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Need for Security Testing of Mobile Apps

May 22, 2019


Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy is hardly a novelty these days as enterprises now allow employees to access sensitive business data on their personal mobile devices. Hence, a large percentage of users utilize the same mobile devices for both business and own purposes. Also, they store a variety of personal and business data on their smartphones, tablets, or phablets. With the recent WhatsApp security breach fresh in our minds, it is not incorrect to say that mobile apps are vulnerable to critical security attacks. This, in turn, makes security testing of mobile apps imperative.

Users all over the world opt for mobile apps that enable them to accomplish specific tasks. Simultaneously, they do not want to compromise the security and privacy of the data stored on their mobile devices. Businesses must incorporate robust security features and perform elaborate security testing while developing a mobile app. It enables them to secure the personal and professional data of users despite targeted malware attacks and the presence of a virus on the devices. Security testing helps the testing professionals check the vulnerability of the app to targeted security attacks. It also helps to identify the loopholes that make the app vulnerable to targeted malware attacks. Hence, security testing results enable enterprises to enhance the credibility and profitability of the mobile app in the longer run. There are also several reasons why each enterprise must perform elaborate security testing of mobile apps.

Why Must Each Business Perform Elaborate Security Testing of Mobile Apps?

Eliminate Common Security Vulnerabilities

Several studies have shown that each mobile app contains some form of security vulnerabilities. A large percentage of modern mobile apps even contain the most commonly identified vulnerabilities. The testers must locate and eliminate the commonly identified vulnerabilities to protect the application from both existing and emerging security threats. Security vulnerabilities can also be fixed easily before the commercial launch of the mobile app.

Secure the Application Code

Many cybercriminals execute targeted malware by taking advantage of the loopholes in the source code of the mobile app. The malware helps them take control of the user’s device and subsequently access the data stored on it. While performing security testing, the testing professionals assess the quality of the entire application code. This helps them to identify the weaker pieces of code that make the app vulnerable to security attacks. The three common methods to do this are:

  • Static analysis: Using code or application binary. Several tools are available for both Android and iOS
  • Dynamic analysis: Analyzing the application when it’s executing on the device, communication with servers/web services. Typically done by proxy-based tools, analyzing and interpreting communication of use with the external world
  • Forensic analysis: Checking the residual files, data that has been left behind after the application has been run. Database based or simple tools like Android debug bridge (ADB) can be used for this purpose

Prevent Data Leaks

As noted earlier, a user nowadays stores both personal and business data on the same mobile device. Most apps access the personal information of the user to deliver a more personalized experience. Hence, the vulnerabilities in a mobile app can result in data leaks in the future. The testing professionals eliminate chances of data leaks by evaluating the hard-coded data. This includes the application code, the personal/business data stored on the device, and data in transit.

Prevent Real-Time Security Attacks

Many cybercriminals nowadays distribute malware that attacks the mobile app at the time of execution. The malware tries to modify the functionality of the app by submitting malicious input at runtime. Hence, enterprises must explore ways to protect their mobile apps from real-time security attacks. The testers can easily identify the malicious input submitted at runtime by using robust technologies like runtime application self-protection (RASP). This would help them prevent the malware from modifying the app’s configuration.

Eliminate the Impact of Trojan Apps

Many hackers nowadays distribute malware through mobile apps and games. The users fail to identify the malicious functionality of the app or game and install it on their mobile apps. The Trojan apps are explicitly designed to accomplish tasks like retrieving user data, changing the configuration of the app, monitor user activities, make unauthorized calls, and send unauthorized text messages. While performing security testing, the testers check how the application behaves in the presence of malware in the system. This knowledge helps them identify ways to make Trojan apps ineffective.

Secure Third-Party APIs And Services

Nowadays, developers enhance the mobile app’s performance by integrating a variety of third-party APIs and services. Some of these APIs are provided by reputable companies, while others are open source and uploaded by the community. Hence, the quality of individual third-party APIs or services differ. Testers assess the security of third-party APIs independently after they are integrated into the app to evaluate the security of a mobile app.  Also, they monitor and assess data transmission to keep the user data safe and secure.

Implement Corporate Policy

In addition to implementing the BYOD policy, enterprises also allow employees to access business data on their personal mobile devices. But the enterprises do not have full control over the app installed by employees on their own devices. Hence, it becomes essential for enterprises to implement a robust policy to ensure that the business data is accessed only by the authorized employee. The employees also have to comply with the required authorization and authentication process. The testers will assess the security, authentication, and authorization features of the mobile app while performing security tests. It helps them to ensure that any unauthorized user does not access the business data.

Get Higher Returns

Each business has to invest in robust security testing tools and experienced testing professionals to get more reliable security testing results. But according to several studies, most users will switch to a more secure mobile app without any delay. Hence, the initial investment will help the business to enhance the app’s popularity and profitability in the longer run. Also, the business can get all security loopholes in the mobile app fixed before its deployment to beat the competition in the long-run.

Usually, experienced testing professionals can think like a hacker and identify all critical security vulnerabilities in the app. At the same time, the security testing tools will enable the testers to assess the security of the mobile app under different environments and within a shorter amount of time.

Conclusion

Coming back to the recent WhatsApp security lapse and the Facebook security breach which happened a year ago, security experts say that even the most vaulted applications can also get hacked. The mobile network has made our lives comfortable by empowering users to do any transaction viz. social, financial, and business. However, as end-users of mobile applications, it is always advisable to update all the apps with their latest security patches. Mobile app companies have been continuously testing their mobile apps under stringent conditions. Security testing of mobile apps helps to prohibit hackers from stealing our personal information and maliciously utilizing them.






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