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Security Techniques in Mobile Applications
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What are the Security Techniques in Mobile Applications

As our reliance on smartphones has grown, mobile applications have become an essential part of our lives. However, many users are unaware of their devices’ security. In those devices, every detail of our lives is saved. Compromising a device means compromising your identity and, in some cases, compromising a company. As a result, security testing is just as important as web application testing.

Mobile and web application security testing are typically very similar, but there are some additional techniques used in mobile testing. The security techniques used for mobile applications typically include the followings:

  • Static Analysis
  • Dynamic Analysis
  • Archive Analysis
  • Local file analysis
  • Reverse Engineering
  • Network and Web Traffic
  • Inter Process Communication

Static & Dynamic Analysis

Penetration testing in mobile applications have distinct method for assessing the application. The security testers have to perform analysis pre and post installation on the device. The pre installation assessment is done through static analysis without executing application. The testing is carried out on the provided or decompiled source code and other required files.

Some of the popular tools used in static analysis include MobSF(used both for static and dynamic analysis), ImmuniWeb, another popular tool is Yaazhiniwhichdecompiles the whole application into smali code and then analyses the smali code misconfiguration as well.

The dynamic analysis on the other hand focuses on testing and evaluation of the application during their runtime execution. This analysis is done when the application is running on the device. The testing involved here is very similar to what a security tester would do in a web application, testing of network level communication, forensics and weak cryptography etc.


Archive/Storage Analysis

Archive Analysis is performed, which involves extracting and examining application installation packages for the Android and iOS platforms in order to review the configuration files.

This analysis is critical because the data stored in the device is critical, and our usual concern is that our application’s data is securely stored on our Android/IOS devices, so that no data can be extracted in the event of theft or loss.

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Also, this analysis makes sure that an application (malicious) does not have access to the data of another application for ex: banking by ensuring that the files have appropriate file permissions. This becomes more important as developers tend to store credentials including username, passwords, and PIN numbers in such files, which can lead to complete compromise of the user’s account.


Local file Analysis

When an application is installed in mobile device, it is given its own directory in the file system, so when a user is using the application, the application will write to and read from this directory. Files accessed by the application will be analysed to verify.


Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering basically means to take something apart to see how it works, it is the same in case of mobile application. Mobile application developers obfuscate the executable code of the application so that it cannot be understood, interpreted, or executed. The source code is obfuscated, making it unintelligible and impossible for a third party to understand, let alone execute.

Code obfuscation has no effect on the application’s end-user interface or the code’s intended output. It’s just a precautionary measure to make the code unusable for a potential hacker who might get their hands on an application’s executable code.

The problem arises when the hacker is successfully able to reverse engineer the complied application and thereafter could potentially find vulnerability in the code flow, exploit business logic, create custom exploits for that particular application etc.


Network and Web Traffic

For testing the network and web traffic the device is configured to route its traffic to the server through a proxy controlled by the security tester. The tester can intercept, view, modify the request being made to the server to test for possible vulnerabilities. TCP and UDP packets, which are not traversing the Web and are occurring at a lower layer in the TCP/IP protocol stack, will also be intercepted and examined. Tools such as Burp suite can be used for intercepting the traffic.

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Inter Process Communication

The following IPC endpoints are used in Android applications which needs to be analysed:

  • Intents: These are the signals that the Android system uses to communicate messages amongst its various components.
  • Activities: These are basically screens and pages of an application.
  • Content providers: The content providers have all the access to the database used by the application.
  • Services: Many applications run some services in background even when the application is not being used, these services are tested for vulnerabilities.
  • Broadcast Receivers:These are based on intents received from various applications within the Android systems.

 

Overall, there are several techniques to secure mobile apps, each having advantages, disadvantages, and dangers. Understanding the ramifications of each method is critical for developing a strong mobile strategy. Detox Technologies provides strategic IT and technology consulting services to assist firms embrace mobile while minimising risks by leveraging a broad knowledge base and ongoing research on ever-changing mobile platforms and development frameworks.

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Aashirvad Kumar

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