Android Application Penetration Testing is a process to identify security vulnerabilities in an Android application by evaluating the system or network with various malicious techniques. The main aim is to protect the app and related infrastructure from attacks or threats. This process can help identify potential vulnerabilities before the attackers do, thereby protecting sensitive data and maintaining the integrity of the application.
Over the last years, smartphones and tablets have become commonplace in both, consumer and enterprise markets. Keeping information secure on mobile devices is crucial for companies and end users, be it corporate or personal.
Inet helps companies protect their mobile applications by conducting in-depth security assessments known as penetration testing. During the testing, our security specialists utilize the same approach and toolkit used by real attackers with the goal of identifying possible security weaknesses in the target mobile applications and related server-side infrastructure.
The assessment process described further in this document allows organizations to proactively identify and address security vulnerabilities in their mobile applications, ultimately saving thousands and possible millions of dollars in losses from reputation damage, eroded customer confidence, business disruptions, productivity and more.
Mobile App Penetration Testing Workflow
For security assessment projects, Inet utilizes a proprietary penetration testing methodology based on the most well-known and established penetration testing guides such as the OWASP’s Mobile Security Testing Guide (MSTG).
Our mobile application security assessment projects involve methodology including the following five phases: planning project activities, information gathering, vulnerability discovery and analysis, exploitation of vulnerabilities identified and provision of a final report.
During the project, Inet utilizes a set of various auxiliary tools that are carefully selected to address the specific task. The set includes commercial, open-source and custom solutions developed by the team specifically for the project. The primary tool set contains but not limited to:
- Burp Suite (https://portswigger.net/burp)
- Nmap (https://nmap.org)
- Metasploit Framework (https://www.metasploit.com)
- Grapefruit (https://github.com/ChiChou/grapefruit)
- Frida (https://frida.re)
- Cydia tweaks
- Mobile Security Framework (https://mobsf.github.io/docs/#/)
- Cycript (http://www.cycript.org)
- Hopper Disassembler (https://www.hopperapp.com)
- SSLScan (https://github.com/rbsec/sslscan)
As the last step of the active phase of testing, any potential security issue found is manually investigated and researched, and an attempt is made to exploit the vulnerability. During the exploitation, Inet will make an attempt to either gain unauthorized access to the target system (e.g. user’s device), or extract sensitive data from it. The exploitation is considered successful if we are able to achieve either of these objectives.
As an additional task, Inet also attempts to combine identified security issues to so-called “attack vectors”. An attack vector is a consistent exploitation of related vulnerabilities aimed at achieving the specific goal. Examples of the goals could be obtaining the access to all private data within the database server, direct access to internal infrastructure, fraud, utilization of the environment within further attacks to third-party organizations and more.
Customer’s key security contacts will be immediately notified in case the identified vulnerability uncovers an additional surface for possible attacks. At that time, the customer’s contacts will be given the opportunity to decide if the particular system should undergo additional tests. If they decide to have Inet continue, the additional area will be used to further penetrate the target system and the environment as a whole.
Understanding the Basics
Android apps, much like any software, can have vulnerabilities. These can be due to a variety of factors like insecure coding practices, misconfigured servers, weak encryption techniques, or software bugs. Penetration testing is a proactive approach to finding these weaknesses.
Key Steps in Android Application Penetration Testing
- Reconnaissance and Analysis: This initial stage involves understanding the application, its functionality, and the data it processes. Information gathering also includes identifying the server-side APIs that the app interacts with.
- Reverse Engineering the Application: The tester uses tools to decompile the Android APK to analyze the source code for potential vulnerabilities. This is often done manually.
- Dynamic Analysis: During this stage, the tester interacts with the application and observes its behavior and data processing in real-time. Dynamic analysis often includes testing for vulnerabilities like insecure data storage, input validation vulnerabilities, and more.
- Server-Side Testing: If the application interacts with server-side components, these also need to be tested for vulnerabilities. This could involve testing the APIs, the server’s configuration, and data storage and transmission techniques.
- Reporting: After the testing is complete, a report is compiled that outlines the vulnerabilities identified, their severity, and potential mitigation strategies.
Importance of Android Application Penetration Testing
Android holds a large share of the mobile OS market, making Android apps a tempting target for attackers. Penetration testing helps ensure the security of the app and the data it handles. It’s a critical part of the development and post-production process, helping protect both the company and its users from potential harm.
Penetration testing should always be conducted by knowledgeable professionals and should be a part of the overall security strategy of any company that develops Android applications. Remember, the goal of penetration testing is not just to find vulnerabilities, but also to provide solutions and recommendations for improving the security posture of the application.
Android Penetration Testing, or Android Pentesting, is necessary due to several reasons:
- Increasing Use of Mobile Devices: Android devices are becoming increasingly commonplace for everyday tasks like online shopping, banking, and communication, making them attractive targets for cyber attackers.
- Large Market Share of Android: Android has a large market share in the smartphone operating system segment, making it a primary focus for cybercriminals.
- Sensitive Data: Mobile applications often store and process sensitive data. This can include financial details, personal identifiable information (PII), or business-related data. Pentesting helps protect this sensitive information from potential breaches.
- Secure Development: Android Pentesting can highlight security flaws in the app’s design, implementation, or deployment phases. Identifying these flaws can improve the development process, making applications more secure from the outset.
- Compliance and Regulations: Some industries, like finance and healthcare, are subject to specific security regulations to protect user data. Android Pentesting can help companies ensure they are compliant with these regulations.
- Reputation Management: A security breach can severely damage a company’s reputation. By proactively identifying potential vulnerabilities and mitigating them, companies can protect their brand reputation.
- Reducing Costs: Identifying and fixing security issues early in the development process can be much more cost-effective than responding to a security breach after the app has been deployed.
In essence, Android Pentesting is an essential part of a comprehensive security approach. It helps to ensure the integrity of applications, protect user data, comply with industry regulations, and maintain a company’s reputation.