Arxan ‘State of Mobile App Security’ Report Reveals an Increase in App Hacks for Top 100 Mobile Apps

By   ISBuzz Team
Writer , Information Security Buzz | Nov 19, 2014 06:02 pm PST

Arxan Technologies, the leading provider of application protection solutions, has released its third annual State of Mobile App Security report, which reveals that 97% of the top 100 paid Android apps and 87% of the top 100 paid Apple iOS apps have been hacked. In addition to an increase in app hacks found for commonly downloaded, popular, and free apps, this year’s research also reveals evidence of widespread hacking of financial services, healthcare/medical, and retail/merchant apps, events largely driven by hacks of Android apps.

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Arxan’s 2014 State of Mobile App Security report updates previous years’ indicators on the prevalence of hacked apps on the two major platforms (iOS and Android). The findings of increased app hacking is especially noteworthy amidst today’s rapid growth in global mobile app usage. Free app downloads are forecasted to increase at a rate of 99% to reach 253 billion downloads in 2017, whereas paid app downloads are projected to reach almost 15 billion–a 33% increase by 2017[1]. This explosion in app usage is seen across all verticals but is led by apps running on the Android mobile operating system, which continues to dominate with 85% of the market share[2].

The report, which comes on the heels of a number of recent mobile application-based attacks, such as Wirelurker and Masque, highlights the imminent and growing need for mobile applications to contain self-protections. Key findings from the 2014 report include:

Top 100 Paid Apps and Popular Free App reveal widespread hacking

o    97% of top 100 paid Android apps and 87% of top 100 paid iOS apps have been hacked – This finding is in line with results from prior years.  However, the iOS percentage represents a sharp increase over 2013, when just 56% of iOS apps were hacked.

o    80% of popular free Android apps and 75% of the popular free iOS apps have been hacked – The percentage of popular iOS apps hacked has steadily increased over the last 3 years.

App Hacking Targets Mobile Apps Across High Risk Verticals

o    Mobile financial apps are still at risk – 95% of Android financial apps reviewed were “cracked,” compared to 70% of their iOS counterparts. This is an increase in both cases, with Android’s growing about 80%.

o    90% of retail/merchant Android apps and 35% of retail/merchant iOS apps have been compromised – As stores launch mobile payment/wallet services, hackers are B2C retail apps and merchant point-of-sale apps.  In both cases, sensitive data, IP addresses, and financial transactions are at risk.

o    90% of Android Healthcare/Medical apps have been hacked, 22% of which are FDA approved

Proactive measures to protect against application risks are being championed by industry leaders such as Gartner’s application security analyst, Joseph Feiman. In Feiman’s recent Maverick report, he advises CISO’s to “Make application self-protection a new investment priority, ahead of perimeter and infrastructure protection.” “Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP) is designed to protect applications by adding protection features into the application runtime environment.”[3]

Echoing security leaders, Arxan’s State of Mobile App Security report includes key recommendations to improve the security of mobile applications.  Among other recommendations, the report recommends that:

·         Applications with high-risk profiles running on any mobile platform be made tamper-resistant and capable of defending themselves and detecting threats at runtime.

·         All applications be developed to maintain the confidentiality of their code.

·         The software that is used to enable mobile wallets/payment apps (e.g., Host Card Emulation software) be protected with secure crypto and app hardening.

·         Organisations consider mobile app assessments to assess if existing apps are exposed to risks that are unique to mobile environments. Also, as part of the mobile app development lifecycle, organisations should conduct penetration tests that assess apps’ vulnerability to reverse engineering and tampering that can result from unprotected binary code.

Arxan’s 2014 “State of Mobile App Security” report and supporting infographic are now available. The findings were based on analysis of 360 apps, including 100 top paid and the same 20 popular free apps from each platform, as well as 40 apps in the financial services, retail/merchant, and healthcare/medical categories (20 apps per platform).

“The pursuit of greater mobile application security remains at the forefront our research and development initiatives,” said Jonathan Carter, technical director at Arxan. “We continue to evolve our security innovations based on emerging threats to ensure the strongest application protection for our customers in the dynamic battlefield against hackers.”

[1] statista – Number of mobile apps downloads worldwide statistics

[2] source: IDC Q2 2014 Report

[3] Gartner Maverick* Research: Stop Protecting Your Apps; It’s Time for Apps to Protect Themselves, Joseph Feiman, September 25, 2014

About Arxan Technologies

arxanArxan provides the world’s strongest application protection solutions. Our unique patented guarding technology 1) Defends applications against attacks, 2) Detects when an attack is being attempted, and 3) Responds to detected attacks with alerts and repairs. Arxan offers solutions for software running on mobile devices, desktops, servers, and embedded platforms – including those connected as part of the Internet of Things (IOT) – and is currently protecting applications running on more than 300 million devices across a range of industries, including: financial services, high tech/independent software vendors (ISVs), manufacturing, healthcare, digital media,  gaming, and others. The company’s headquarters and engineering operations are based in the United States with global offices in EMEA and APAC.

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