Mobile app security testing process


We at Valency Networks believe in simulating real-life hackers. They just have access to your app's binaries, which is ideally all we expect from you. Once we have been formally and professionally engaged with you to undertake pentesting of your mobile app, we will ask you the following questions.

Following steps are performed.

  • Is your mobile app built with a framework or with native code?
  • Does your mobile app allow you to call your social media networks?
  • Does your mobile app accept in-app purchases, such as bitcoins?
  • Does your mobile app provide a payment gateway?

Aside from the questions listed above, there are a few others that are vital to the business operation of your application. We map all of this to perform threat modelling on your application and determine how to perform vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.

Once the app has been mapped, we execute penetration testing in a highly thorough, technical, and systematic manner. While we adopt the thorough OWASP-Mobile-Top-10 model, testing is essentially divided into static (data at rest) and dynamic (data in transit).

While android and iOS app pentesting is a very detailed procedure that results in an elaborate checklist, the details below can provide a high-level overview of all the tasks.

Mobile App Security Penetration Testing Process

Before Testing Starts

  • Sign NDA

  • Freeze on scope

  • Study Mobile App Architecture

  • Study Mobile App Functionality

  • Decide attack vectors and prioritize

  • Allocate single point of contact

During Testing

  • Black box testing (Without device rooting, jailbreaking)

  • Gray box testing (With device rooting, jailbreaking)

  • Automatic and Manual Testing

  • Testing using OWASP-Mobile-Top-10 Standard

  • Scanning

  • Configuration Check

  • Manifest/Binary Config check

  • Gathering Logs

After Testing

  • Analyse logs

  • Confirm results

  • Apply Knowledge

  • Apply Experience

  • Repeat Test if required

Testing Outcome

  • Detailed technical report

  • Executive summary

  • High level fixation solutions

  • Certificate of testing completion (optional)

Mobile App Pentesting Process

All of the best vendors for mobile app security testing adhere to the OWASP Top 10 Mobile model. Several mobile app security tools are used in this process, but we take pride in performing the testing manually along with automated tools to acquire the best results and that is where our expertise lies.

I. Discovery

Mobile Penetration Testing Services Provider Vendor

Intelligence gathering is the most important stage in a penetration test. The discovery process involves:

Understanding the Platform -It is important for the penetration tester to understand the mobile application platform, even from an external point of view, application platform, even from an outside perspective, in order to construct a threat model for the application.

Client-Side vs Server-Side Scenarios - To work on different cases, we try to understand the application type (native, hybrid, and web). The application's network interfaces, user data, communication with external resources, session management, and jailbreaking/rooting are all considered part of this.

II. Assessment / Analysis

The method of evaluating mobile applications is unique because penetration tester must verify the applications both before and after installation. The various assessment techniques encountered within are as follows:

Local File Analysis - We examine the application's local files written to the file system to confirm that there are no violations.

Reverse Engineering - It is process of transforming compiled applications into human-readable source code. We examine the readable code to gain an understanding of the internal application functionality and to look for vulnerabilities. Once reversed and recompiled, the source code of an Android application can be updated.

Mobile Penetration Testing Services Provider Vendor
Mobile Penetration Testing Services Provider Vendor

Static Analysis - We do not run the application during static analysis. The given files or decompiled source code are examined. This is accomplished through the use of static analysis tools.

Dynamic Analysis - We examine the mobile application while it is running on the device. The process involves file system analysis, an evaluation of network traffic between the application and the server, and an evaluation of the application's inter-process communication (IPC). We employ a few of tools to partially automate the process and undertake manual source code analysis.

Inter-Process Communication Endpoint Analysis: Inter-Process Communication Endpoint Analysis: We look at the various IPC endpoints in mobile applications. The following aspects are evaluated:

  • Content Providers - These make sure databases are accessible.
  • Intents - These are signals used to communicate communications between Android system components.
  • Broadcast Receivers - These receive and act on intents received from other applications on the android system.
  • Activities - They comprise the application's displays or pages.
  • Services - They run in the background and do tasks whether or not the programme is operating.

III. Exploitation

Mobile Penetration Testing Services Provider Vendor

The pentester attacks the mobile application using the information gathered during the information gathering phase. Comprehensive intelligence gathering ensures a high possibility of successful exploitation.

We try to exploit the discovered vulnerabilities in order to determine the severity and impact of the vulnerability on the application.

IV. Reporting

A good report communicates to management in straightforward language, clearly outlining the found vulnerabilities, business consequences, and potential remedies or recommendations.

Our report includes the vulnerabilities discovered, along with their severity and proof of concept. We also offer fixation solutions to assist consumers in quickly resolving the vulnerabilities. When customers have problems grasping the fixation process, we assist them by getting on the call with them and explaining the process.

Our services are valued not only for our technical expertise, but also for our professional and helpful approach to assisting our customers.

Mobile Penetration Testing Services Provider Vendor

Data At Rest

This is one of the testing methodologies we follow to find vulnerabilities related to the Mobile App, where the App details are stored or location on the device. Data at rest checks mainly includes static analysis and code review. This involves checking permissions, exposed communications, possibly harmful functionality, programme cooperation, obfuscation, and typical software vulnerabilities. It also includes internal communications such as the debug flag and activities, as well as external communications such as GPS and NFC access, as well as validating the connections contained in the source code.

Data In Transit

DIT indicates the data that is being transmitted from the App to the back-end server. This data is tested by performing Man-In-The-Middle attack using proxy server. The Mobile Apps are similar to web apps, hence for DIT, most of the critical attacks pertaining to web application are also applicable here, such as Cross-site-scripting, SQLi, CORS, Authentication bypass, Session Hijacking, etc. We have seen developers being negligent when it comes to security the request and responses from client to server visa verra. This is mainly because there has been a misunderstand that Android and iOS takes care of the App data security as well. This has been a misconception being carried for a long time and the longer it grows, it paves way for hackers to easily intercept and take advantage. To avoid this risk, we insist our customer to implement SSL pinning and tighten it to avoid DIT attacks all together.

Basic Checklist performed for Mobile Pentesting

  • Binary Recompilation

    In this process, we decompile the apk or ipa file to get to the source code. Decompiling entails dissecting a mobile app's compiled version in order to discover its source code. A mobile app can be tampered with by altering its environment or the compiled or running version of the app to change how it behaves. For instance, an app can object to running on your rooted test device, this process can be bypassed by hackers by changing the binary code that has been decompiled. This is just one reason why hackers get to the skin of an ipa or apk. There are multiple attacks that originates from this stage; hence we start by first decompiling and recompiling the application.

  • Static code analysis for data at rest vulnerability mapping

    As part of static code analysis, we review the program's source code. This is done using SAST tools that help in mapping the application control and data flows. The analysis looks for potential security flaws by comparing the code to a set of predetermined rules or security configurations. This analysis helps in finding issues in the code that are pertaining to permissions settings, intents, flags, etc. Any misconfigurations in the code is detected and reported as a vulnerability, as these flaws further cause serious issues like data leakage and Man-in-the-middle attacks.

  • Dynamic analysis for data in transit vulnerability mapping

    A DAST test is an application security testing methodology where the assist in identifying specific vulnerabilities while the data is being transmitted from the mobile application to the back-end server. Input/output validation problems that could expose an application to cross-site scripting or SQL injection are just a few of the vulnerabilities that are found in DAST test.

  • OWASP Mobile Top 10 standard Attacks

    ✓ M1: Improper Platform Usage

    ✓ M2: Insecure Data Storage

    ✓ M3: Insecure Communication

    ✓ M4: Insecure Authentication

    ✓ M5: Insufficient Cryptography

    ✓ M6: Insecure Authorization

    ✓ M7: Client Code Quality

    ✓ M8: Code Tampering

    ✓ M9: Reverse Engineering

    ✓ M10: Extraneous Functionality

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Mobile Penetration Testing Services Provider Vendor
  • Local storage specific checks

    As part of Local Storage testing, we check what data is retained of more on the device storage pertaining to the application. Tests are performed to see if any sensitive or confidential data is being disclosed of the application in the local storage. Its important to ensure applications are not storing data in the device storage to avoid unnecessary data breach. We have seen certain application have the need to store data like images, PDFs, etc. of the application on the local device. We allow it as long as its ensured that the data being stored gets deleted once the application is uninstalled. Also, storing images, PDFs are not critical if company sensitive information or PHI, PII, SQLite data, is not being disclosed.

  • User input validation checks

    Similar to web application, it is important that input validation is done on mobile application. As the requests going from mobile app to the backend server is same as web application the possibility of injection attacks just as SQLi, cross-site scripting, etc. happened on the app doesn't change. Implementing the validation on both client-side and server-side is important to avoid code injections via proxy servers. We have seen developers taking mobile app security lightly, thinking the Android and iOS will provide security. These are simple Operating System, they can provide security to the device, but only APP Developers can provide security to their Apps.

  • App's own security layer bypass checks

    We identity the authentication mechanism being used in the app and perform test cases to bypass the authentication. This is done to ensure the apps authentication and authorization is handled efficiently and cannot be bypassed by hackers. OTP bypass, login bypass, SSO bypass, brute force attack, Escalation of privilege checks, session hijacking attacks are attacks we perform to ensure how well tightened are the authentication and authorization mechanisms of the app.

  • Unintended data leakage checks

    Checks are performed to ensure if any sensitive data is being disclosed. This could be as simple as disclosure of backend server or database name and version, and can also be as serious as transmitting the login request in HTTP protocol, in paint text format. Data leakage can happen due to misconfigurations, poor coding practices, etc. VAPT helps in identifying these loopholes and ensuring your App is secure from any internal or external threats.

The results are compiled and converted into a technical report.

How do you map security scenario attack vectors to ensure accuracy?

It's not only about default vulnerabilities, or typical security problems as per OWASP Top 10. We go way beyond that, by understanding business logic, map the application in various business scenarios, and create customized vectors for testing. This method helps us go deep into the security of overall apps functionality, besides the common ones, and thus helps our customer gain accurate results which they need to fix.

How do you perform manifest/Binary Config check?

For android apps, the manifest exhibits some security issues, which there are multiple binary files under iOS which does the same. We use these details to map into mobile app's security threat modelling and use that information for further penetration testing.

How do I make my mobile apps secure?

Yes. OWASP has created separate guidelines and attack vectors for mobile applications. Since the mobile apps contain a static code analysis along with the dynamic one, it is imperative to cover these angles via a carefully created vulnerability assessment checklist. TOP10 Mobile security issues have been listed below:

  • Enforce Strong Authentication: Use authentication mechanism to restrict login to only the authorized user. Using Multi-Factor authentication provides extra layer of protection. If the application deals with sensitive data or stores critical information enforcing a strong authentication mechanism is a must to protect against authentication Bypass attacks.
  • Encrypt Communication & Data: Ensure your application data is transmitted using the HTTPS protocol. Any sensitive data like password that is being transmitted need to be encrypted. Enforce encryption of the cache/temporary data that the application stores in the user's device.
  • Protect app data: Implement data security policies and guidelines in the application to ensure users don't fall prey in the trap set by hackers.
  • Use minimal application permissions: Giving too many permissions in the application may end up being used by hackers for their entry point. So, limit the applications permissions to its functionality areas.
  • Certificate pinning: Implement certificate pinning to guard the application's Data in transit from Man In the Middle attacks.
  • Perform VAPT: Get Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing done for the application on a regular basis to ensure your app is secure from all latest threats and vulnerabilities.

What are the benefits of application security?

Benefits of Application Security are:

  • Reduces risk from both internal and third-party sources.
  • Maintains the brand image by keeping businesses off the headlines.
  • Keeps customer data secure and builds customer confidence.
  • Improves trust from crucial investors and lenders.

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Our Culture

Valency Networks is a very agile, friendly and fun loving atmosphere and yet we maintain a cutting edge technical vibrant work environment.