What is a Mobile Application Penetration Test?
Mobile Application Penetration Testing is a crucial process that aims to identify and rectify vulnerabilities within mobile applications before they can be exploited for malicious purposes. This testing can be conducted manually or through automated penetration testing tools to analyse the severity of threats posed by identified vulnerabilities. Mobile Application Penetration Testing typically adheres to a structured methodology, employing industry-standard techniques and procedures that are diligently followed by a proficient penetration tester. By conducting this rigorous security examination, organisations can proactively strengthen their mobile apps’ security and protect sensitive user data from being compromised.
What is a Mobile Application Penetration Testing Methodology?
The methodology of Mobile Application Penetration Testing is structured and follows established standards to ensure a thorough examination of mobile applications. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) provides a solid foundation for this methodology through its Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS), Mobile Security Testing Guide (MSTG), and Mobile App Security Checklist.
The Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS) organises security controls into distinct groups, each labelled as MASVS-XXXXX, targeting critical facets of the mobile attack surface. Here’s a breakdown of these control groups and a brief description of each:
MASVS-STORAGE (Secure Data Storage): Ensures the secure storage of sensitive data on the device, safeguarding data-at-rest from unauthorised access. MASVS-CRYPTO (Cryptographic Protection): Utilises cryptographic functions to shield sensitive data, ensuring it remains inaccessible to malicious actors. MASVS-AUTH (Authentication & Authorisation): Implements robust authentication and authorization mechanisms within the mobile app, ensuring only authorised entities can access critical functionalities. MASVS-NETWORK (Secure Network Communication): Ensures the secure transmission of data between the mobile app and remote endpoints, protecting data-in-transit from interception and tampering. MASVS-PLATFORM (Platform Interaction Security): Manages secure interactions between the mobile app, the underlying mobile platform, and other installed apps, preventing potential security risks. MASVS-CODE (Code Security Best Practices): Adheres to security best practices for data processing and app maintenance, ensuring the app remains updated and secure against emerging threats. MASVS-RESILIENCE (Resilience Against Tampering): Enhances the app's resilience to reverse engineering and tampering attempts, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of the app and its data.
To further complement the MASVS, the OWASP Mobile Application Security project also offers the OWASP Mobile Application Security Testing Guide (MASTG) and the OWASP MAS Checklist. These resources serve as excellent companions for verifying the controls outlined in the OWASP MASVS and demonstrating compliance with the standard.
Why mobile application security testing is important.
Globally there are nearly 9 million mobile apps hosted across platforms like the Apple App Store™ and Google Play™, organisations are compelled to ensure the robust security of their mobile applications against a diverse range of cyber threats.
Mobile application penetration testing is a pivotal process that scrutinises mobile apps to detect and identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited for malicious gain. This process, which can be executed through manual or automated penetration testing, analyses the severity posed by potential threats to the application.
“We have been working with Sencode for over a year to conduct penetration testing on our flagship SaaS product Huler Hub. The team at Sencode are flexible and easy to work with, while also being extremely diligent and professional in what they do.— Gary Barnett, Huler Ltd
Recent data breaches, such as those experienced by Twitter, T-Mobile, and LinkedIn, underscore the criticality of securing mobile applications against potential threats and vulnerabilities. These incidents have not only exposed personal data of millions of users but also highlighted the significant risks posed by security flaws in mobile apps.
Types of mobile applications to consider getting tested:
- Native Mobile Apps: Developed for specific platforms like Android or iOS, using languages such as Java, Kotlin, Swift, and more.
- Hybrid Apps: Combining elements of both iOS and Android applications, they can be downloaded from various app stores.
- Progressive Web Apps (PWA): Web apps that function like mobile apps, providing a seamless user experience across platforms.
What are the benefits of Mobile Application Security Testing?
The proliferation of mobile applications spans various personal and business uses, encompassing sectors like entertainment, finance, communication, and more, thereby necessitating robust mobile application security. The benefits of security testing are manifold, including:
- Safeguarding Sensitive Data: Mobile applications often become repositories of sensitive user data, including financial transactions, GPS locations, and personally identifiable information (PII).
- Protecting Business Interests: For businesses, mobile applications can serve as gateways to critical internal operations, such as customer relationship management, human resources, and financial management.
- Protecting Against Financial Loss: Security breaches can result in significant financial losses.
- Mitigating Risks: Engaging in mobile application security testing allows businesses to simulate cyberattacks on their systems, exposing existing vulnerabilities in a controlled environment.
Who should get a Mobile App Penetration Test?
Every mobile application, irrespective of its use and audience, should be developed with a security framework in mind. The necessity for a penetration test, however, can be contingent upon the nature and sensitivity of the data managed by the application and its associated databases. OWASP MASVS offers several levels of testing, detailed below:
Here’s a bit more detail about each level:
- MASVS-L1 (Standard Security): Serving as the foundational security benchmark, this level mandates that all mobile applications comply with essential security controls, addressing fundamental aspects like data security, network communication integrity, and rudimentary system interactions.
- MASVS-L2 (Defense-in-Depth): This tier is tailored for applications that manage more sensitive data and functionalities. It demands an exhaustive threat modeling and security verification, enveloping all controls from L1 while introducing additional ones to mitigate more sophisticated attacks.
- MASVS-R (Resiliency Against Reverse Engineering and Tampering): This level is designed for applications that navigate through highly sensitive data and are susceptible to advanced client-side attacks. It amalgamates all controls from L2 and fortifies them with additional measures to shield against client-side vulnerabilities, such as tampering and reverse engineering.
What are the next steps?
Contact a member of our consulting team either by phone, email, or pigeon post. We will then discuss whether we can help you and arrange a scoping meeting to discuss your requirements.
In the scoping meeting, our expert consultants will discuss and finalise which digital assets you need testing. We will then put together a project proposal and quote based on the requirements and agree on a schedule for conducting the security assessment.
The testing starts. A member of our penetration testing team will liaise with a member of your company throughout the entire testing process. If we have any questions or concerns, you will be the first to know.
Report & Remediate
A penetration test is useless without a well-written report. Our reports are written in plain English, concise and thoroughly documented. Each report will detail an executive summary, risk ratings, a business risk summary and all of the issues we found throughout the engagement.
Book your retest.
Here at Sencode we offer free retesting with every penetration test we conduct.
You fix the issues, then we will verify they can no longer be exploited by an attacker.
Get a security certificate for your business.
Just a PDF document with a list of issues? No way.
Our clients receive a testing certificate that can be shared with partners and customers alike. Showing that your company takes security seriously.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because mobile applications are not the same as web applications, evaluating them requires a completely new approach. OWASP-MASVS was created primarily to help penetration testers discover mobile application security vulnerabilities. This can comprise a variety of strategies aimed at protecting mobile apps against various forms of cyber threats.
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