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Mobile App Security Testing: Tools and Best Practices

May 24, 2023
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What Is Mobile Application Security Testing? 

Mobile application security testing is the process of assessing, analyzing, and evaluating the security posture of mobile applications to identify potential vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and risks. 

This testing aims to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and functionality in mobile applications, protecting them from unauthorized access, data breaches, and malicious activities. 

Techniques used in mobile application security testing include static analysis, dynamic analysis, penetration testing, and code review. This process helps developers to identify and address security flaws in their applications, ensuring a secure and reliable user experience across various platforms, such as Android and iOS.

In this article:

Why Is Mobile App Security Testing Important? 

Mobile app security testing is important for several reasons:

  • Data protection: Mobile apps often handle sensitive user data, such as personal information, financial details, or business data. Ensuring the security of this data is crucial to protect users from identity theft, fraud, and data breaches.
  • Compliance with regulations: Many industries have strict regulations regarding data privacy and security, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Mobile app security testing helps ensure compliance with these regulations, avoiding potential legal issues and financial penalties.
  • Reputation and trust: A secure app helps build trust with users and maintain a positive brand reputation. Security breaches can lead to loss of user trust, negative publicity, and potentially significant financial losses.
  • Competitive advantage: A secure app can differentiate itself in a crowded market, attracting users who prioritize privacy and security.
  • Reduced costs: Identifying and fixing security issues during the development process is more cost-effective than addressing them after the app is released. Mobile app security testing can help prevent costly security breaches and reduce the need for post-release patches or updates.
  • Secure development practices: Regular security testing encourages a security-focused development mindset, leading to the creation of more secure apps in the long term.
  • Device security: Mobile apps can expose not just the app itself, but also the device and other connected systems to security threats. Ensuring app security helps protect the overall device ecosystem.

What Are Mobile Application Security Testing Tools? 

Mobile application security testing tools are software programs or platforms designed to help developers and security professionals identify security vulnerabilities and weaknesses in mobile applications. These tools can be used to test mobile apps on different platforms, such as Android and iOS, and cover various aspects of security, including data protection, access control, and secure communication.

These mobile application security testing tools can help developers and security professionals identify and address security vulnerabilities in their mobile apps, ensuring a more secure user experience and protecting sensitive data.

What Features Should a Mobile App Security Testing Tool Include? 

A mobile app security testing tool should include a range of features to effectively identify and address potential security vulnerabilities. Key features to look for include:

  • Platform support: The tool should support major mobile platforms like Android and iOS, as well as any specific platforms relevant to your app.
  • Static analysis: The tool should perform static analysis by examining the source code or binary files of the app to identify potential security issues without actually executing the code.
  • Dynamic analysis: The tool should perform dynamic analysis by monitoring the app’s behavior during runtime to identify security vulnerabilities that may not be apparent during static analysis.
  • Automated testing: A good tool should automate common security testing tasks, saving time and resources while ensuring consistent and comprehensive testing.
  • Manual testing capabilities: The tool should also support manual testing, allowing security testers to perform in-depth analysis and penetration testing for more complex or targeted security concerns.
  • Integration with development tools: The tool should easily integrate with common development tools, such as integrated development environments (IDEs), build systems, and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, to streamline the development and testing process.
  • Customizable policies and rules: The tool should allow customization of security policies and rules to address specific organizational requirements or industry regulations.
  • Vulnerability management: The tool should provide a clear, actionable report on identified vulnerabilities, including information on the severity of the issue, potential impact, and recommendations for remediation.
  • Regular updates: A good security testing tool should be regularly updated to address new threats, vulnerabilities, and changes in the mobile app security landscape.
  • User-friendly interface: The tool should be easy to use and understand, enabling both technical and non-technical team members to participate in the security testing process effectively.
  • Scalability: The tool should be able to handle the testing of multiple apps or large, complex apps without performance issues or limitations.

Related content: Read our guide to web application scanning 

5 Best Practices for Security Testing in Mobile Apps 

1. Supply Chain Tests

Supply chain testing is a crucial aspect of mobile app security testing, as it helps identify vulnerabilities and risks associated with third-party components, such as libraries, frameworks, and APIs. 

First, ensure that you only use trusted, well-maintained, and up-to-date components from reputable sources. Perform a thorough assessment of third-party components to identify any known vulnerabilities or weaknesses. 

Additionally, monitor and track the components throughout the development lifecycle to ensure they remain secure and updated. It is essential to establish a robust governance process that includes policies, procedures, and guidelines for selecting, integrating, and managing third-party components within your mobile app development process.

2. Authentication and Authorization Testing

Authentication and authorization testing focuses on ensuring that only authorized users can access the app’s features and data. This involves verifying that the app implements strong authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or biometric authentication, and enforces password policies like complexity, length, and expiration. 

Authorization testing involves assessing the app’s access controls to ensure that users are granted the appropriate permissions based on their roles, and that they cannot access restricted resources or perform unauthorized actions. Regularly testing the effectiveness of your app’s authentication and authorization mechanisms helps maintain the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive data and reduces the risk of unauthorized access.

3. Encryption Testing

Encryption testing is essential for ensuring that sensitive data transmitted, stored, or processed by the app is properly protected against unauthorized access or tampering. This involves verifying that the app uses strong encryption algorithms and protocols, such as AES-256 or TLS 1.3, and that encryption keys are securely managed and stored. 

It is crucial to test encryption at various stages, including data at rest, data in transit, and data in use. Regularly reviewing and updating your app’s encryption implementation helps ensure that it remains resistant to new threats and vulnerabilities, safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining user trust.

4. Using Continuous Integration for Your Tests

Integrating security testing into your continuous integration (CI) process allows for ongoing, automated testing of the app throughout the development lifecycle. This approach helps identify and remediate security vulnerabilities early in the development process, reducing the costs and time associated with addressing them later. 

Implementing CI for security testing involves incorporating SAST, DAST, and IAST tools into your CI/CD pipeline, ensuring that security tests run automatically with each code commit or build. By regularly reviewing and refining the CI process and security test suite, developers can continuously improve the app’s security posture and maintain a security-focused development mindset.

5. Use of SAST, DAST, and IAST Techniques

Integrating static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), and interactive application security testing (IAST) techniques in the mobile app security testing process can provide comprehensive coverage and insight into potential vulnerabilities. 

SAST involves analyzing the source code or binary files of the app to identify security issues without execution. DAST involves monitoring the app’s behavior during runtime to identify vulnerabilities that may not be apparent during static analysis. 

IAST combines aspects of both SAST and DAST, providing real-time feedback on potential security risks during runtime, while also examining the code. Using these techniques in tandem allows for the identification and remediation of a wide range of vulnerabilities, ensuring a more secure mobile app.

Security Testing with Bright Security

Bright Security helps address the shortage of security personnel, enabling AppSec teams to provide governance for security testing, and enabling every developer to run their own security tests. 

NexPloit empowers developers to incorporate an automated Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) solution into their unit testing process so they can resolve security concerns as part of their agile development process. Bright’s DAST platform integrates into the SDLC fully and seamlessly: 

  • Test results are provided to the CISO and the security team, providing complete visibility into vulnerabilities found and remediated
  • Tickets are automatically opened for developers in their bug tracking system so they can be fixed quickly

Bright Security can scan any target, whether Web Apps, APIs (REST/SOAP/GraphQL) to help enhance DevSecOps and achieve regulatory compliance with our real-time, false positive free actionable reports of vulnerabilities. In addition, our ML-based DAST solution provides an Automated solution to identify Business Logic Vulnerabilities.

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