Android Penetration Testing

Android is the world’s most common mobile operating system. It’s simple, easy to use, and elegant. Creating an android application is also a relatively straightforward process. But android applications are still susceptible to being hacked. If you don’t properly secure your android application, your and your customers’ data could be obtained by attackers for malicious purposes. The best way to prepare for potential cyber-attacks against your android application is with an android penetration test.

Introduction to Android Penetration Testing

Android, with its vast user base and open ecosystem, offers a plethora of opportunities for developers. However, this openness also presents challenges in terms of security. Penetration testing, a simulated cyber attack against your system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities, is crucial for Android applications to ensure they are free from potential threats.

What is Android Penetration Testing?

An android penetration test is the process of systematically locating vulnerabilities in an android application. The purpose of android penetration testing is to find security vulnerabilities so they can be corrected before the application’s release. If left uncorrected, these vulnerabilities can be a security problem.

These security vulnerabilities are mainly related to data theft and information leaks. If an application’s confidential information is leaked, it can ruin both the application’s publisher and their customers. An android security assessment can prevent these problems.

After an android penetration test is completed, you’re provided a full list of the identified vulnerabilities and expert recommendations on how to fix these problems.

Understanding Android Architecture

  • Android OS Structure: Android operates on a layered structure, including Linux Kernel, Libraries, Android Runtime, Application Framework, and Applications.
  • Application Components: Android apps are built using various components:
    • Activities: Represents a single screen with a user interface.
    • Services: Runs in the background to perform long-running operations.
    • Broadcast Receivers: Responds to system-wide broadcast announcements.
    • Content Providers: Manages shared set of application data.
  • Application Permissions: Android uses a permission mechanism to grant specific functionalities to apps. Understanding and managing these permissions is crucial for security.

Android Penetration Testing Methodology

  • Static Analysis: Involves examining the application’s codebase, configuration files, and other non-executable components to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  • Dynamic Analysis: Observing the application during its execution. This can reveal vulnerabilities that might not be evident during static analysis.
  • Network Analysis: Monitoring and analyzing the traffic between the application and backend servers to ensure data integrity and confidentiality.

Key Areas in Android Penetration Testing

  • Insecure Data Storage: Data stored insecurely on a device can be accessed by malicious apps. Ensuring data encryption and secure storage mechanisms are in place is vital.
  • Authorisation and Authentication: Ensuring that sensitive parts of the app are accessible only to authorized users. Implementing strong authentication mechanisms is crucial.
  • Network and Server-side communication: Data in transit should be encrypted using protocols like SSL/TLS. Ensuring secure API endpoints and server configurations is also essential.

Advanced Android Penetration Techniques

  • Smali Code Analysis: After decompiling an APK, one can analyze the Smali code, which is an intermediate representation of Android bytecode, to understand the app’s functionality and find vulnerabilities.
  • Runtime Injection: Tools like Frida allow testers to inject code during an app’s runtime, enabling them to modify the app’s behavior and expose vulnerabilities.
  • Memory Dump Analysis: By analyzing an app’s memory dump, sensitive information like passwords and encryption keys can be extracted.

Popular Android Penetration Testing Tools

  • Drozer: A comprehensive tool that allows for interaction with the Android OS and apps using a command-line interface.
  • MobSF: An automated, all-in-one mobile application (Android/iOS/Windows) pen-testing, malware analysis, and security assessment framework.
  • AndroBugs: A framework that analyzes Android apps for security vulnerabilities.
  • QARK: Aimed at finding potential security vulnerabilities in Android apps.

Post-Penetration Testing Steps

  • Vulnerability Remediation: Once vulnerabilities are identified, they should be prioritized and fixed based on their severity and potential impact.
  • Re-testing: After remediation, it’s essential to re-test the application to ensure that the vulnerabilities have been effectively addressed.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Security is an ongoing process. Regularly monitoring the application for new threats and vulnerabilities is crucial.

Why Android Penetration Testing is Essential

  • Increasing Threat Landscape: Every day, new vulnerabilities and threats emerge. Android, due to its popularity, is often a prime target for attackers.
  • Legal Implications: Data breaches can lead to hefty fines and lawsuits. Ensuring your application is secure can prevent legal repercussions.
  • Reputation Management: A single security breach can tarnish the reputation of a company. Ensuring application security helps in maintaining trust among users.

Why do you need Android Penetration Testing?

An android penetration test identifies your application’s weaknesses, so you can correct them. Doing so prevents your application from potentially being exploited by attackers. It’s preferable to correct your application’s vulnerabilities via a systematic android security assessment before attackers can exploit them.

Android devices are increasingly being attacked by hackers, who use a variety of sophisticated techniques to access sensitive data. Without also employing the most sophisticated android application pentest, your application won’t be fully secure from attacks.

Not performing an android security assessment means your application may be vulnerable to potential attacks. You may also face legal action for not releasing a fully secured application.

What are the benefits of Android application testing?

Android application testing benefits you by removing potential vulnerabilities from your application before you release it. It also provides you with the following additional benefits:

  • Your company maintains its reputation for security
  • Your company avoids potential legal issues for data leaks
  • Your company’s customers’ data remains safe
  • Your company’s confidential data remains safe
  • Your application adheres to local security assessment requirements.

In short, an android application test ensures your application is fully safe for release.

Key Areas in Android Penetration Testing

Android pen testing involves systematically analyzing each aspect of your android application. The following three areas are the most important for an android pen test.

1.   Insecure Data Storage

A secure android application uses encryption to ensure that attackers can’t access its data. Your application should have secure data storage that prevents attackers from manipulating request protocols to steal user and application information.

A pen tester will ensure your application securely stores its data by simulating attacks against it.

2.   Authorisation and Authentication

A secure android application has proper authentication and authorisation features. The application shouldn’t allow unauthorised users to gain access to confidential information. Ideally, your application should have proper authentication for all users.

A pen tester will test your application’s authorisation and authentication features by attempting to gain unauthorised access to confidential files and data.

3.   Network and Server side communication

A secure android application has secure network communications that prevent attackers from accessing information while it’s transmitted to servers. Your application should be fully secured on the network side to prevent your consumers’ data from being stolen.

A pen tester will test your application’s network security by attempting to hack your applications’ transmissions.

Android Application Penetration Techniques

Android application pen testers use the following techniques to ensure your application is fully secure. Each technique involves simulating attacks against an aspect of your application to determine whether it has adequate security.

1.   Data storage

The android pen tester will install and debug your application using the Android Debug Bridge (ADB). The pen testers will attempt to identify your application’s files and data on internal and external storage devices. They will then attempt to access this information.

If successful, the pen tester will prove that your application does not securely save confidential information on internal and external storage devices. And you will be provided recommendations for how to save your application’s data.

2.   Reverse Engineering APK files

The pen tester will attempt to disassemble your application’s APK file. Next, they’ll attempt to understand how your application works and reverse engineer it. If successful, the pen tester will be able to rebuild most of your application from scratch.

If a pen tester successfully reverse engineers your application, it proves that your source code is not sufficiently secure. In this case, you’ll be given recommendations on how to improve your application’s source code security.

3.   Intercepting network traffic

The pen tester will attempt to intercept your application’s server requests and responses and read data sent over the HTTP protocol. If the pen tester successfully intercepts your application’s network data, they will have access to confidential information.

If successful, the pen tester will prove that your application lacks proper network security, such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocols. And you will be provided recommendations on how to improve your application’s network security.

What are the deliverables of Android Penetration Testing

An android security assessment will first test your application’s vulnerabilities, document them, and finally provide you with a set of recommendations to correct them. You will receive the following deliverables for an android application pentest:

  • A report that summarizes the findings of the test, including a list of identified vulnerabilities.
  • A risk-assessment sheet that details the severity of the identified vulnerabilities.
  • A list of recommendations that outlines the steps you should take to correct the identified vulnerabilities.

By the end of the android application pen test, you’ll have a complete understanding of your application’s vulnerabilities and details on how to fix them.

How long does it take to perform an Android penetration test?

There are numerous factors that influence the scoping of an Android penetration test, such as:

  • The size of the Android app
  • The number of pages and dynamic fields
  • The number of endpoints 

What are the deliverables after Android penetration testing?

After a successful Android penetration test, you receive a detailed report of the identified vulnerabilities, along with recommendations for correcting them, ideal for web developers.

In short, by the end of testing, you’ll know exactly how secure your mobile application is and what you can do to correct the vulnerabilities identified.

How much is an Android penetration test?

An Android mobile app penetration test cost is calculated by the number of days a penetration tester will take to fulfil the agreed scope. The number of days can be determined by filling out our penetration testing scoping form or messaging us through our contact form to arrange a scoping call with one of our senior penetration testers.