Mobile Application Penetration Testing

Did you know that 85% of users prefer shopping on mobile apps instead of other websites? 

For that reason alone, developing a mobile app for your business makes total sense. But, what also makes sense is to ensure your mobile app is properly secure – mobile apps can be notoriously easy to hack into. It is therefore crucial to consider enlisting a trusted penetration testing provider to perform a mobile application penetration test on your app.

What is Mobile Application Penetration Testing

A mobile application penetration testing involves simulating cyberattacks against a custom mobile application to identify its vulnerabilities, this is called ethical hacking. The purpose of the attack is to reveal all the app’s weaknesses and generate bespoke solutions, so that they can be fixed. The ethical attacks test potential vulnerabilities ranging from username enumeration to binary compile issues.

This type of testing is important since mobile applications are the easiest way for customers to interact with your business. In the modern world, customers do everything on their phones; from creating personal accounts with your business using sensitive information, to making payments.

Benefits of Mobile Penetration Testing

These are the four significant benefits of mobile penetration testing.

1.    Highlight Critical Vulnerabilities

Even the best applications have overlooked problems, mobile penetration testing reveals your application’s unknown vulnerabilities. A proper penetration test often reveals surprising weaknesses that you can correct before releasing your application.

2.   Prevention of future attacks

Mobile penetration testing should be a continuous process that detects more and more weaknesses over time. This way, your developers can release security patches to eliminate vulnerabilities as and when they’re detected. It’s especially important to do this since cyberattacks are increasing in both complexity and frequency.

3.    Increase your preparedness

Mobile penetration testing is an excellent way to test your response plans. A simulated attack is the perfect testing ground to discover whether you’re prepared for an attack. You can use the test results to adjust your plans accordingly and make your application safer.

4.    Peace of mind

Naturally, you’ll have a more confident launch knowing that your app has gone through sufficient testing. It’s much better to test your app’s vulnerabilities and correct them before releasing them, instead of releasing them first and then issuing security updates.

Common Assessments in Mobile Application Penetration Testing

Here at Aardwolf Security, our comprehensive mobile application penetration test includes the following parameters:

1.    Architecture, design, and threat modeling:

We’ll perform the test with reference to your application’s architecture to probe for insecure design choices and architectural vulnerabilities.

2.    Network Backend:

We will test how the application’s data travels over networks. This aspect of the test is meant to ensure that hackers can’t steal user-sensitive information during transmission over public networks.

3.    Data Management

The application should encrypt sensitive user data, like usernames and passwords. You must ensure that even if hackers obtain sensitive data, they must not be able to decrypt it.

4.    Session and Authentication

The mobile penetration test will also test for common session management issues, like session expiration or password changes.

Common Vulnerabilities in Mobile Applications

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) rates the following ten vulnerabilities as the most common:

1.    Platform Usage Mismanagement

This is when an application fails to properly use a platform’s features. For example, an application could fail to securely store Apple iOS facial recognition data, resulting in its theft.

2.    Insecure Data Storage

It’s a mistake to assume that data is safe if stored on your client’s devices. Their user data will likely be stolen if their devices are stolen or hacked. You need to account for this possibility for safely encrypting data in mobile applications.

3.    Insecure App Communication

Your application’s data can be stolen if it transmits user data over networks without encryption.

4.    Insecure User Authentication

Weak authentication practices, like restricting PINs to 4 digits and not automatically logging users out after a period of inactivity, increase the chances of data theft.

5.    Non-Cryptographic Protocol Implementation

A lack of secure cryptography could allow hackers to gain access to sensitive user data from the application.

6.    Invalid Permission Escalation

In this context, authorization refers to user permissions for the application. Flawed authorization could result in malicious access to your application’s data.

7.    Bad Code Practices

Code with bugs and errors is likely to lead to application performance malfunctions, increasing vulnerabilities.

8.    Malicious Application Version

Hackers can potentially manipulate your application’s code to create fraudulent versions to pose as real. They can then use these fraudulent versions to deceive users and steal their data. You must ensure your application’s code is not accessible to potential hackers.

9.    Reverse Engineering

Some hackers could download your app like regular users and reverse engineer the source code to steal sensitive data. You must ensure your application is impossible to reverse engineer.

10.    Extraneous Functionality

Extraneous functionality refers to extra and unnecessary features not part of the direct user experience. The extraneous features may not necessarily be harmful, but threat actors could exploit them. You must ensure such features are removed before launch.

Mobile App Penetration Testing Steps

Here are the four steps to perform mobile app penetration testing.

Step 1. Discovery

Gather the relevant information for the penetration testing process. This information includes:

  • The design and architecture of your application
  • Details on the network-level data flow of your application.
  • All application-related data is discoverable by OSINT.

Step 2. Analysis

The pentester begins their analysis and assessment at this phase. They will perform multiple assessment techniques, including:

  • Reverse engineering
  • File system analysis
  • Architecture analysis
  • Static and dynamic analysis
  • Interapplication communication

Step 3. Penetration and Exploitation

At this stage, the pentesters will simulate real-world attacks to understand the application’s behavior. They will perform these attacks with malicious payloads as a root exploit. The team will utilise all available exploits against detected vulnerabilities to test for reactions.

Step 4. Evaluation and Reporting

Post exploitation, the team will prepare a detailed report of the attacks. Their report will include which endpoints were tested, which vulnerabilities were detected, and evaluate the application’s level of risk, and recommend how to remedy them.

How long does it take to perform a mobile application penetration test?

There are numerous factors that influence the scoping of a mobile app penetration test, such as:

  • Whether the platform is Android or iOS
  • Size of the mobile application
  • Number of endpoints

How much is a mobile application penetration test?

A 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.