Mobile app security testing: tools and best practices (2023)

To minimize the security risks of an application, developers need their apps to stand up to stringent security testing. Fortunately, there are tools available that simplify and even automate these security tests. There are also best practices to guide and inform the testing process.

In this article, I will cover the most common security issues for mobile apps and highlight popular security tests. I will also discuss best practices for security testing in mobile apps and review tools for securing mobile applications in a CI/CD pipeline.

The importance of security testing mobile applications

To understand why security testing is important, I will describe these common issues:

  • Improperly secured data storage
  • Memory issues arising from using native code
  • Use of open source/third-party tools

Improperly secured data storage

If you have not set proper database credentials to your database or if your cookie storage is poorly encrypted, attackers can easily read the contents of these data stores.

Take the instance of a rooted device or a reverse-engineered app. If the attacker can easily gain access to your database because of weak security enforcement measures, your information may be at risk of being compromised.

Memory issues arising from using native code

Even though apps written in C, C++, and Objective-C are way faster, poor coding in these languages can cause memory leaks and buffer overflows. These memory pitfalls can cause problems with the RAM and system-stability issues in the case of Kernel-land processes. Attackers may use these problems to perform other attacks or even cause denial-of-service (DoS) attacks by triggering memory leaks and buffer overflows.

Use the best practices in general C programming and Objective-C to avoid memory leaks. Static code testing (checking for security vulnerabilities in your app before running the code) helps identify such threats earlier. Static code testing tools can pinpoint where memory leaks and buffer overflows may occur.

Use of open source/third-party tools

It is common to find developers using open source libraries and frameworks to streamline code production. Attackers can use these tools to launch attacks on your systems. Worse still, they may have malicious code that launches when used in an app.

(Video) Learn Application Security in 5 Minutes | EC-Council | CASE

One example of an open source vulnerability that led to customer data being leaked is the ParkMobile breach. A third-party software vulnerability compromised the personal information of this popular North American parking application’s 21 million users.

Third-party service vulnerabilities are often the result of misconfiguration. Check Point Research found 100 million users’ private data exposed through improper use of integrations.

A shift-left testing approach is the most efficient way to avoid third-party risks. This approach emphasizes setting up tests at the start of an app’s development lifecycle. Shift-left allows testing for the vulnerability of the open source and third-party tools you intend to use. This will help you identify red flags before it is too late.

Importance of security testing

An attack on your app may be detrimental to your organization. Security testing is important to the development lifecycle because it:

  • Makes your app compliant with industry standards.
  • Gives your end users a sense of trust in your products (when your app is ISO 27001 certified, for example).
  • Helps you detect and understand weaknesses so you can eliminate and prepare for risks such as security breaches.
  • Reduces costs related to security incidents, both financially and in terms of reputation.
  • Helps you know what to adjust in your app’s ecosystem: third-party code, your code, or your security workforce.

Types of security tests

In this section, I will explore a few types of mobile app security tests:

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

Vulnerability scanning

This method uses automated tools to check an app’s ecosystem for areas that can be compromised during an attack. Vulnerability scanners look for known vulnerabilities, particularly in software dependencies.

Vulnerability scanning also detects easily missed loopholes in an app, checking against a record of common vulnerabilities and their characteristics. The matches are then reported to the developers or the quality assurance (QA) team. You can integrate vulnerability scans into a CI pipeline, as I will show later in this article.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing simulates attacks to test an app’s security and identify its weaknesses. This differs from vulnerability scanning in that it involves human input (in this case, an ethical hacker). They use several techniques to break into an app and check where attackers may take advantage.

(Video) Mobile security: how to implement and test it

Unlike vulnerability scanning, which can raise false positives, the threats identified by penetration testing are real. These tests can usually provide more detail on the loophole’s precise location.

Risk assessment

Risk assessment involves listing all components and people in an app’s ecosystem to identify their individual risks in case of a cyber attack. This helps enforce measures on certain assets within an organization, such as if someone in the IT department decides to help with or instigate an attack.

Posture assessment

Posture assessment ascertains the current status of an app’s security, assisting the developers in identifying areas of improvement. It can tell you what information may be compromised during an attack, how it will disrupt business, how long it will take to recover, and what preventative measures to put in place.

Posture and risk assessment work hand in hand, and they may also incorporate other types of security testing. All these have a common goal, to help you identify security loopholes, prevent an attack, and mitigate it.

Best practices for security testing in mobile apps

In this section, we will look at the benefits of best practices for securing and testing the security of mobile apps. These are

  • Supply chain tests
  • Use of SAST, DAST, and IAST techniques
  • Authentication and authentication testing
  • Encryption testing

Supply chain tests

Attackers may not attack your app’s main code directly, but they may use third-party code. Open source and untrustworthy third-party tools, as discussed in the security issues section, fall under this category. One way to prevent these attacks is by shift-left testing, again previously discussed. More specifically, you can perform static code testing, which can be easily achieved by static application security testing (SAST) tools. As we will see in the next section, these tools can help detect security risks.

Supply chain tests prevent security risks that occur when your app has started being used by end users. Supply chain risks can easily be missed or overlooked while conducting tests using other methods.

Use of SAST, DAST, and IAST techniques

SAST refers to testing the application code for vulnerabilities before running it into an app. Tools such as Klocwork and Checkmarx are useful for achieving SAST.

(Video) Insiders Guide to Mobile AppSec with Latest OWASP MASVS - Brendan Hann

Dynamic application security testing (DAST) focuses on a running app. DAST scan apps to check for any loopholes that may lead to security risks. An example of a DAST tool for mobile is HCL AppScan.

Interactive application security testing (IAST) blends the features of SAST and DAST, thereby maximizing the advantages and minimizing the tradeoffs. IAST helps in catching vulnerabilities in the source code and during runtime.

You can use these three techniques to help you easily identify points where issues such as memory leaks and buffer overflows may occur, improper input validation, and more. Check out SAST vs DAST: what they are and when to use them for more on these techniques.

Authentication and authentication testing

Weak authentication and authorization allow attackers to gain higher privileges and do things that may take down the system or collect users’ credit user data. DAST can help ensure a user isn’t logged into an app when they are not supposed to or have access to what they shouldn’t have access to.

Take, for instance, a shared directory. Can users with student rights access answer files that can only be accessed by a user with teacher rights? Can a user bypass a security question check? Such questions should be in your mind while doing the tests.

Encryption testing

Strong encryption algorithms will give attackers a hard time accessing an app and gaining vital information. Note that setting encryption on authorization alone is not enough. As developers, we may forget or ignore setting it in layers that our apps use and may contain sensitive information. For instance, the transport layer of the OSI model. Attackers may use the transport layer to perform eavesdropping, leak communication information, and more.

To ensure your application follows the best practices for encryption, use SAST to ensure you have set strong encryption mechanisms.

Using continuous integration for your tests

Despite its importance, security testing is not always given priority in many development teams. Many developers focus more on delivering the main goal of an app. There are many vulnerabilities to test for in an app that you may not all catch manually. If developers find that security testing wastes their time, they tend to skip it.

(Video) 5-Step Checklist for Web App Security Testing

To prevent this, you can use test automation by setting up security test tools in a CI/CD pipeline. These tools can be used to give back meaningful data on vulnerabilities in the app to developers who, in turn, work on them. The developers can focus on the delivery of the app while at the same time fixing vulnerabilities.

Tools for securing mobile applications in your CI/CD pipeline

To integrate tests into your mobile application’s CI/CD pipeline, you can use CircleCI’s mobile testing tool.

It is easy to set up and manage your tests on this platform, thanks to orbs. An orb is a reusable YAML configuration that helps automate repetitive processes. Using orbs makes for easy project set up. You can easily use trusted third-party security testing providers in CircleCI pipelines.

Some useful orbs, which shareable packages of CircleCI configuration, include NowSecure and Genymotion.

Conclusion

The broad user base for mobile applications makes them more attractive to attackers. And, security issues like improper configuration of third-party applications can make them more vulnerable.

Now that you have an understanding of security tests like vulnerability scanning and posture assessment, and the importance of following best practices, you can ensure your apps — and your users’ personal data — are protected.

Contact CircleCI to learn more about adding security testing to your mobile app’s CI/CD pipeline.

FAQs

What tool is recommended for application security testing? ›

Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

IAST tools are the evolution of SAST and DAST tools—combining the two approaches to detect a wider range of security weaknesses. Like DAST tools, IAST tools run dynamically and inspect software during runtime.

How do you manually test mobile app security? ›

Some of the tools to help achieve this are QARK (Quick Android Review Kit), Mitmproxy, and many more.
...
Some high on priority security areas in a mobile app should include:
  1. Configurations.
  2. Authentication and authorization.
  3. App permissions.
  4. Session and cookies.
  5. Data storage.
27 Apr 2022

Which is the best for mobile security testing of different mobile devices API? ›

Micro Focus provides end to end mobile app security testing across multiple devices, platforms, networks, servers, etc. Fortify is a tool by Micro Focus which secures mobile app before getting installed on a mobile device.

What is mobile application security testing? ›

What is Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)? The mobile AST market is composed of buyers and sellers of products and services that analyze and identify vulnerabilities in applications used with mobile platforms (iOS, Android and Windows 10 Mobile) during or post development.

What are the three security tools? ›

4 Types of Security Tools that Everyone Should be Using
  • Firewalls. A firewall is the first (of many) layers of defense against malware, viruses and other threats. ...
  • Antivirus Software. ...
  • Anti-Spyware Software. ...
  • Password Management Software.
15 Feb 2018

What is the most used testing tool? ›

Top 10 Continuous Testing Tools | 2022 Updated
  • Appium. ...
  • Eggplant. ...
  • Watir. ...
  • Tosca. ...
  • Testsigma. ...
  • Rational Functional Tester. ...
  • Unified Functional Tester. ...
  • TestComplete. TestComplete, a product by SmartBear, is a test automation tool for desktop, web, mobile applications.

What is application security tools? ›

What are Application Security Tools? Application Security Tools are designed to protect software applications from external threats throughout the entire application lifecycle. Enterprise applications sometimes contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by bad actors.

How do I start a mobile security test? ›

How to perform mobile application security testing
  1. Define the goal of the security audit. Security audits are vast and multi-purpose. ...
  2. Threat analysis and modelling. Threat analysis is a process to identify potential threats in a system. ...
  3. Exploitation. Threat analysis is work half-done. ...
  4. Remediation.
4 Aug 2022

How mobile application testing is done? ›

You can perform mobile application manual testing using emulators or simulators and by choosing the desired device. You can also perform mobile application manual testing using real device cloud or setting up a device lab within your organization.

How do I ensure mobile app security? ›

Enforce secure communication
  1. Safeguard communication between apps.
  2. Ask for credentials before showing sensitive information.
  3. Apply network security measures.
  4. Use WebView objects carefully.
  5. Use intents to defer permissions.
  6. Share data securely across apps.
  7. Store private data within internal storage.

Which tool is mostly used for mobile test automation? ›

Inheriting the popularity of Selenium, Appium is a well-known and favored mobile test automation framework. Using the WebDriver protocol, Appium allows users to test native, hybrid, and mobile web applications. Feature highlights: Available scripting language: Java, Ruby, Python, PHP, JavaScript, and C#

What are the 4 types of quality assurance? ›

What are the four types of Quality Control? The four types of quality control are process control, control charts, acceptance sampling, and product quality control.

What are best test practices? ›

Top 10 Best Practices for Software Testing
  • 1- Plan the Testing.
  • 2- Integrate testing in the development stage.
  • 3- Use test-oriented development practices.
  • 4- Adequate reporting of testing results.
  • 5- Comprehensive testing coverage.
  • 6- Test on real devices.
  • 7- Testing metrics practice.
  • 8- Distributing tasks according to skills.
17 Jul 2022

What are the 4 steps in quality assurance? ›

This cycle for quality assurance consists of four steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act. because it analyzes existing conditions and methods used to provide the product or service customers.

What is security testing tools? ›

Web security testing tools are useful in proactively detecting application vulnerabilities and safeguarding websites against malicious attacks. The two most effective ways to scrutinize the security status of a website are vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.

Why mobile app security is important? ›

The constant exchange of data is a thrilling target for fraudsters and hackers. Mobile app security is all about defending these apps through implementing advanced, state-of-the-art security measures. Building a mobile app security framework is key to the development of any successful app.

What are the 7 principles of security? ›

Security by Design: 7 Application Security Principles You Need to Know
  • Principle of Least Privilege. ...
  • Principle of Separation of Duties. ...
  • Principle of Defense in Depth. ...
  • Principle of Failing Securely. ...
  • Principle of Open Design. ...
  • Principle of Avoiding Security by Obscurity. ...
  • Principle of Minimizing Attack Surface Area.

What are two techniques of security? ›

However, here are 7 of the most effective data security techniques that you can try to secure your data.
  • Data encryption. ...
  • Backup and recovery optimization. ...
  • Data masking. ...
  • Row level security. ...
  • Promote transparency and compliance. ...
  • Cyber insurance. ...
  • Work with experts in data.

What are the 3 basic security requirements? ›

Regardless of security policy goals, one cannot completely ignore any of the three major requirements—confidentiality, integrity, and availability—which support one another. For example, confidentiality is needed to protect passwords.

What are the 5 testing methods? ›

There are many different types of testing, but for this article we will stick to the core five components of testing:
  • 1) Unit Tests. ...
  • 2) Integration/System Tests. ...
  • 3) Functional Tests. ...
  • 4) Regression Tests. ...
  • 5) Acceptance Tests.
6 Jun 2017

What are the 7 types of software testing? ›

The different types of tests
  • Unit tests. Unit tests are very low level and close to the source of an application. ...
  • Integration tests. ...
  • Functional tests. ...
  • End-to-end tests. ...
  • Acceptance testing. ...
  • Performance testing. ...
  • Smoke testing.

Which testing tool is in demand 2022? ›

LambdaTest is by far one of the best automation testing tools for 2022 because of its ability to run automated Selenium scripts on a scalable cloud grid. This cross-platform web and application automated testing tool also allows testers to perform interactive live testing on 2,000+ real web browser environments.

What is the security tools used in mobile technology? ›

This might include VPNs, antimalware software, email security tools that are designed to block phishing attacks and endpoint protection tools that monitor devices for malicious activity.

What are the top 10 application security risks? ›

What is the OWASP Top 10?
  1. Injection. Injection attacks happen when untrusted data is sent to a code interpreter through a form input or some other data submission to a web application. ...
  2. Broken Authentication. ...
  3. Sensitive Data Exposure. ...
  4. XML External Entities (XEE) ...
  5. Broken Access Control. ...
  6. Security Misconfiguration.

Is mobile testing easy? ›

So, mobile testing is not tough because testers have to think about vast coverage and real-time usage (yes, they are surely the differentiating factors from any typical testing) but mobile testing has become tough because while running a race with allowed time to do testing, most of the mobile testers prefer to do ...

What are the six basic principles of security testing? ›

Principle of Security Testing : Confidentiality, Integrity, Authentication, Availability, Authorization, and Non-Repudiation.

How many types of Mobile application tests are there? ›

The common types of performance tests include load testing, volume testing, soak testing, spike testing, and stress testing. Security is one of the prominent concerns of almost every mobile app owner in the present times. Reportedly, 80 percent of users are more likely to uninstall an app due to security issues.

What is important in mobile application testing? ›

Mobile app testing helps validate the appearance, performance, and functionality of apps across multiple devices. Optimizing apps for mobile-OS combinations popular among the target audience helps the app provide a seamless user experience, irrespective of device or OS.

How long does mobile app testing take? ›

Testing. Testing is one of the concluding and critical phases of the app development process. It may take you anywhere between 4-6 weeks.

What are 3 protections users can perform to protect their mobile apps? ›

Ways to stay secure
  • Lock your phone with a password or fingerprint detection. ...
  • If it's not already the default on your phone, consider encrypting your data. ...
  • Set up remote wipe. ...
  • Back up phone data. ...
  • Avoid third-party apps. ...
  • Avoid jailbreaking your iPhone or rooting your Android. ...
  • Update operating systems often.
21 Sept 2016

What are the 5 apps which protect your phone or device from threats? ›

Here we have listed some of the best free Android antivirus apps that are available in the Google Play Store.
  • Avast Mobile Security. Avast Mobile Security is one of the most prominent security applications on any platform. ...
  • McAfee Mobile Security & Lock. ...
  • Norton Mobile Security & Antivirus. ...
  • 360 Security. ...
  • Avira. ...
  • AVG Antivirus.
22 Oct 2022

What are mobile app vulnerabilities? ›

Broken Access Control. Security misconfiguration. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Insecure Deserialization.

What are the 6 types of security? ›

What are the 6 types of security infrastructure systems?
  • Access Controls. The act of restricting access to sensitive data or systems enables your enterprise to mitigate the potential risks associated with data exposure. ...
  • Application Security. ...
  • Behavioral Analytics. ...
  • Firewalls. ...
  • Virtual Private Networks. ...
  • Wireless Security.
22 Feb 2022

What are the two main mobile threats? ›

Top Mobile Security Threats
  • Malicious Apps and Websites. Like desktop computers, mobile devices have software and Internet access. ...
  • Mobile Ransomware. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks. ...
  • Advanced Jailbreaking and Rooting Techniques. ...
  • Device and OS exploits.

Which mobile has highest security? ›

Top 10 Most Secure Phones in 2022
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. The newest and most expensive smartphone in Apple's enduringly well-liked iPhone series is the iPhone 12 Pro Max. ...
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. ...
  • Google Pixel 5. ...
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. ...
  • Apple iPhone SE. ...
  • Silent Circle Blackphone 2. ...
  • Sirin Labs Finney U1. ...
  • BlackBerry Key2.

Which tool is best for mobile app testing? ›

Best Mobile App Testing Tools for Automation Testing
  • #1 Top Pick. Kobiton. 5.0. Integration: Travis CI, TeamCity, Jenkins, etc. ...
  • #2. testRigor. 4.9. Integration: TestRail, Zephyr, XRay, Jira, etc. ...
  • #3. ACCELQ. 4.8. Integration: Jenkins, Team City, Bamboo , Azure DevOps, etc. ...
  • #4. Katalon Platform. 4.7. ...
  • #5. Perfecto. 4.6. ...
  • #6. TestGrid. 4.6.
19 Oct 2022

What is mobile testing with example? ›

A simple definition of mobile application testing would go like this “Mobile application testing is a process by which an application software developed for handheld mobile devices is tested for its functionality, usability, and consistency. Mobile application testing can be automated or manual type of testing.”

Which app is used for testing? ›

Appium: Appium is one of the most preferred testing tools, especially by the open-source community. Used for testing both Android and iOS apps, this tool follows WebDriver protocol and the best part is the tool can support any framework, tools, and practices of your choice.

How can I improve my mobile app testing? ›

Tips on improving Mobile App Testing Skills
  1. Know Your Testing Types.
  2. Adopt Testing Tools.
  3. Choose Real Devices for Testing.
  4. Go Beyond Mobile App Debugging.
29 Jul 2022

Why mobile testing is tough? ›

Mobile device's different range: This is one reason why the application testing is challenging to do on mobile devices. In the market, we can get the devices in a different range, different screen sizes and hardware configurations like a hard keypad, virtual keypad (touch screen) and trackball, etc.

What is the difference between mobile testing and mobile application testing? ›

Key Points. Device testing is generally being carried out to check the mobile device itself, whereas Mobile application testing involves testing of an application which will be running on the chosen device.

What are best practices in testing? ›

Top 10 Best Practices for Software Testing
  • 1- Plan the Testing.
  • 2- Integrate testing in the development stage.
  • 3- Use test-oriented development practices.
  • 4- Adequate reporting of testing results.
  • 5- Comprehensive testing coverage.
  • 6- Test on real devices.
  • 7- Testing metrics practice.
  • 8- Distributing tasks according to skills.
17 Jul 2022

What are the best practices for performance testing? ›

10 Performance Testing Best Practices
  • Test Early and Often. ...
  • Consider Users, Not Just Servers. ...
  • Understand Performance Test Definitions. ...
  • Build a Complete Performance Model. ...
  • Define Baselines for Important System Functions. ...
  • Perform Modular and System Performance Tests. ...
  • Measure Averages, but Include Outliers.
28 Dec 2021

What are the 5 basic principles of testing? ›

The seven principles of testing
  • Testing shows the presence of defects, not their absence. ...
  • Exhaustive testing is impossible. ...
  • Early testing saves time and money. ...
  • Defects cluster together. ...
  • Beware of the pesticide paradox. ...
  • Testing is context dependent. ...
  • Absence-of-errors is a fallacy.

What are 3 testing strategies? ›

The test strategy describes the test level to be performed. There are primarily three levels of testing: unit testing, integration testing, and system testing. In most software development organizations, the developers are responsible for unit testing.

Which model is best for testing? ›

V Model. The V Model is considered best for the waterfall model. In this model, the development and testing activities are carried out side by side in the downhill and uphill shapes.

What are the steps to test a mobile application? ›

Step-by-Step Mobile Application Testing Process
  1. 1.Preparation and Strategy Formulation. ...
  2. 2.Identification of Essential Testing Types. ...
  3. 3.Design of Test Script and Test Case. ...
  4. 4.Setup of Testing Environment. ...
  5. 5.Manual Testing and Automated Testing. ...
  6. 6.Usability and User Interface Testing. ...
  7. 7.Compatibility Testing.

What are the 4 types of automation? ›

There are four types of automation systems: fixed automation, programmable automation, flexible automation and integrated automation. Let's take a look at each type and their differences and advantages. Then you can try to determine which type of automation system is best for you.

What are 5 different types of automation? ›

Types of Automation
  • Industrial Automation. Using technology to perform tasks that can be repetitive, dangerous, or otherwise unsuitable for humans is known as industrial automation. ...
  • Numerically Controlled Machines. ...
  • Industrial Robots. ...
  • Flexible Manufacturing Systems. ...
  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing.

What is security testing with example? ›

How to do Security Testing
SDLC PhasesSecurity Processes
Coding and Unit TestingStatic and Dynamic Testing and Security White Box Testing
Integration TestingBlack Box Testing
System TestingBlack Box Testing and Vulnerability scanning
ImplementationPenetration Testing, Vulnerability Scanning
3 more rows
7 days ago

What are the 3 best practices of performance management? ›

6 Performance management best practices
  • Conduct continuous performance management conversations. ...
  • Prioritize collaborative and frequent goal setting. ...
  • Recognize employees for their efforts. ...
  • Give regular performance feedback. ...
  • Evaluate performance fairly. ...
  • Align employee and organizational goals.
28 Apr 2022

What is security testing? ›

Security Testing is a type of Software Testing that uncovers vulnerabilities of the system and determines that the data and resources of the system are protected from possible intruders. It ensures that the software system and application are free from any threats or risks that can cause a loss.

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