Five Vulnerabilities To Look For In Mobile App Security And Ways To Fix Them

By   muhammad malik
Chief Editor , Information Security Buzz | May 24, 2016 02:00 am PST

Mobile Application Security still has a long way to go, especially when you look at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) study, saying that when 36,000 apps passed through 10 privacy checks, 96% of those failed in at least one of them. The same study three years ago, revealed 97% of 2000 apps, failing in at least one privacy area. There has been an increasing awareness to take mobile app security into account. As there is an exponential surge in the usage of mobile apps, so does in case of an app security.

Herein, let us discuss 5 critical mobile app security vulnerabilities, which run the risk of your app infiltrated by network intruders. However, there is nothing to worry about because we have also got remedies to prevent those vulnerabilities from hampering your app.

  1. Server Side Threats

An app does need to connect to the server in order to access the network for data processing. This process takes place via API calls, or web services. If these calls are exposed to vulnerable threats, such as cross site request forgery, injection attacks, lack of authentication, or cross site scripting. It is probably the most common, and leading mobile app vulnerability, even listed with Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), which is a topmost online community for web application security, providing tons of resources in the form of technologies, tools, documentation, methodologies, and articles.

In what ways you can prevent it?

You need to have knowledge on general security for web applications, in order to secure web services as well as APIs, by adapting highly secured programming practices. Eliminate or reduce associated risks through mitigation strategies, or by using static tools for code analysis.

  1. Network Traffic Threats

No matter how secured is your network traffic, if the network is vulnerable enough to unencrypted information, you might possibly face the fear of session hijacking, or network eavesdropping. Such attacks take place whenever data is transmitted, between WiFi network and carrier network. A hijacker is smart enough needing just an access point to infiltrate, and intercept every single packet.

In what ways you can prevent it?

It is very important to ensure the full proof security of your app, at the stage of programming, or designing your app. Keep in mind those interceptions, allowing the intruders, for an uninvited infiltration. Have cryptographic protocols in place, such as Security Socket Layer (SSL), and Transport Layer Security (TLS). Both these tools help to secure communication security. Use an SSL chain verification, restrict app execution, alert users, or make use of cipher suites strong enough, when network traffic protected against invalid certificates.

  1. Leakage Of Valuable Data

It is very difficult to physically secure the mobile devices, at any given point of time, and special care needs to be taken for protecting information that is highly sensitive. If data remains unsecured, it might result in a whole lot of vulnerabilities like financial fraud, identity theft, payment card security breach, privacy invasions, and more. Get access to the stored data with the help of available forensic tools, or use malware to remotely access the stored data.

In what ways you can prevent it?

The way of handling data storage differs between devices. It is up to the developers to analyze how data is accessed, after being cached when stored. The implications do fluctuate with every distinct development framework. Common ways of data leakage include cookies, storage through sessions, HTML5 local, caching through HTTP, buffering through copy/paste data, data logging, events, and more.

  1. Binary Protection Lacking

Developers do not control the deployment of applications to a specific device. Measures need to be implemented in advance in order to prevent infiltrators from modifying the app code, reverse engineering, or decrypting the network logic. Failure in protecting app against the modifications, result in a restricted access, leading to confidential data getting disclosed. Once the binary data of an app compromised, you have even the extreme security measures taken over by the attackers as if a cakewalk.

In what ways you can prevent it?

Build familiarity with ways, in which binary protection differs between platforms. You have several ways to tackle securing applications from modifications that are unauthorized, such as code obfuscation, certificate pinning, detecting modifications in code, detection in terms of debugger, or jailbreak, etc. Read out a comprehensive guide on this at OWASP.

  1. Authentication Not Secured Enough

Most mobile apps have to function even offline, in addition to working online. Because of this, the security measure is meant to be less complicated and secure, as compared to web authentication or server side traditional ways. Hence, you see just four-digit pins, securing the authenticated data.

In what ways you can prevent it?

An assumption should always be kept in mind while designing an app. This assumption is in the form of circumvention of authentication, by an attacker, irrespective of taking place on server side or client side. Do not assume regarding the user’s authentication state. In addition, do not let the mobile app to execute the logic of authorization on server’s behalf. Ensure the existence of apt binary protection, especially when it comes to authorizing and authenticating users completely on the client side.

So, what have you learnt?

Mobile app security is an afterthought in most cases, or even a neglected phenomenon, which is completely overlooked. However, the fact of the matter is, mobile apps need to be even more secured than websites, due to an ever increasing number of users day by day, performing virtually all their transactions on smartphones. We presented you with vulnerabilities and cures for developers to think about, but how to secure your own smartphone data depends on the amount of care you take while disclosing information to others, or leaving your mobile with others.

It is not just the responsibility of developers, but also the users to fully optimize the security measures implemented by the developers. There might be security issues that take place, after developers do their job. This is due to security compromised by users itself by various means. If developers and users do their job in tandem, no way your mobile app is going to compromise on security fronts.

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