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CyberMobile: Secure Mobile (iOS) Development through Experiential Learning

Researchers’ goal is to boost the mobile (iOS) app industry workforce through an experiential learning program that prioritizes security during the app development stage. 

Funded by the CCI Hub

Rationale and Background

The iOS mobile app economy grows at an annual rate of 8 percent to 14 percent and supports more than 2.2 million U.S. jobs. However, the industry has not prioritized security aspects during app development. 

A rise in app hacking incidents demonstrates the need for security at the products’ launch, and consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for secure software and apps.


The two-stage program will train 10 VCU and VUU students in the fundamentals of  mobile iOS app programming and security-related practices in the classroom and through industry collaborators.

  • Phase One, Fall 2023: Students will get hands-on studies in VCU’s iMAC Lab. Exercises and assignments will involve code training and focus on security  vulnerabilities such as:
    • Showing and hiding password fields. 
    • Accessing private resources securely. 
    • Secure coding of Touch ID authentication and other Touch gestures.
    • Avoiding Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attacks in HTTP (unsecure) requests.
    • Preventing screen recording and capture by attackers. 
    • Protecting data in files in apps. 
  • Phase Two, Spring 2024: Students will hold internships in which they collaborate with employees of industry partners and encounter real-life problems. Students will:
    • Go to the employer workplace location weekly to meet with  iOS developers.
    • Be provided a stipend of $15 an hour for 10 hours a week. 
    • Have access to the iMAC lab as needed for advice and guidance. 

Projected Outcomes

Students will have unique opportunities to develop abilities and skills.

  • Trained students will be highly sought by employers seeking iOS developers who can craft security features for apps during design and development.
  • Students will form contacts and create networks during their collaborations with industry professionals. 
  • The project is expected to initiate long-term relations between VCU and VUU, which  could inspire similar programs supported by federal agencies.