To avoid the risk of security vulnerabilities, there is an essential best practice for penetration testing of mobile apps.

Using mobile applications might carry potential risks for both you and your organization since untested mobile apps have security bugs that easily harm your data.

1. Preparing the security testing plan:

You must take a close look at the type of mobile application because each one has a different attack vector. There are three main mobile app types you can explore for your mobile app development project:

  • Web App – A web app loads in browsers like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, and doesn’t need to be downloaded from app stores like native mobile apps.
  • Native App – They are built for specific platforms and are written in languages that the platform accepts.
  • Hybrid App – A hybrid app is essentially a combination of a native app and a web app. Although this type of app can be installed on a device like a native app, it technically is a web app.

2. Architectural Information

  • The mobile app: How the app accesses data and manages it in-process, how it communicates with other resources and manages user sessions, and whether it detects itself running on jailbroken or rooted phones and reacts to these situations.
  • The Operating System: The operating systems and OS versions the app runs on (including Android or iOS version restrictions), whether the app is expected to run on devices that have Mobile Device Management (MDM) controls, and relevant OS vulnerabilities.
  • Network: Usage of secure transport protocols (e.g., TLS), usage of strong keys and cryptographic algorithms (e.g., SHA-2) to secure network traffic encryption, usage of certificate pinning to verify the endpoint, etc.

Remote Services: The remote services the app consumes and whether their being compromised could compromise the client.

Mobile app penetration testing
Mobile app penetration testing, Photo by Christina Morillo

3. Preparing the testing environment

Mobile apps are not the same as web applications because they do not run on all kinds of platforms and browsers. Thus, it needs a specific device-driven testing environment that is configured like:

  • Combine testing tools and integrate them into a continuous integration system.
  • Use emulators/simulators.
  • We strongly advise that you request the source code. The tester’s code
    access doesn’t simulate an external attack. Still, it simplifies the identification of vulnerabilities by allowing the tester to verify every identified anomaly or suspicious behavior at the code level.

4. Building the attack resources

For mobile app penetration testing, choose a test automation tool that fits into the company strategy and infrastructure. Debuggers, Decryptors, and other tools that help you to understand the mechanics of the application. Keep the following things in mind during testing:

  • Test the app as a “black box” and try to break it.
  • Use the app on different carriers and network connections like 3G, Wi-Fi, or LTE.
  • Use internal beta testing for early feedback.
  • Ensure to include respective “app store” standards review as part of the test strategy.

5. Application Mapping

Breaking down all framework and create accurate modeling that applies the same principles for creating a test suite, as explained in the OWASP testing guide:

a, Key chains, brute-force attacks, parameter tampering

b, Malicious input, fuzzing

c, SQLite database password fields, configuration file encryption

d, Session IDs, time lockouts

e, Error and exception handling

f, Logs, access control to logs.

6. Attacking the client

A tester applies binary and files analysis to discover insecure API calls and files with adequate access controls.

7. Network attacks

For mobile applications featured with a clear-server tier architecture, testers should notice to network attacks. So, an essential way to investigate network attacks is to capture network traffic and discover transport layer protection with the assistance of attack proxies.

8. Staging server attacks

The area of testing should include random file upload, cross-origin resource sharing, or open redirect to ensure the lowest potential threats.

9. Know the damage

  • Damage potential – the damage that can result from exploiting the
    vulnerability
  • Affected users – the number of users affected by the attack.

10. Getting to know more about mobile vulnerabilities

Testers should keep in mind that the way to learn more about security vulnerabilities occurred in mobile applications.

Wanna know more about the challenges of mobile app testing? Click here and read our latest article about this topic.