Ninety percent of Apple iOS mobile apps show security vulnerabilities, says HP

Ellen Messmer
19 November, 2013
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HP says security testing it conducted on more than 2000 Apple iOS mobile apps developed for commercial use by some 600 large companies in 50 countries showed that nine out of 10 had serious vulnerabilities.

Mike Armistead, HP vice president and general manager, says testing was done on apps from 22 iTunes App Store categories that are used for business-to-consumer or business-to-business purposes, such as banking or retailing. HP said 97 percent of these apps inappropriately accessed private information sources within a device, and 86 percent proved to be vulnerable to attacks such as SQL (structured query language) injection.

The Apple guidelines for developing iOS apps help developers, but this doesn’t go far enough in terms of security, says Armistead. Mobile apps are being used to extend the corporate website to mobile devices, but companies in the process “are opening up their attack surfaces,” he says.

In its summary of the testing, HP said 86 percent of the apps tested lacked the means to protect themselves from common exploits, such as misuse of encrypted data, cross-site scripting and insecure transmission of data.

The same number did not have optimised security built in the early part of the development process, according to HP. Three quarters “did not use proper encryption techniques when storing data on mobile devices, which leaves unencrypted data accessible to an attacker”. A large number of the apps didn’t implement SSL/HTTPS correctly.

To discover weaknesses in apps, developers need to involve practices such as app scanning for security, penetration testing and a secure coding development life cycle approach, HP advises.

The need to develop mobile apps quickly for business purposes is one of the main contributing factors leading to weaknesses in these apps made available for public download, according to HP. And the weakness on the mobile side is impacting the server side as well.

“It is our earnest belief that the pace and cost of development in the mobile space has hampered security efforts,” HP says in its report, adding that “mobile application security is still in its infancy”.

by Ellen Messmer, Network World

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