychain also facilitates single sign-on across apps from the same provider. For example, considering a single organization has two separate mobile applications for banking and trading, the banking app can authorize access to the trading app without re-entering credentials.
Support device management and conditional access
In enterprise settings, apps are commonly required to integrate with a mobile device management (MDM) solution. MDM enables administrative functions like remote device wiping, policy enforcement, and conditional access restrictions.
Leveraging the MDM APIs in iOS allows your B2B apps to conform to IT admin requirements. For example, an insurance app may rely on MDM to restrict access to policy documents based on time, network, and other criteria set by the MDM server.
Documenting MDM support can give regulated industry customers confidence that your iOS apps allow critical access controls and administrative capabilities.
Prioritize HIPAA compliance for healthcare apps
For developing healthcare apps, compliance with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules is mandatory. iOS provides tools to fulfill HIPAA requirements related to PHI encryption, user authentication, access controls, and secure transmission.
A healthcare app on iOS should leverage features like ATS for connections to medical servers, Keychain for storage of credentials like EHR login details, and biometric authentication with Face ID to view patient records.
You must also document your app’s HIPAA compliance by conducting risk analyses, auditing normal and anomalous usage, and identifying any protective controls. iOS gives you building blocks for constructing HIPAA-compliant apps, but ongoing diligence is required.
Support authentication and fraud detection for finance apps
Apps dealing with sensitive financial data require robust identity verification and fraud detection capabilities. iOS provides support for advanced security technologies like one-time passcodes, biometric authentication with Face ID/Touch ID, and device-binding to actively defeat account takeover and financial malware threats.
By implementing iOS features designed to thwart both remote and physical attacks, users gain confidence in the integrity of your mobile finance apps for activities like account management and digital payments.
Be sure to evaluate evolving iOS security controls with each release to augment your fraud detection and authentication mechanisms facing ongoing threats.
Facilitate digital policy management for insurance
Streamlining digital policy management is a key opportunity for insurance mobile apps. Core iOS features can facilitate workflows like onboarding new customers, accessing policy documents, and managing billing.
For authentication, you can support multi-factor login with biometrics like Face ID in combination with passwords or one-time codes. iOS data protection enables persistent storage of policy documents encrypted with keys derived from user credentials. Apple services like Apple Pay can be integrated to simplify premium payments and deliver robust security protections through the user’s iPhone.
Leveraging native iOS capabilities allows you to focus on tailoring the user experience for managing policies rather than building core security protocols from scratch.
Conform to industry rules with iOS as a foundation
By leveraging features that make your mobile app capable of native data protection, access controls, credential storage, encrypted networking, and more, you can build trust that your iOS app responsibly handles sensitive user information. Of course, this will need expert assistance, so you should either have a decent team of developers, or be prepared to hire iOS app developers or to delegate this to a capable iOS app development company.
Just keep in mind that new exploits and malware threats are emerging continually; you must keep iOS security top of mind throughout your mobile app’s lifecycle. As Apple enhances iOS with new controls, keep evolving your app to make sure that your app’s data and user protection capabilities remain state-of-the-art.