Mobile Application Security Testing Guide

Mobile Application Security Testing: Comprehensive Guide

Mobile application security focuses on the software security analysis, testing, and fixing of mobile apps on various platforms like Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Mobile application developers provide their products using different security frameworks, and these applications should be safeguarded according to compliance rules. The main role of mobile application security testing is to identify vulnerabilities through proven practices and provide reliable plans to fix these weaknesses.

If you are a mobile application developer or software company offering software tools for small or large companies, read the following sections to find answers to these questions:

  • What is mobile application security testing?
  • What are the security techniques used in mobile applications?
  • What are the different layers of mobile application security?
  • What are the security issues for mobile applications?
  • What are the top risks for mobile application security?
  • How does mobile application security testing work?
  • How is a mobile application attack conducted?

Why is Application Security Testing Important?

Mobile app security has grown fastly in recent years since mobile devices have increased significantly in number, providing numerous features for users. The trending topics related to mobile device applications are based on tools which offer banking services, shopping, and social media services. These services are in need of secure data collection, storage, and processing to ensure users’ sensitive and personal data is safe and protected against cyber threats.

  • Mobile apps can be a critical point in terms of data security, and hackers would like to make use of these tools to access users’ data and exploit systems. There are many reasons why financial institutions and banking services should take mobile app security seriously and take time to enhance the mobile app security level in their organization.

To prevent a cyber threat or data breach, we need to analyze and uncover security vulnerabilities in every part of the IT infrastructure. We need to check firewalls, networks, devices, and routers thoroughly. Mobile application vulnerabilities are one of the primary considerations in this case, and there is a need to find security holes in a mobile application before attackers can find them and make use of these weaknesses to perform malicious activities. Mobile application security testing is important due to the following reasons:

  • It helps prevent future attacks through a vulnerability assessment
  • It gives us full insight into the behaviors of attackers
  • It allows software developers to integrate the latest secure software development practices into the development process
  • It offers an opportunity to test and monitor third-party vendors and check the related compliances and standards
  • It provides full information on the level of skills and experience of the app development company that is providing you with mobile applications

Read more about why your organization needs comprehensive mobile application testing:

1. Compromised Login Information

When someone can gain access to your credentials, such as usernames and passwords, it is a condition which is referred to as compromised login information. This means that unauthorized users have your login credentials and have access to your online accounts on a website or in an organizational system.

  • Considering millions of mobile apps available for mobile devices, users are feared to be impacted by different techniques used by cyber attackers who aim to steal their credentials and login information. Note that many mobile device applications can be compromised in less than 15 minutes if reliable security procedures and security tests haven’t been included in their development process.

These weaknesses are due to not having comprehensive login data encryption, and defects in data storage and data retrieval processes may cause these vulnerabilities.

2. Stolen Financial Information

First and foremost, protecting the financial information of mobile app users is a vital part of all cybersecurity strategies. With the internet taking over almost all aspects of our life today, data and financial information theft are more likely to occur. This is especially a concerning matter for financial services and banks since data theft or data exposure in such industries can lead to disastrous outcomes in the short or long term.

  • It should be noted that data breaches and information theft occur in organizations or companies that usually don’t have any data protection and response plan. This is also true for small businesses and startup companies that ignore having a cybersecurity team and don’t speak to a cybersecurity team to provide them with reliable data protection plans.

To safeguard your financial information, there is a need for an identity theft prevention checklist, including some essential rules as follows:

  • Protecting usernames, passwords, and PINs
  • Using protected and secure wireless networks
  • Double checking online banking and financial services websites when accessing them

Mobile applications are one of the main tools for hackers, providing them with an easy method to steal your identity information or financial data. Scammers can hack your mobile banking app, and these tools are a target for them. Scammers and cyber attackers may steal your financial information through your mobile app while the data is in transfer and by penetrating the server where your financial data is stored.

3. Reduced Business Growth

Every year cyberattacks become increasingly more prevalent and complex, and they are considered a great concern for business continuity and growth. In most cybersecurity reports and surveys, cyber threats are included as the number 1 threat to business continuity in which mobile application threats are an important part of it.

  • Mobile applications provide instant services to your clients and application users, and these tools are a consistent and always-on channel, forming a unique opportunity for your business growth and development. As a result, any cybersecurity issue in your mobile apps can lead to non-recoverable problems in the development and growth of your business.

4. Reputation Damage

Reputation damage refers to a state in which clients and service users may leave brands, and this situation can pose a threat to the business continuity and survival of a company. Reputational risks are more crucial for large organizations, and they need to provide damage control plans and response plans to mitigate related risks.

  • A company’s reputation is a highly sensitive requirement for business growth. When reputation is damaged, it can impact a company’s success. Any security flaw in a mobile application can put your company’s reputation at risk, and it can cause a condition where clients and users will leave your company over time.

A mobile application is one of the great tools for helping improve services, but it can contribute to significant reputation damage if the application is poorly maintained and supported.

5. Guessing the Behaviours of Attackers and Anticipating their Moves

Mobile application security testing allows cybersecurity teams to guess the behavior models of cyber attacks and report them to provide practical solutions. Unusual activities and suspicious requests can be important indicators showing there may be a cyber attack in the future. A cybersecurity team can list all these behavior models by mobile application security testing and assessment.

  • The ability to detect threat indicators and analyze cyber threat behaviors is a crucial element of every comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Your cybersecurity team or third-party service provider is responsible for performing mobile application security testing and monitoring mobile applications regularly, helping reduce the risks of being impacted by mobile app threats.

But what are the essential threat indicators associated with mobile application testing? Here are some of the primary indicators Nordic Defender takes into account when analyzing mobile application security:

  • Unusual inbound and outbound network traffic
  • Unusual activities from administrators or privileged users
  • Unusual access requests or logins
  • Suspicious changes in files or registers
  • Large amounts of files or data
  • An increase in database read volume

6. Going Live With the New Mobile Application Without Excess Worry About Security Risks

Comprehensive mobile application security testing can provide you with the best practices and strategies needed for developing new and modern applications. Cybersecurity teams consider some factors when performing mobile application security tests to provide a comprehensive report on how you can improve your application’s security level.

  • Remember that there are modern approaches to application development, and traditional methods couldn’t provide reliable solutions today. Cloud computing and hosting are evolving and replacing on-premise servers, and there are highly advanced API tools that are designed based on security and data protection.

Many exciting changes have been seen in the last few years in the field of mobile application development, and cybersecurity has greatly impacted this field of technology. As a result, cybersecurity teams consider these changes when they want to perform mobile application security tests to fill mobile application gaps and development problems in your organization.

The following mobile application development practices can help create a modern application development environment:

  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)
  • Proper use of microservices, APIs, and containers
  • Use of the DevSecOps approach
  • Continuous testing and security analysis
  • Updating applications and infrastructure quickly by automating the process
  • Integrating structured incident response plans into mobile app development procedures

7. The Architecture, Like the Network or Components of the Mobile Application

When there is a change in the network or other parts of the organizational IT system, web and mobile application security scanning and testing become crucial. This is done to make sure the architecture and components of a mobile application are at high protection levels, and the IT infrastructure and its components are performing with high performance.

8. 3rd-party Vendors May be Unfamiliar with Standards and Compliances

Outsourcing software services is inevitable in today’s software development industry. APIs are everywhere, and you may ask a third-party company to do a part of your work and report back at specific times. Third parties may be unfamiliar with the necessary security standards and compliance which will cause some problems if you want to deploy the needed regulatory requirements in your organization.

  • 3rd-party vendors are responsible for financial data protection, financial reporting, regulatory compliance, legal standing, and secure process execution. All these considerations must be evaluated through mobile application security tests by your cybersecurity team to understand what data security issues exist in your mobile application development.

Third-party-related issues exist when an organization wants to develop mobile applications. They may intentionally or unintentionally put your organization at data security risks that require a 3rd-party vendor risk management plan to mitigate the related risks and data protection issues.

 These are the common third-party vendor risks for mobile application development:

  • Risks related to reputation
  • Risks related to operations
  • Risks related to financial transactions
  • Risks related to stealing credit card information and data
  • Risks related to non-compliance with the regulatory rules
  • Risks related to cloud security

9. Know the Skills and Experience of the App Development Agency that Builds Your Mobile Applications

As one of the fastest-growing industries, mobile app development has become a very developed industry with lots of innovations and advanced technologies. There is a wide range of mobile app development companies out there which can provide you with your desired mobile application and software tool.

  • However, not all of them include secure development practices in their development process, and not many organizations consider this point. Comprehensive mobile application security testing will outline all the defects and security holes detected in a specific mobile application by which you will be able to know the third-party vendor’s skills and experience.

QA and security testing are crucial steps before the official release of a mobile application, and it is passed through multiple tests performed by the cybersecurity team and software development team.

A major problem detected during a security test shows you are making a mistake working with this app development agency, and you will need to think about other options in the future. Remember that mobile app security testing explores many vulnerabilities and categorizes them based on the damage level.

10. Test the Responsiveness of Your IT Team

Sometimes you cannot test your software development team until a problem arises. Mobile application security testing allows your organization to understand how your IT team and developers are responding to detected problems and know if they will stay alongside you in such situations or not.

Building a responsive culture in your organization is an essential requirement in all areas, and it’s a critical requirement for the IT team. This feature will be beneficial for providing instant solutions for recently identified vulnerabilities and preventing your company from being impacted by upcoming cyber attacks.

11. Meet Tough Industry Security Standards and Comply with Regulations

With cyber threats constantly increasing, new compliance regulations are being created, forcing companies to comply with the required roles and responsibilities. There are defined rules in each of the compliance regulations, and organizations of all sizes are tasked to integrate these rules into their daily processes and tasks. Surely, there are significant fines and penalties if one of the mandatory regulations is ignored by an organization which will put a business at high data security and protection risks.

  • Mobile app security is one of the critical requirements for passing compliance tests. No matter which framework you choose and be assigned to, there are mandatory mobile app security tests. These tests ensure there are no data security issues for clients’ personal data, and their information will be protected against different cyber threats.

One of the main web and mobile app security standards is the Open Web Application Security Project, but there are also other mandatory regulations which aim to enhance the data security level of a mobile application. Overall, mobile app security standards and compliances are associated with the following issues to mitigate the related risks:

  • Weak authorization and authentication processes
  • Using HTTP instead of HTTPS in your app and making sure any communication is encrypted
  • Not having application transport security
  • Long sessions
  • Storage of critical and sensitive data and information in insecure locations
  • Defective cryptography

Mobile Application Categories

There are 3 main categories for mobile applications when it comes to performing mobile app security testing. Comparing various types of mobile applications will help you understand how data security testing is carried out on them and what vulnerabilities a mobile application security test reports to the software development and cybersecurity team in your organization.

When testing mobile applications in terms of data security, remember that there are 4 main points we will focus on to deliver the most effective reports:

  • Authentication and authorization
  • Data security
  • Vulnerability score levels
  • Safe communication

1.   Native Apps

Native mobile apps are called native because they are written in a programming language that is native to a specific platform. Suppose the Android platform that developers can write a mobile application using Java or Kotlin. Native apps for the iOS platform can be written using Objective-C or Swift.

Native apps have many vulnerabilities because they are designed to use the full range of capabilities of Android or iOS devices. It goes without saying that many native apps can work without an internet connection, but they are vulnerable to storing sensitive data and the personal information of users. This will force cybersecurity teams to fundamentally perform data security tests on such applications and check potential vulnerabilities to secure them against data protection threats.

2.   Hybrid Apps

Think of a mobile application that has been put in a native application, but it offers web-based services to your users. Here, you have a hybrid application in which the installed tool can connect to a server and provide particular services on a mobile device. Hybrid applications are of popular and modern tools that add extra features compared to conventional Android and iOS applications.

Google Drive application is an example of a hybrid app which offers cloud storage services on your device. Another example could be web-based photo editors and photo converters that all must be checked through reliable mobile application security tests. Note that there may be a different range of technologies and coding languages used for developing hybrid apps, and APIs are essential parts of such useful tools. As a result, your cybersecurity team should take time and scrutinize all layers of the application to find and list probable vulnerabilities.

3.   Web Apps

Users can browse web applications through their browsers and access an organization’s services and online products right away. In most cases, native apps couldn’t be the best choice to deliver online services, so organizations make up their mind and switch to developing a completely web-based application delivered over web browsers. Since these tools provide instant and ready-to-use services, web apps have become a very popular alternative to native apps.

Web applications are as critical as native and hybrid applications when it comes to data security and protection. Today, cyber-attacks are targeting users’ sensitive data, and web-based applications have been recognized as one of the main targets in recent years.

There are different vulnerabilities and cyber threats associated with web applications that a professional cybersecurity team can test and provide a report listing all these critical problems for you:

  • SQL injection
  • Broken authentication
  • XML external entities
  • Broken access control
  • Security misconfiguration
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Insecure deserialization

Differences Between Mobile Security Testing Practices

It is a collaborative effort to perform mobile security testing on an application. It means different team members are responsible for the whole process, and each of them contributes to testing an application in the case of data security vulnerabilities and listing them one by one.

Through the proven practices explained in the next sections, cybersecurity teams can perform highly reliable security tests on mobile apps. These are the activities that are essential while testing the security of mobile applications:

  • Assessing the technologies used for the development of applications
  • Analyzing third-party libraries and APIs
  • Testing the data transition and storage techniques
  • Evaluating the latest cryptography algorithms used for encryption

1.   Native Software Testing

A native application is a software tool developers build to be used on a particular platform or device. Native apps are provided for different platforms, such as iOS and Android. There are also native apps for web-based platforms, and organizations can develop their native cloud apps executable using cloud computing capabilities.

Native app testing refers to performing timely and particular application tests that are designed for a specific platform. Because native apps are built to be used on a particular device or operating system, they should be tested based on device- or platform-specific concepts.

2.   Open Source Software Testing

Open-source software testing allows testers to examine software tools and applications at different levels and stages of the development process. These testing tools assist cybersecurity teams in performing automated or manual tests, including the areas like functionality, regression, load, performance, stress, and unit testing. Open-source software testing tools are available for both mobile and desktop application testing, and they provide advanced features.

  • If we count all the open-source testing tools, there may be a long list of more than 100 tools. Some of these open-source testing tools are supported by enterprise companies, but some of them are developed and maintained by individual software developers and community contributors.

Obviously, Selenium is one of the most popular and effective open-source testing tools that are available to developers and software testers. In addition to software testers, cybersecurity teams can make use of this platform to achieve modern features, such as automated testing. Most of the open-source tools are adapted to a range of programming languages, providing a complete platform executable on different operating systems and frameworks.

3.   Dynamic Application Security Testing

Not all mobile application security testing processes can be performed through open-source or desktop testing. In other words, we need to implement a highly advanced approach called Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), which allows security testers to analyze web and mobile applications after they are launched.

Due to modern software testing approaches used in this practice, DAST has become one of the main tools for testing web applications from the outside. Note that DAST is a black-box testing method that is translated to performing vulnerability scanning and weakness testing from the outside.

The primary benefit of performing Dynamic Application Security Testing is that you can outline all the vulnerabilities and software weaknesses after the initial development of your application. It is able to show how a business can be impacted by those vulnerabilities, and there will be a helpful report before the application release.

  • DAST can find vulnerabilities and security problems that other forms of security testing can’t find. This includes server configuration problems and some other issues, such as authentication and authorization.

Some of the advantages of performing DAST to test web applications include the followings:

  • DAST is technology independent
  • DAST offers low false positives
  • DAST can recognize configuration issues
  • DAST is a fairly fast process

4.   Static Application Security Testing

Static Application Security Testing, also known as white-box testing, focuses on analyzing mobile applications in terms of source code. It means SAST is a better solution for analyzing and exploring data security issues for static environments, looking at a mobile application from the inside and searching for vulnerabilities that are hidden in the source code.

  • To get the best of both worlds, it’s a common practice to use both DAST and SAST application testing approaches. Through these processes, organizations will have full insight into how their applications are performing and which vulnerabilities in their software tools can be harmful when encountering cyber threats.

Static application security testing can be performed simultaneously while coding, helping software developers and cybersecurity teams prevent security issues. This real-time reporting and feedback are one of the best advantages of the SAST approach that helps save time and additional effort needed for performing time-consuming mobile application testing.

  • SAST for mobile application security tests requires only the source code, and there is no need to deploy the application. It analyses the source code or binary without executing the code and deploying it on a specific platform.
  • DAST for mobile application security test is performed after executing the source code, and cybersecurity testers don’t require the source code for doing this type of mobile application testing.

Static Application Security Testing provides a great number of benefits, and it provides a comprehensive report. SAST is:

  • A less expensive and fast process as it helps detect vulnerabilities at the first stage

A Closer Inspection Into DAST and SAST: What are the Differences?

DAST and SAST are 2 main application security testing methodologies used to find security weaknesses that can make applications vulnerable. SAST is classified under the white box testing method, but DAST is supposed to be a black box approach.

All in all, organizations need to make the most of both practices to find both types of vulnerabilities in their systems and network that may be dangerous when facing a real attack.

You can differentiate between DAST and SAST by referring to the following table:

A type of white box application security testingA type of black box application security testing
SAST is a type of “inside out” application security testingDAST is a type of “outside in” application security testing
The tester must have the source code and they don’t need the deployed applicationThe tester must have a running application, and DAST doesn’t need the source code or binaries of an application
It can’t discover runtime errors and vulnerabilitiesIt can find runtime vulnerabilities
A less expensive practice because testers can find vulnerabilities in the first stagesAn expensive practice since the detected vulnerabilities are found at the end of the SDLC
Typically, SAST supports all types of applications, like web applications, web services, etc.Typically, DAST focuses on scanning web applications, web services, and other web-based apps.
SAST is usually a more time-consuming processDAST can be done faster than the other option

Different Mobile App Security Issues in the Android & iOS

When designing a security program for your organization, don’t forget to protect your mobile applications. They can be harmful to your success since there are many cyber attacks targeting especially mobile users.

  • A poor mobile application security strategy can impact your organization in different ways. Note that mobile apps are provided for several platforms, so a mobile application security strategy must include all the practices for securing applications developed for Android, iOS, etc.

Mobile App Security Concerns on the iOS platform

We can’t say all mobile operating systems are secure and protected against security threats. This is true for iOS and Android platforms, and cyber threats may exist and hit both operating systems. iOS has an integrated design which puts security vulnerabilities at bay, and it is harder for hackers to exploit it in most cases. But, secure application development practices must be considered when developing iOS devices by double checking the following data security concerns.

1.   Improper Platform Usage

Improper platform usage refers to misusing of a platform feature or failing to integrate platform security controls into an application development process. There are a wide variety of platform controls and platform usage rules, including platform permissions, the keychain, etc.

When these controls are forgotten, problems arise. This can open doors for hackers, allowing them to find vulnerabilities and application weaknesses to exploit. More experienced application developers always consider these platform usage rules, which are documented and provided for developers.

2.   Insecure Data Storage

Simply put, when an application stores sensitive data and information in non-encrypted text, there is an insecure data storage situation. Users’ sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers, must be encrypted and stored with security mechanisms.

Developers use files or databases to store these kinds of data, and they may leave them without encryption. Insecure data storage refers to one of the following examples, which can cause big problems:

  • Storing sensitive data with no encryption
  • Storing sensitive data with unreliable encryption libraries
  • Storing sensitive data in a shared location

Note that there are many ways an application can store data, such as the following list. All these types of data storage methods must be checked during mobile application security testing.

  • SQL databases
  • Log files
  • Text files
  • XML data stores
  • Binary data stores
  • Cookie stores
  • SD card
  • Cloud synced

3.   Vulnerable Communication

Mobile applications may be in need of sending or receiving data and information to and from another application or server. Vulnerable communication is all about implementing poor communication methodologies or misusing communication protocols in mobile applications. Various communication mechanisms exist for specialized services, like electronic commerce, payment, and data transfer.

Today, using secure communication protocols is not an optional requirement anymore; it is considered a mandatory requirement in different cybersecurity frameworks and regulations. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are 2 commonly used secure communication protocols.

A mobile application security test can greatly detect these types of application vulnerabilities and tell you all about your communication security and data transport practice.

4.   Insecure Authentication

According to OWASP, insecure authentication is the 4th most exploited risk in mobile applications. Insecure authentication is a highly sensitive security risk that can be found in iOS applications in which poor or missing authentication schemes allow adversary hackers to bypass the authentication process and carry out malicious activity.

Insecure authentication for mobile apps is prevalent detected in many applications. Insecure authentication refers to a condition when application developers implement weak authentication practices in mobile application development. iOS insecure authentication occurs when developers take some steps like the below that may put users’ sensitive information at high risk:

  • Implementing a weak password policy to access mobile applications
  • Not using secure biometric features
  • Storing unencrypted information and login credentials on the local device
  • Not taking secure practices when working with the application’s backend server

5.   Insufficient Cryptography

Insufficient cryptography has been recognized as the 5th important vulnerability in mobile apps, that is the insecure usage of cryptography. Due to this defect in the mobile application development process, potential hackers are able to return an encrypted form of data to its original form.

Insufficient cryptography is a common weakness in mobile apps that leverage encryption. The problem can be eliminated by taking some steps when developing mobile applications:

  • Not storing any sensitive data on the device through unreliable practices
  • Implementing trustworthy cryptographic standards

Insufficient cryptography may result in one of the following issues:

  • Privacy violations
  • Information theft
  • Code theft
  • Reputational damage

6.   Client Code Quality

Client code quality is a code-level issue, and developers must take a few steps to fix these types of flaws by changing the source code. Client code quality can be caused by an improper API or issues related to improper usage of coding language.

The business impacts of this vulnerability may be reputational damage, and some other impacts include information theft and intellectual property theft. Most exploitations include foreign code execution or DDoS attacks. However, client code quality may result in phishing scams.

7.   Code Tampering

Code tampering is a critical part when speaking about mobile application security, and it occurs when hackers alter an app’s source code to create a modified version. In many cases, hackers create a fake version of an original application to target mobile app users through this practice.

Remember that this may be malicious, or it can be benign. On the whole, hackers use this technique to remove the limitations of mobile apps. Code tampering can be a concerning issue since tampered apps can be used to steal the banking and financial data of users. In addition, code-tampered apps include disabled security controls that are harmful to mobile application security and users’ data security and protection.

8.   Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering has been listed as a critical issue by OWASP. Consider a situation in which a hacker gets an original version of an application and extracts its source code and structure.

If so, hackers can access a wide range of information about the application on how it stores and processes data.

Reverse engineering can be a challenging problem, and hackers may access the following information if they are able to perform successful reverse engineering: 

  • Encryption methodologies and cryptography keys
  • Back-end servers information
  • Intellectual property

9.   Extraneous Functionality  

Extraneous functionality is when an attacker understands some flaws in the source code of an application to discover hidden functionalities in the backend systems and exploit them. Note that hackers can download and examine the mobile application in this case in their local machine, and they can easily explore what vulnerabilities exist in an application.

Mobile application security testing is highly focused on detecting these types of vulnerabilities since they are commonly found in mobile applications, resulting in unauthorized access to sensitive functionalities, reputational damage, and intellectual property theft.

Mobile App Security Concerns on the Android Platform

Android devices are under attack, with more and more devices entering the market and a wide range of people who wish to use their functionalities and features. Android device malware tools and vulnerabilities are increasingly targeting these devices, and the Android platform is one of the most targeted operating systems.

1.   Major Security Issues Observed in Android Applications

Android is the most widely used OS in the world, with at least 80% of all mobile devices running the Android operating system. As a result, Android can be the main target of hackers who seek to steal users’ data and sensitive information. When it comes to Android mobile application development, considering data security and protection practices is of the essence as hackers use several techniques to perform malicious activities on the Android OS.

  • Malware
  • Android fragmentation
  • Phishing
  • Social engineering
  • Spyware
  • MITM

2.   Social Engineering

Social engineering is one of the newest malicious attacks that involves human interaction. Social engineering makes use of psychological manipulation to fool people into making a mistake. The main purpose of cybercriminals is to get users’ sensitive information. In the case of social engineering attacks, hackers design some techniques to leverage vulnerabilities based on the human psyche.

3.   Data Leakage Related to Malicious Applications

Data leakage occurs when there is unauthorized transmission of data from inside an organization to outside. Malicious applications can contribute to this process and steal data when you don’t notice there is a malicious application doing so.

Threat actors always look at mobile applications as one of the main options they can use for monitoring users’ sensitive data. Each vulnerable application can be a useful tool for hackers. Mobile vulnerability scanning can detect these malicious tools, but there are some methods that can prevent future issues:

  • Using authorized and verified mobile applications
  • Removing unnecessary permissions given to mobile apps
  • Performing timely checks and ensuring everything is up to date and has the latest security update

4.   Spyware

Spyware is malicious Android software that can hide easily. Only deep mobile application security testing can detect a spyware application on Android or iOS. There are so many spyware application types all focused on monitoring users’ information and activities. There are password stealers and banking trojans that can extract users’ sensitive information.

Mobile spyware tools can track geographical locations, and they can gather information about phone calls and contract lists. Overall, spyware is considered one of the main concerns related to the Android operating system, which can arrive in several ways.

5.   MIMT

Man in the Middle attacks are targeting mobile applications nowadays, and they are harmful enough to cause disastrous data theft and data exposure in an organization. Mobile devices are vulnerable to MITM attacks since an attacker can easily get between a sender and receiver using this technique and perform a session hijacking without being detected for a long time.

You may be confused about how MITM attacks can target mobile devices and applications, but there is a simple example of this. Think of a malicious proxy that works in a simple way, and users imagine it is a benign feature providing a secure connection to the internet. However, a malicious proxy can easily intercept, send, receive, and modify data in a condition the sender and receiver don’t know what is going on between them.

6.   Permission Issues

Mobile application security is a comprehensive approach to checking if there are permission issues for installed apps or not. There is a wide range of data security issues based on the granted application permissions, and most mobile device users usually neglect these problematic permissions.

Unnecessary mobile app permissions can adversely affect users’ privacy, but you can get help from some practices to eliminate these types of Android device issues in your organization.

  • User awareness of permission risks can help significantly with this, and it can prevent negative outcomes by informing users not to give unnecessary permissions to mobile applications.

7.   Phishing & Malvertising  

Phishing is a confusing method used by cybercriminals to extract and steal users’ sensitive data and information through fraudulent activities. Mobile phishing is one of the main concerns of mobile application security, in which fraudsters try to trick victims into sharing their personal information, credit card information, etc.

Malvertising is a malicious advertising methodology in which actors try to use internet-connected programs and applications to offer malicious advertisements. Malvertising can be used to distribute malware, perform a phishing attack, or execute a piece of harmful code on the target device.

Detailed Checklist of Mobile Security Testing

Mobile application security is a constant challenge, so cybersecurity teams need continuous work to design a comprehensive mobile security solution for applications. A mobile app security solution should consist of practical processes and include all mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches.

To help avoid mobile app security challenges, Nordic Defender offers the following checklist covering all the mobile application security requirements.

1.   Performing Security Audits

Mobile application security audits can quickly and easily evaluate your software tools, detect security risks, and provide a comprehensive report on all software code and runtime issues. A security audit is a thorough assessment of your organization’s mobile and web apps, and this is a necessary task performed with a defined security audit checklist.

By performing security audits, you can assess your organization’s security controls and understand how your security programs are doing regarding to:

  • Physical components of your IT infrastructure
  • Applications and software tools
  • Network vulnerabilities
  • The human error factor

2.   Threat Modelling and Assessment

Threat modeling and assessment is a structured process by which cybersecurity teams can create a risk model of current problems and evaluate which digital and physical assets can contribute to data security issues in an organization.

Threat assessment aims to identify security requirements and provide a comprehensive roadmap to mitigate the negative impacts of cyber threats. Threat assessment consists of a larger scope compared to threat modeling, and it has a detailed plan to intensify security guards against cyberattacks.

3.   Understanding Security Exploits

Exploitation is the next step after an attacker notices there is a vulnerability, and criminal actors can leverage these vulnerabilities to perform malicious activity. Classifying these weaknesses after performing a threat assessment can help provide proven solutions. Mobile application exploits can take advantage of current vulnerabilities to cause malicious activities or gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.

A mobile device application can be included with a wide range of capabilities and features. As a result, vulnerabilities may be more than you think, and mobile application security testing wants to unearth these threats. There may be hardware exploits, software exploits, or network exploits in the case of mobile or web applications that should be managed through structured security management plans.

4.   Fixing Vulnerabilities

All previous efforts are put into practice to provide vulnerability-fixing plans and fix issues before they gain time to impact your systems. Detected vulnerabilities are reported to software development teams, and they should work without any interruption to fix weaknesses at the right time.

As a consequence, updates are underway, and there may be some initial patches to fix the reported issues. However, cybersecurity teams will perform future checks to ensure there isn’t any security defect remaining in that particular part of the software or hardware system.

The Most Effective Strategy for Mobile Application Security Testing

To minimize the security risks of mobile applications and keep mobile app security risks at bay, application development must be equipped with advanced testing tools and continue with automated security tests. There are also some practices that emphasize mobile application security in all aspects, from vulnerability testing to risk assessment and bug fixing.

The most effective strategy for mobile application security testing consists of 4 essential steps as follows:

  • Vulnerability scanning and testing
  • Penetration testing
  • Risk assessment
  • Posture assessment

What About Client-side Mobile App Security Testing?

Focusing on source code security testing can give us complete insight into how an application was developed. Through this process, cybersecurity teams and testers can understand what weaknesses an application has taken during the development process, helping them solve data security issues in the first stages.

Nordic Defender’s client-side mobile app testing includes the following activities:

  • Decompilation of an installed application
  • Scanning for sensitive data stored with unreliable practices
  • Verifying the application doesn’t use insecure connection protocols and certificates
  • Checking the application doesn’t use insecure cryptography techniques and encryption keys
  • Analyzing the source code thoroughly
  • Checking automatic updates doesn’t cause to opening doors for hackers to install or run malicious code
  • Verifying that there is no remaining information and cached data after removing the application

1.   Source Code Analysis

Source code analysis is an automated testing procedure by which software testers or cybersecurity specialists analyze the source code of an application to find out if there is any fault. It is the starting step to fixing mobile application security problems, according to the reports provided after comprehensive source code analysis.

By examining the source code of applications throughout the development process or after the initial release of an application, app developers and software vendors realize there are potential flaws that need to be fixed.

Source code analyzers support a wide variety of programming languages and application development environments, including but not limited to the following list:

  • iOS: Objective-C and Swift
  • Android: Java, Kotlin, C#, Python
  • JavaScript: Angular, jQuery, Node.js, etc
  • Java and related technologies such as SE, EE, JSP
  • .NET and related technologies such as ASP.NET and VB.NET

2.   Decompilation of an Installed Application

Decompiling an installed application allows cybersecurity teams and testers to explore what resources and materials an application uses on an Android device. So, analyzing the source code will help understand potential data security problems.

3.   Searching for Sensitive Information Hard-coded in the Application

Hardcoding is the process of entering valuable data into the source code of a program. The data can be obtained from an external source when running a mobile application, and it can be generated in the runtime. However, sometimes it is stored in the source code or other executable object. Hardcoded credentials are a common method for hackers to create backdoor malware, and they can be very harmful when it comes to mobile application security.

Simply speaking, the required data and information for a mobile application can be stored in a database or other external source. But, some developers prefer storing that data in the source code. It can simplify the work of application developers but can facilitate the processes for hackers as they open additional entry points for malicious activities.

4.   The Security of Locally Stored Credentials

All mobile applications may need to get and store sensitive information locally. It is inevitable in most cases, but there is a need to encrypt this information. Storing credentials locally makes it easier to authenticate users, but it can put user accounts at risk.

Encrypting stored credentials can be an effective solution to deal with this type of mobile application security problem. However, application developers must take a comprehensive approach and use reliable strategies to protect users’ sensitive information.

5.   Checking that SSL Certificates and Signatures are Properly Validated

In general, mobile applications use network protocols, and they need to send or receive packets of data through these approaches. One of the essential requirements to avoid cyber attacks originating from the network is the usage of SSL certificates, and they are a pivotal component for mobile application security.

First and foremost, application developers need to take this into consideration if they want secure communication for sending or receiving data. SSL certificates protect the personal information and banking details of users, and they are one of the best solutions to minimize the risk of MITM attacks.

6.   Analysing Insecure Use of Cryptography

Insecure use of cryptography occurs when a mobile application isn’t able to encrypt users’ sensitive data, and it implements poor and outdated cryptographic algorithms for this. These poorly designed cryptographic algorithms can cause data theft and exposure issues, and they may include inappropriate ciphers, weak encryption keys, etc.

If there is an insecure use of cryptography in your application, there will be many difficulties in managing users’ data, leading to regulatory non-compliance.

7.   Verifying All Sensitive Information is Removed After Uninstalling the Application

The application has been removed, but the cached data still exists! This is a state of data security problem that needs attention and must be solved through application security tests and bug fixes. To improve the security of the application more, testers explore these types of issues and report to developers for future updates.

Every bit of information removed directly reduces the risk of data exposure and data breaches. On the other side, having sensitive information cached in a mobile device can contribute to data security challenges in small and large organizations.

If there is a need to keep sensitive information on a device, developers have to take data protection and encryption practices into account:

  • Protecting personally identifiable information
  • Protecting health information
  • Protecting bank account information and credit card information
  • Protecting intellectual property

8.   Looking for Unintended Transmission of Data 

Why is a mobile application allowed to transmit unintended data when it is not necessary at all? If there is such an abnormal activity, testers must double check it to find out why it occurs. From the data security viewpoint, it is necessary to prevent unnecessary and repeated transmission of data in the network.

Mobile application security testing can analyze an application for this and give you complete information on how the data is transmitted and what data the application is going to send/receive to and from an external server.

Key Techniques Used for Mobile Application Security Testing

Nordic Defender adopts a comprehensive approach to testing mobile application security in your organization. It consists of several parts where all vulnerabilities and application flaws are explored through our advanced tools. 2 essential techniques for testing an application are static analysis and dynamic analysis, which aim to perform the testing process at a code-based scale and runtime scale.

But it doesn’t end here. There are some more techniques used for mobile application security testing by which our data security testers and analysts completely investigate existing vulnerabilities and their negative impacts on your organization.

Here you can read more about our mobile application security testing approach, including the following techniques.

1.   Vulnerability Analysis

Every data security program starts with defining the program and performing vulnerability analysis. Needless to say, vulnerability analysis should be carried out using powerful testing tools that analyze and outline the current application weaknesses. A vulnerability scanning looks for any missing requirements, and it explores the source code weaknesses and potential causes of data breaches.

Cybersecurity testers and threat analysts can do the process by automating the scans, scheduled weekly, monthly, or quarterly. As a result of this, you will get a full report on the types of vulnerabilities found in the application and their risk levels.

2.   White Box, Black Box, and Gray Box Testing

White box testing is a mobile application security testing that focuses on an application’s internal structure, design, and coding practices. It is performed from an “inside out” viewpoint to improve the application code development process and clear internal security defects. Remember that the source code is visible to testers in this approach, and it is one of the essential software testing methods done by cybersecurity testers and analysts.

White testing focuses on these application security aspects:

  • Internal security holes
  • Broken or poorly used structures in the coding process
  • Expected output and inputs and their flow
  • The functionality of functions, conditional loops, and statements

Black box testing for mobile application security is a testing process by which the efficiency and functionality of an application are tested and explored without the knowledge of its source code and programming structure. Black box testing emphasizes the runtime stage, and it mainly focuses on the input/output conditions of an application. In such a security testing process, the tester applies an input and monitors the output of the system for that specific input.

Many types of black box testing can be used to scrutinize application security in an organization, including the following list:

  • Functional testing related to the functional requirements of a system
  • Non-functional testing related to the non-functional requirements of a system, such as performance, scalability, and reliability
  • Regression testing related to the testing process that is performed after an update, a bug fix, or an application release

Apart from having 2 main methods for mobile application security testing, there is one more option testers can use. Grey box application security testing refers to the process of improving the overall product quality and reducing the risks of current issues that are hidden in the source code and configuration of an application. Grey box security testing is a combination of black and white box testing and is performed through different techniques such as matrix testing, regression testing, and pattern testing.

3.   Penetration Testing

Penetration testing for mobile application security is an essential part of a cybersecurity team’s work that consists of different parts. Penetration testing is a subcategory of ethical hacking, focusing on providing complete information about application flaws and weaknesses that may be targeted by cyber attackers.

A well-structured penetration testing brings the following benefits to your organization:

  • Assurance about compliance with regulatory laws
  • Cyber risk reduction
  • Legal and financial liability decrease
  • Cyber strategy verification

If you hire an experienced cybersecurity team, it guarantees complete coverage of the mobile application security requirements. Proven pen testing for mobile application security is started and continued by the following procedures.

  • Defining the goals and objectives
  • Hiring or assembling a professional team
  • Thinking like a hacker
  • Considering all possible angles and threat points
  • Attacking like it is a real target
  • Monitoring all the time and collecting information
  • Exploring the final report and making necessary change

4.   Risk Assessment

A cybersecurity risk assessment is a thorough assessment and analysis of an organization’s ability to prevent cyber threats and protect sensitive data against potential cyber-attacks. Risk assessment is a necessary part of every mobile application security testing process that focuses on the following:

  • Identifying application vulnerabilities
  • Assessing the risk levels of mobile application vulnerabilities
  • Prioritizing the risks according to the best practices

Risk analysis and assessment for mobile applications are beneficial for handling the hazardous impacts of mobile application vulnerabilities. If your organization has a detailed report after the risk assessment process, it can better manage the risks and provide instant solutions to them.

5.   Posture Assessment

Security posture assessment aims to create a baseline view of your organization in terms of data security and protection. A successful posture assessment outlines the security level of your organization, and it provides an overall report on how your cybersecurity strength is performing.

In order to measure the overall cybersecurity maturity of every organization, cybersecurity teams need to perform an independent assessment and evaluate the current conditions based on global data security standards and leading industry practices.

  • Posture assessment allows your organization to understand where you are at the moment and what steps are necessary to be taken in the near future. 

6.   Threat Analysis

Threat analysis consists of a collection of processes and techniques designed to detect and tackle cybersecurity threats. Threat analysis becomes crucial when it comes to mobile application security testing as this process can evaluate all potential threats and obtain helpful information about prospective attacks regarding mobile applications and software tools.

Threat analysis employs modern technologies and advanced security testing tools to provide the following benefits:

  • Continuous updates to threat modeling
  • Reduced attack surface
  • Flaw prevention
  • Risk control and management
  • Ability to prioritize threats and mitigate efforts and costs related to threat handling

7.   DevSecOps for Mobile Application Security Testing

DevSecOps is one of the modern and reliable technologies aiming to reduce the cybersecurity issue handling and threat control in organizations. DevSecOps emphasizes development security, and it employs some innovative ideas to deliver the best performance according to the agility and responsiveness of development and cybersecurity teams.

With today’s collaborative mobile DevOps approach, data security has been integrated into the application development process allowing IT teams to perform tasks and processes with more reliable and secure approaches. DevSecOps can be implemented for mobile application development by which development and data security teams ensure that all DevOps initiatives and following tasks must be based on the required security rules and procedures.

DevSecOps is a guaranteed practice for mobile and web application development, promising to provide the following benefits for your organization:

  • Automating security controls and tests to detect issues and flaws early in the development cycle
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity by checking development problems at the right time and reporting them to be fixed at an early stage

How a Virtual CISO Can Help Implement DevSecOps

It is a worthwhile asset to any organization if its cybersecurity team can implement the DevSecOps approach in the software development cycle. As a result, data security will be integrated into the organization along with DevOps practices. This will benefit your organization by bringing agility and responsiveness, which are the 2 main requirements for any software development team.

  • A virtual CISO ensures that development, security, and ops teams are all collaborating with each other to deliver the best performance
  • A virtual CISO assigns senior-level leaders or executives to defined tasks and supervises the projects

Virtual CISO services can help your company with the following practices, ensuring your software and application development cycle is performing at its best efficiency:

  • Timely security audits on the current infrastructure
  • Automating security test processes
  • Integrating DevOps tools into the application development cycle
  • Continuously investing in training and educating the development team
  • Regularly monitoring the team

Main Considerations When Creating a Mobile Application Security Strategy

Mobile app developers should always have the assumption that their application products could be hacked by criminal actors. This can occur in several ways that require a comprehensive mobile application security checklist to prevent such threats.

At first sight, developers are responsible for proving their mobile application security, and they should be wary of the data and the ways of implementing mobile application security practices in a software product. Both Android and iOS have mechanisms that provide secure application development, but developers should consider these mechanisms and coding practices to achieve the best functionality and performance.

Nature of the Application

App security is not an optional feature or a benefit; it’s a bare necessity and must be included in the development and test process. The nature of the application developed for your organization is a crucial factor in developing a mobile app security strategy.

Some applications transport highly sensitive data and information, so they are more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals. One breach can cost your company millions of dollars, plus significant damage to your company’s reputation. That is why mobile app security should be considered a priority from the first step of the application development process, and you can achieve this by getting help from DevOps and DevSecOps approaches. 

Time Spent on the Application Test

Not all mobile application security tests result in the desired outcomes. Some tests don’t provide testers and data security analysts with the required information because of not having deep analysis and exploration in the source code and runtime of a specific application.

Testers have to spend a considerable amount of time doing pen testing, threat modeling, and assessment to unearth data security and protection issues which are hidden in an application. These issues are reported accordingly, and software developers are responsible for fixing them with future updates and application patches.

Efforts Required for the Mobile Application Security Testing

Before you launch an application, you need to test it for functionality, security, and performance issues. Many application and software development teams skip this step to rapidly release their product and save time and effort.

But remember that you are prone to be targeted by different cyber threats as long as you ignore such mobile application tests, resulting in much more effort needed to fix issues after the launch of your application. Generally, it needs less effort if you can test your application and its performance before you launch your application.

Investing Time to Understand the Concepts

Software development teams and application developers need much time to adapt their software products to the latest secure development practices. Understanding secure development concepts takes time, but it is worth spending time and effort. Integrating these concepts into your IT infrastructure and making use of them during the web or mobile application development process will pay off in the future by reducing the likelihood of being impacted by cyberattacks and data security threats.

By understanding mobile app security concepts from the start point, a development team is more likely to provide a secure and protected application.

Staying Up to Date

Staying up to date is a stepping stone for both testers and app developers to block data security issues and cyber threats. Understanding trending topics in the industry is essential for a mobile developer, and software developers, testers, and analysts should keep this in mind to get better results related to web and mobile application tests.

Besides knowing about new changes in the cybersecurity frameworks, software developers and testers need to read policy changes by reading documentation. But how can you ensure your application development team is up to date according to data security practices? Hiring a professional and experienced cybersecurity team and consulting with data security testers and analysts will ensure this in your organization.

Creating Real-world Scenarios

Testing makes it easy to spot security issues and diagnose problems before launching the application. However, testing mobile applications must be continued through real-world scenarios, ensuring testers will meet all expectations. There is a wide variety of advantages if a mobile application testing process is started and performed by real-world scenarios since it can maintain the latest quality standards and provide an insightful report for cybersecurity teams.

Using Well-known Tools for Discovering Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability scanning tools for mobile applications are designed to find minor and major security weaknesses in a mobile or web application. Vulnerability scanning is carried out using powerful tools that can help cybersecurity teams detect vulnerabilities in applications in various ways.

Remember that vulnerability testing tools come in different forms, and they can be open-source, paid, or free-to-use tools. In most cases, cybersecurity teams need to use several scanning tools to completely scan and analyse a mobile or web application and report its vulnerabilities.

MAST Tools

MAST tools combine several testing practices, including static analysis, dynamic analysis, and forensic data analysis. MAST tools are a necessary requirement for mobile application security testing designed and maintained specifically to serve mobile app security needs and detect specific vulnerabilities in this area, such as WiFi networks, jailbreaking, etc.

Remember that MAST tools focus on exploring the web and mobile applications in terms of the following data security and protection issues:

  • Improper platform usage
  • Insecure data storage
  • Insecure communication
  • Insecure authentication
  • Insufficient cryptography
  • Insecure authorization
  • Client code quality
  • Code tampering
  • Reverse engineering
  • Extraneous functionality


AppSweep is a professional and reliable mobile app security tester based on an open-source project. Software testers and cybersecurity teams use this testing tool to bring continuous security to app development projects and fix issues before they can impact negatively.

AppSweep provides fast, automated, and detailed app security testing to help teams reduce the time spent on security tests. The software tools offer an easy-to-use environment, and it is highly accurate, providing helpful and comprehensive information regarding app security problems. Apart from these unique features, AppSweep provides real-time threat monitoring and threat detection to ensure apps released are fully secure.


QARK is designed and supported as a free-to-use tool, allowing android application testers to make use of several features for app security testing and vulnerability detection. QARK is a free tool, but it can unearth a wide range of application security vulnerabilities, including but not limited to the following list:

  • Inadvertently exported components
  • Activities and functions that may lead to data
  • Improper x.509 certificate validation
  • Tapjacking
  • Weak and improper cryptography use
  • Exported preference activities

QARK has been recognized as an automated assessment tool for Android app security assessment, and the main job of the software tool is to perform source code analysis.


App-ray can perform static and dynamic app security testing for both Android and iOS platforms. App-ray offers several features, and application testers don’t need the source code of an application that will be analyzed in terms of data security vulnerabilities. It allows testers to analyze SDKs and 3rd-party libraries, and DevOps integration is also a great feature of the application.

App-ray has been designed to provide DAST and SAST vulnerability scanning practices, and it can explore more than 80 types of application vulnerabilities and weaknesses through powerful technologies.

The list below shows some of the vulnerabilities and data security issues that App-ray provide detailed testing for:

  • Privacy leaks, user data leaks, and insecure permissions
  • Vulnerable SDKs, libraries, and malware testing
  • Insecure communication and improper use of network protocols
  • Cryptography issues and data encryption problems
  • Compliance checks based on GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, PSD2, etc.

Data Theorem Mobile Secure

Data Theorem emphasizes scanning for data security issues before applications are released. It is one of the leading mobile application security platforms providing DAST software, simplifying the testing process for both Android and iOS platforms.

Mobile Secure is designed to offer testers the following list of features:

  • Analyzing open–source and 3rd-party SDKs and libraries
  • Secure coding through the CI/CD pipeline
  • Identifying security issues related to programming practices
  • Analyzing mobile apps in terms of phishing attacks

Data Theorem Mobile Secure software tool is an exclusive platform that combines integrity and speed for testing mobile applications.

NowSecure Platform

NowSecure platform is a fully automated mobile application testing software designed to test applications based on the latest industry standards and policies. It can analyze applications for iOS and Android platforms, aiming to give application testers interactive application security testing software.

NowSecure platform provides support for industry-standard projects like OWASP to deliver an all-in-one workstation in one environment. It is an integrated and comprehensive platform built by mobile experts and cybersecurity specialists.

Here are some of the main testing and analysis features of the NowSecure platform provided for professional data security testers and analysts:

  • Dynamic application security testing (DAST)
  • Interactive application security testing (IAST)
  • Binary static application security testing
  • API security testing
  • CVSS security scoring
  • Compliance checks

How Long Does Mobile Application Security Testing Take?

Mobile malware and botnets are one of the top threats nowadays. But, more than 40% of businesses generally don’t test applications before their release. It may be due to the testing time needed to perform comprehensive application security testing that forces companies to postpone the process until the official release of an application.

But it doesn’t take much time to run a security test on an application, and there should be no concern with the testing time in most cases.

As you would expect, there are many factors that will impact the time needed for doing mobile application testing, which can increase the processing time. More importantly, the type of application and the defined goals can affect the process and increase it accordingly.

Based on experience, mobile application testing can take between:

  • 2 and 5 days to conduct a web or mobile application security testing for a small business
  • 5 to 10 days for a medium-sized business
  • 10 to 14 days for a large business and enterprise organization

Typical Issues Detected While Testing a Mobile App and Server

Security issues are inevitable after coding and releasing an application. This is when a cybersecurity team comes into play to outline all vulnerabilities and provide a comprehensive report explaining the number and types of weaknesses existing in a web or mobile application.

Immediate steps must be taken after each mobile application security testing to fix related issues with updates and application patches. If not, a minor mistake in the structure of applications can lead to a significant failure.

If you are curious about typical issues detected while performing mobile application testing, follow the next sections to find out more.

Man in the Middle Attacks

Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks are commonly detected when mobile apps are explored in terms of cybersecurity. OWASP says MITM is the condition that an attacker intercepts a communication between two systems, like in malicious proxies.

Note that MITM attacks are one of the first threats explored by testers. There are problems when mobile applications use insecure communication protocols or authentication standards to communicate with remote servers. Here is the situation where an attacker intervenes to become the man in the middle by intercepting the linked communication. 

Mobile apps are more likely to be impacted by these threats as long as they need to make use of communication standards. If there is no secure protocol, MITM attacks can cause difficulties and lead to data and information theft.

Insecure Storage of Sensitive Data on Mobile Devices

Mobile application security testing tools have one thing in common: They aim to dig up and excavate insecure storage practices of sensitive data for mobile apps. Developers may assume that bad actors cannot access a device’s file systems and storage, so they leave it encrypted and store sensitive data and information without any protective level.

Insecure storage of information has been listed as one of the critical issues by OWASP related to mobile apps. When such a vulnerability is detected during the mobile application security testing process, immediate steps must be taken to fix the problem and properly protect users’ data.


Cryptography is the practice of concealing messages and information within a secret code to protect it. Cryptography is a widely used and effective data security technique aiming to secure a message using encryption and decryption methods.

There are many types of cryptography for mobile applications, and related vulnerabilities are explored during the mobile app testing process. The method dates back to the 1970s when IBM created a procedure to protect its customers’ data. After that, more cryptographic standards were created to serve modern software and application development requirements, such as RSA and AES.

Weak Session Management

Weak session management occurs when a web application produces a session cookie which is easily detectable and guessable. A cybercriminal can counterfeit session cookies by easily guessing their value, which leads to a session hijacking attack.

Business impacts of improper session management can be fraud and information theft through handling session cookies by hackers. It can also lead to business discontinuity and interruption in most cases. Typically, users who have been targeted by weak session management threats lose control of their accounts.

Any mobile application with access to HTTP/S traffic is prone to fall into such cyber traps, which can be a result of the following deficiencies:

  • Failure to use highly secure cryptography algorithms to produce the session identifier
  • Failure to protect the session id cookie
  • Failure to invalidate the session when a user closes the browser

Unauthorized Access to Users’ Accounts

Unauthorized access occurs when someone gains access to a website, application, or server. Some system administrators set up trustworthy methods to detect these types of vulnerabilities, but there is generally no control for investigating the situation when there is an authorized access attempt.

Access control and management are effective and essential for mobile and web applications that are continuously transferring data. Access control can prevent numerous issues that are often caused by improper authentication and authorization mechanisms.

When such vulnerabilities are found in the web or mobile applications, it means attackers can access restricted resources and perform malicious activities.

SQL Injection

SQL injection is a common web and mobile application attack that involves integrating SQL commands into input data, allowing the attacker to read and write to the database. Depending on the intensity of a SQL injection attack, there may be different troubles.

Mobile apps are a helpful tool for performing such attacks, and it has been listed as one of the main techniques hackers use to destroy your database. Gaining access through web or mobile applications and placing the malicious code in SQL statements lead to something disastrous. Hackers can view data that belongs to users, and they can modify or delete this data in most cases.

Suppose there is a wide range of sensitive data stored in the database, including passwords, credit card details, and personal user information. When a successful SQL injection attack occurs, it can lead to high-profile data breaches with significant reputational damage and regulatory fines. It means organizations need to spend on mobile application security testing to have regular tests and detect such weaknesses. 

Server Misconfigurations

Server misconfigurations are a type of human error that can put your organization at risk. Note that every application has at least one vulnerability, and server misconfiguration is one of the most common types of mobile app vulnerabilities detected by testers and security analysts.

A server misconfiguration vulnerability occurs when a web or mobile application component is missing proper configuration and setting that is vulnerable to being targeted by cybercriminals. Human error, poor encryption methodologies, and excess privileges are the 3 primary causes of such vulnerabilities that can put data security and protection in your organization at high risk.

It is not surprising that server misconfiguration and improper settings are considered one of the critical vulnerabilities for mobile application security, and many security-related incidents are due to server misconfiguration caused by human error and weak setting management.

  • A comprehensive asset inventory is required to understand which parts of the system can be targets of cyber attacks. So, cybersecurity teams can perform vulnerability assessment programs and mobile application security testing to better explore misconfiguration vulnerabilities and report them.

Command Injection

Command injection is another weakness commonly found in mobile apps that involves executing arbitrary commands on a server that is running a mobile or web application. Generally, an attacker can make use of a command injection vulnerability to take control of other parts of the server and hosting infrastructure.

There are many types of malicious activities carried out using the command injection technique, such as the insertion of harmful files into the server. As a result, vulnerable applications will run the files in the runtime. More importantly, command injection can lend hackers a hand in executing shell commands.

Well-known Platform Vulnerabilities

Well-known platform vulnerabilities refer to those application and system vulnerabilities found in particular platforms, such as iOS and Android. These vulnerabilities include a wide variety of security weaknesses that may be found due to each platform’s security issues.

Platform-specific vulnerabilities are inevitable, so it is important to investigate these issues regularly and fix them both on the server side and the application layer.

Common platform vulnerabilities for the Android platform include the following list:

  • Server-side vulnerabilities, injection flaws, and setting misconfigurations
  • Insecure data storage
  • Insecure data exchange
  • Third-party control

Common platform vulnerabilities for the iOS platform include the following list:

  • Poor coding
  • Insecure data storage
  • Improper cryptography use
  • Third-party control

Flaws in security mechanism implementation are the main data security problems found for both iOS and Android platforms.

Back Doors and Debug Options

A backdoor is a malware tool commonly used by hackers that tries to bypass normal authentication procedures to gain access to a system. As a result of running a back door, attackers have remote access to the resources of an application or enter the database.

This will allow them to remotely execute commands or update malware, causing these types of malicious activities:

  • Data theft
  • Website defacing
  • Server hijacking
  • DDoS attacks
  • Advanced persistent threat assaults

It can be challenging for a data security team if such attacks aren’t detected at the right time. More than that, backdoors are very tough to weed out, and deep scanning and practical solutions are required to get rid of such attacks in mobile applications.

Errors Triggering Sensitive Information Leaks

Think of a situation where an application generates error messages that include sensitive information about users, data, and its environment. It can be somehow funny, but such vulnerabilities are found during mobile application security testing. This type of information and sensitive data can be useful for launching future attacks.

Error messages generated by a web or mobile application are supposedly harmless, but they can reveal a query’s logic and let hackers find out how a malformed query has been created and how it is acting.

To spot these application vulnerabilities, cybersecurity experts implement deep scanning and advanced tools. 

How Nordic Defender Helps Your Organisation

As we have seen, mobile application security testing is a critical part of data security in any organization. Mobile app vulnerabilities are neglected in many cases by small and large companies, and they usually don’t have a comprehensive program to handle those types of weaknesses.

Mobile application security is a cybersecurity program particularly designed to mitigate the risks of cyberattacks that may target web and mobile applications. Modern mobile app security scanning tools are employed by Nordic Defender to thoroughly perform an analysis on a specific mobile application and report based on detected low-risk and high-risk vulnerabilities.

  • Our approach is based on analyzing mobile app security issues for multiple platforms and operating systems, including but not limited to Android and iOS.

Platform-specific vulnerabilities are checked and analyzed through Nordic Defender’s mobile application security program, and there will be a comprehensive report outlining detected application security flaws in the following categories:

  • Server-side vulnerability
  • Insufficient authorization or authentication
  • Insecure storage of information
  • Secure app source code
  • Cryptography implementation
  • Improper session management
  • Etc.

We ensure your organization will stay safe and be protected against cyber threats:

  • Data leaks
  • Phishing attacks
  • Spyware
  • Malicious software
  • Apps with weak security
  • Outdated devices, web applications, and mobile applications
  • Identity theft
  • SQL injection
  • Man in the Middle attacks
  • Insider threats
  • Password attacks

Final Thoughts

OWASP defines industry-level security standards for mobile applications, which should be implemented by organizations that want high levels of data security and protection for their web and mobile applications. To deliver consistent, complete, and comprehensive results, your cybersecurity team should develop a mobile application security program consisting of vulnerability assessment and analysis. Our mobile application security program is based on robust pillars outlined by OWASP and NIST, offering a reliable and trustworthy approach to integrating security into mobile and web application development procedures in your organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

 What are the security issues for mobile applications?

  • Mobile application threats can be very ominous since these issues are one of the main cyber threats, impacting millions of devices and systems. Cyber attackers may exploit these tools and perform the following attacks on target devices and systems:
    • Stealing login credentials
    • Stealing identity information
    • Denial of service
    • Phishing of sensitive data
    • Exposure of confidential credit card information
    • Unauthorized account takeover

Which areas does mobile application security focus on?

  • Mobile application security works in multiple areas, and it is a highly specialized field in cybersecurity, helping developers and software companies through:
    • Database security
    • Security of source code
    • Data transmission channels security 
    • Vulnerability assessment

What roles are crucial for mobile application security testing?

  • Security testing for mobile applications can be done through several considerations, but there are 2 main ways of performing these tests, including vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. Through these 2 methods, cybersecurity teams can evaluate the business impact of a security issue. Regulatory compliance issues are also detected through these methodologies.

What are the best practices for securing mobile applications?

  • The most important practices to take into consideration for mobile application security are as follows:
    • Security code development
    • All data transmitted must be encrypted
    • Authorized and verified APIs must be used
    • Regular and deep penetration testing to be performed
    • Timely analyses for regulatory compliance are crucial

What is the mobile application security assessment process?

  • The mobile application security assessment is the process of performing a comprehensive series of tests on a mobile application to check the potential vulnerabilities and security risks and provide a report on how these weaknesses can be solved in the future.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *