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Mobile Application Penetration Testing: Top 10 Tools and Best Practices

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Mobile penetration testing is a crucial security measure that can’t be ignored. With smartphones getting more and more ubiquitous with every passing year, there has been a dire need for reliable and secure mobile applications. Penetration testing ensures that your mobile application is up to the mark in terms of security and is not vulnerable to any attacks. In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best tools for this task and leave you with a note on the best practices you can follow while developing your mobile app.

Why is penetration testing mobile applications so important?

Mobile devices are ubiquitous and more often than not contain sensitive personal data. This, in turn, makes mobile applications a prime target for cybercriminals. According to a recent report, approximately 60% of organizations that suffered data breaches said they could link the incident to an insecure mobile application. So it’s important to ensure that your mobile app is not susceptible to any such attacks and what better way to do that than by pen testing the app itself.

Best practices to follow to develop secure mobile applications

Now that you know about the best tools for mobile application penetration testing, let’s take a look at some of the best practices to follow while developing your app.

  • Differentiate between an application and an API. Your mobile applications should not make any calls directly to other APIs or services without using secure protocols like SSL/TLS encryption.
  • Use strong passwords and authentication mechanisms. Make sure that your users are required to use strong passwords and that two-factor authentication is enabled wherever relevant.
  • Avoid storing sensitive data on the device. If it is unavoidable, make sure that the data is encrypted using a strong encryption algorithm.
  • Use secure communication protocols like SSL/TLS whenever possible.
  • Use code signing to verify the authenticity of your applications.
  • Periodically test your mobile applications and use security scanners to detect and fix vulnerabilities.
  • Keep up with the latest security patches and updates.
  • Educate your users about safe practices while using your mobile app.

Top 10 Tools and Services for mobile application penetration testing

  1. Astra Security – Astra Security is one of the best services for mobile application penetration testing. Their approach to Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) includes 5 key stages- Auditing, Hacker style pen testing, interactive reports, bug fixing, re-scanning and certification.
  2. QARK – The tool is capable of detecting bugs and vulnerabilities in both native apps as well as hybrid ones. It also works with the popular OWASP Mobile Testing Guide.
  3. App Inspector – This tool helps you inspect the security of Android apps. It is able to detect insecure data storage, insecure network calls and privacy issues.
  4. Burp Suite – This is a popular tool for web application security testing but it also comes with a mobile version for testing android devices.
  5. Flawfinder – Another useful tool, Flawfinder helps you find coding errors in your applications that could lead to security vulnerabilities.
  6. AndroBugs – AndroBugs is a tool that can be used for finding security vulnerabilities in Android apps. It works by scanning the app’s source code and reporting any potential issues.
  7. iOS Security – This is a free iOS security testing toolkit that helps you find and fix vulnerabilities in iPhone or iPad applications.
  8. SourceClear – The service can be used for static code analysis of Android and iOS applications using its in-house database of vulnerabilities.
  9. AppScan – AppScan is an IBM product that can be used for scanning mobile apps for security vulnerabilities.
  10. Drozer – This is a framework for mobile security testing android apps and can be used with or without root permissions.

Best Practices to follow while penetration testing mobile applications

Every mobile application needs to be tested for vulnerabilities and security loopholes before it is launched in the market.

  • Data Protection: Ensure that no information related to user data such as passwords, location or personal details are stored on devices without proper encryption.
  • Code Security: Code should be audited on a regular basis by specialists so any potential bugs can be addressed. Use secure coding practices like OWASP Mobile Top Ten to ensure this is done properly.
  • Session Management: User sessions should be handled with care and not left open for hackers to exploit. This can be achieved by setting session timeouts, securely storing user data etc.
  • Input Validation: Make sure that input validation is properly implemented in your app. This will help to prevent malicious input from being executed and compromising the security of the device.
  • Testing: Always test your mobile applications in a secure environment before releasing them to the public. Use penetration testing tools and services to identify any vulnerabilities that may exist.
  • Checking for privacy issues: You should make sure that your mobile app is not collecting any unnecessary personal data from users.

Penetration testing Android vs iOS

When it comes to security, Android has often been considered more vulnerable than iOS. However, this is not always the case as some of the newer Android devices are as secure as their iOS counterparts. When it comes to penetration testing both these platforms pose separate challenges. A few noteworthy differences to take into consideration are:

  • Android is a more open platform than iOS, making it easier to pen test.
  • iOS apps are generally better protected against attacks due to the closed nature of the platform.
  • Android devices are more vulnerable to malware and other security concerns than iOS devices.
  • Apple has a much stricter approval process for apps that are submitted to the App Store, which means that most iOS apps are more likely to be safe and free from vulnerabilities.
  • Android apps can be pen tested without root access.
  • Whereas, for iOS, you must jailbreak your device if you want to perform pen tests.

Conclusion

Penetration testing is a crucial part of mobile application development and helps to identify potential security issues before it’s too late. While some applications may be more vulnerable than others, the best way forward is regular vigilance and following industry guidelines for building secure apps. Penetration testers need to use a mix of automated tools as well as manual techniques in order to carry out accurate tests, but they should also adhere to best practices such as those mentioned above when doing so.

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