Android Application Penetration Testing Methodology is a security testing method used to analyze a mobile system’s security from the inside. Penetration testing for mobile applications focuses on client-side safety, file system security, hardware and network security. Android app testing reduces risks, tests potential vulnerabilities, and examines software to ensure an application is secure and compliant with appropriate security standards. To assess the security of android apps, cybersecurity experts use a variety of tests and strategies.
Android app security testing requires advanced knowledge and resources. Cybersecurity experts often create realistic cyberattacks to identify potential risks. Additionally, they examine the entire back-end system, supporting infrastructure, and APIs.
Penetration testing allows businesses to identify vulnerabilities in mobile apps and fix them before releasing them to users. Thus, the company can change the design, code, and architecture before release. Fixing the problem at this stage is less costly than addressing it later when a breach or flaw is discovered. In the post-rollout phase, financial issues are addressed and PR, legal, and more.
Android app testing requires penetration testing as an essential security step. The purpose of vulnerability scans is to identify known vulnerabilities; penetration tests, on the other hand, are used to identify any potential weaknesses, such as weak security settings, unencrypted passwords, or unknown flaws.
Cybersecurity protocols can be created by imitating the habits of threat actors to anticipate how cybercriminals will respond. Cybersecurity attack strategies are continuously evolving, so penetration tests should be conducted at least twice a year.
Cyber-security analysts often conduct two kinds of penetration tests: black box and white box.
1. White Box Testing (Static Application Security Testing)
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) aims to test a mobile app’s security from the viewpoint of an informed attacker. Before performing a test on a mobile app, security analysts gather as much information as possible about the app and network. Then, security professionals will carry out attacks based on their insight. Since white box testing relies on previous security investigations to guide simulated attacks, it takes less time than black-box testing; however, it is not as realistic.
2. Black Box Testing
The black box test simulates how a malicious attacker would attempt to exploit a vulnerability. To test the security strength of a mobile app, security professionals deploy various threats. Despite simulating a more realistic attack than a white box attack, some vulnerability testing may be impossible without specific information about an app.
The Mobile Application Security Testing divides into four stages:
The most important part of a penetration test is gathering intelligence. A successful pentest depends on being able to look for hidden cues which can reveal a vulnerability. The following steps are involved in surveillance:
The first stage involves acquiring open-source intelligence (OSINT), which gives access to publicly available resources. Next, a comprehensive search of all possible sources of information about an application is done by Pentester. They can be found on search engines and social networks, leaked source code through version control systems, developer boards, or even on the dark web.
Understanding the architecture of mobile applications is crucial to generating a threat model for the application. The penetration tester must incorporate this view when developing the threat model. The pentester considers the company following the app, its business case, and the stakeholders. In addition, structures and processes within the organization are considered.
A penetration tester must be able to recognize the type of application (native, hybrid, or web) and manage test cases. The application network interfaces, user data, communication with third-party resources, session management, and jailbreaking/rooting detection.
Penetration testing of mobile applications is different from desktop testing since it requires comparisons between the apps before and after installation. In terms of android security, the following evaluation techniques are used:
File system analysis – pentester examines the local files written on the file system by the application to assure that there are no breaches.
Package analysis – unpack the application installation bundles for the Android and iOS operating systems. An investigation should be done to assure that there are no changes in configurations of the compiled binary.
Reverse engineering – means transforming the compiled applications into human-readable source code. Then, the penetration tester analyzes the decompiled code to understand the intuitive application functionality and hunt for vulnerabilities. Note: An android application may be modified once changed and recompiled.
Static analysis – penetration tester does not execute the application. Instead, the investigation is doing on the provided files or decompiled source code.
Dynamic analysis – pentester reviews the mobile application as it runs on the device or emulator. Reviews done include a forensic examination of the file system, assessing the network communication between the application and server, and evaluating the application’s inter-process communication (IPC).
Inter-Process Communication Endpoint Analysis – pentester reviews the different mobile application IPC endpoints. Assessment performing on:
Content providers – these ensure that access to databases is reached.
Intents – these are signals used to send messages between components of the android system.
Broadcast receivers – these receive and act on intents received from other applications on the android system.
Activities – these make up the screens or pages within the application.
Services – These run from the background and perform tasks regardless of whether the main application is running.
The penetration testing engineer attacks the mobile application using information gathered from the information-gathering step. A thorough intelligence gathering ensures a high probability of success.
The purpose of this phase is to exercise all potential vulnerabilities identified in the previous stages of the assessment and try to exploit them as an attacker would. In addition to automatically identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities, hand-operated classification and exploitation are also evaluated. Specifically, this involves business logic errors, authentication/authorization bypasses the manipulation of parameters and sessions. The Pentester tries to exploit the vulnerability to gain sensitive information or perform malicious activities. Then, the most privileged user (root) finally receives privilege escalation so that any restrictions will not restrict them.
Usually, a technical report and an executive-level paper are produced. Designed for management consumption, this executive-level paper covers a high-level summary of assessment activities, scope, most critical vulnerabilities discovered, and risk scores. Similarly, the technical report includes details on resolving each vulnerability individually, along with instructions on how to recreate the vulnerability, understand the risk, and the recommended remediation operations, as well as helpful reference links.
A final step in any assessment is to present all documentation to the client. This involves walking the client through the information provided, making any necessary updates, and answering any questions regarding the assessment results. Upon completion of this activity, all documentation will be revised, and any required formal testing will be scheduled.
The penetration tester validates and approves the client’s vulnerability report.