Built for Mobiles: Why Choose a Mobile-First Vulnerability Assessment Tool?

Security teams spend an average of 130 hours per week monitoring and tracking threats. 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses, while only 14% are prepared to defend themselves. Companies with more than 10,000 employees have the most critical-severity vulnerabilities.

A vulnerability is an exploitable gap in your application's security. As your threat landscape increases, the attack surface and the number of vulnerabilities might also increase. Mobile app vulnerability assessment helps assess and mitigate vulnerabilities in mobile systems. This generally comprises a list-based approach to test for vulnerabilities, security flaws, and compliance checks. 

While this can be done manually, an automated vulnerability testing tool makes the process faster. 

Table of Content

What is mobile app vulnerability assessment?

Mobile application vulnerability assessment is a specialized security assessment that identifies vulnerabilities in applications running on various mobile operating systems such as Android and iOSThe most common issues in mobile application development must be addressed as soon as possible to ensure timely system delivery.

Data security breaches and public reporting of breaches can severely impact your brand’s reputation. Vulnerabilities offer easy access points to your mobile apps, which can be misused to alter available resources, steal user and business information, or block access to your app. 

Vulnerability management programs help assess and secure your mobile app using organized instructions such as a mobile app security checklist. Using vulnerability management solutions ensures your application's vulnerabilities have the shortest possible life cycle. 

What are the benefits of using a mobile application vulnerability assessment tool?

1. Specialised focus on mobile application vulnerabilities:

Mobile applications present unique vulnerabilities that must be continuously assessed to ensure a safe and seamless experience for the end-user. They also have a broader threat landscape. So, you must be aware of the top mobile security threats to ensure enhanced visibility and control. 

A dedicated mobile app vulnerability assessment tool can identify these vulnerabilities because early detection leads to earlier remediation. 

OWASP Top 10 Mobile Security Threats and Remediation Methods - Mobile App Vulnerability Assessment

How can mobile application vulnerabilities be mitigated?

One can mitigate mobile app vulnerabilities by:

  1. 1. Diligently planning threat modeling,
  2. 2. Proactive vulnerability management,
  3. 3. Tried-and-true architectural patterns, and SDLC,
  4. 4. Regularly updating and patching all build infrastructure components and
  5. 5. Regularly conducting SBOM security analysis.

2. Platform-specific vulnerabilities

Platform-specific vulnerabilities are security weaknesses or flaws unique to a particular operating system, software platform, or hardware environment. Attackers can exploit these to compromise the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of the system or data. 

What are a few platform-specific vulnerabilities?

1. Operating system vulnerabilities

Operating systems like Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android can be vulnerable to design, implementation, or configuration flaws. These can include privilege escalation, buffer overflows, and insecure default settings. 

2. Application vulnerabilities

These can be due to coding errors, insecure configurations, or outdated software versions, which can be mitigated with an application vulnerability assessment tool. Examples of these vulnerabilities include SQL injectioninsecure deserialization, and cross-site scripting.

3. Hardware vulnerabilities

Hardware vulnerabilities occur due to design flaws or manufacturing defects. These vulnerabilities can be exploited to bypass security mechanisms or gain unauthorized access to the system. These can be speculative execution vulnerabilities like Spectre and Meltdown

4. Firmware vulnerabilities

Firmware is the software that controls the hardware. These vulnerabilities can be exploited to compromise security. Examples include insecure firmware update mechanisms and buffer overflows in firmware code.

5. Virtualization and cloud platform vulnerabilities

Virtualization and cloud platform vulnerabilities are specific to virtualized environments and cloud computing infrastructures. These can be exploited to compromise the security of mobile cloud computing via virtual machines, containerscloud services, and data stored in the cloud. 

How to mitigate platform-specific application vulnerabilities?

1. Android security testing

Android security testing assesses the security posture of Android applications, devices, and the Android operating system. Android security testing aims to identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and weaknesses that could be exploited. The security testing includes:

  1. a. Application security testing
  2. b. Device security testing
  3. c. Operation system security testing
  4. d. Network security testing
2. iOS security testing

iOS security testing evaluates the security of iOS applications, devices, and the iOS system. It aims to identify vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and misconfigurations that could be exploited. It is similar to Android security testing but for iOS. 

3. Mobile device security testing

Mobile device security testing involves the evaluation of the security controls associated with mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices running various operating systems such as Android, iOS, and others. Mobile device security testing includes 

  1. a. Device configuration review,
  2. b. Device security assessment,
  3. c. Network security testing,
  4. d. Physical security assessment and
  5. e. Application security testing

3. Mobile-specific threat landscape

Your company’s overall physical security program needs to cover mobile device security. Mobile device management helps control and distribute security features and policies across devices that access sensitive information.

1. Supply-chain security and authentication/ authorization controls

Devices are physical and network assets that move across security perimeters. For corporate-owned mobile devices, a combination of mobile device management software and an information security management system is required.

2. Data loss

Mobile devices can create leaks in your network security. Data leaks can happen due to security compromise, malicious behavior, or human error. It is crucial to apply a combination of physical and network data loss prevention (DLP) practices. 

3. Physical breaches

Mobile devices are at risk for theft due to their value in the second-hand market. Password cracking and other breaches are easier when a device is at hand. A physical access control is essential to ensure that data is safe. An intelligent storage system can generate a digital paper trail to make every step easier to track. 

4. Out-of-date hardware

Whenever a vulnerability is found, every operating system releases newer versions. A lifecycle and support policy for your business is vital to ensure that older access is denied access.

5. Malicious apps

trojanized version of the app can be released on the market. This means that your users might download the app assuming it is your authentic app, opening up their device to vulnerabilities and unauthorized access. 

6. Mobile device as a vector

Phishing, smishing, malicious ads on legitimate apps, mobile ransomware, and other social engineering attacks can compromise or attack a system via a mobile device. It is essential to protect against these as well.

4. Dynamic application security testing or DAST

Dynamic analysis includes testing software applications, systems, or components in real time to identify and assess their behavior, performance, and security under various conditions. This is the actual execution of the software to observe its behavior and functionality. 

Key characteristics of dynamic security testing:

1. Real-time execution

Your application is run in real-time to observe its behavior, functionality, and performance under various conditions. In dynamic testing, vulnerabilities are found the way a user would encounter them, ensuring faster and better resolution.

2. Simulated user interactions

DAST simulates user interactions, inputs, and scenarios to validate the functionality and usability of software applications. For example, a person entering the digital 3 might be thrown an error, which can be identified through dynamic testing. 

3. Performance testing

Dynamic testing identifies bottlenecks and optimizes system performance. It evaluates applications’ performance, scalability, and reliability under load, stress, and when multiple events coincide. 

4. Error detection and debugging

You can identify defects, errors, and issues in software applications by executing test cases, scripts, and scenarios designed to validate the robustness of your application. 

5. Feedback loop

With dynamic testing, testers and developers can get dynamic feedback. Providing immediate feedback and insights on applications' quality, reliability, and security facilitates CI/CD processes.

5. Regulatory compliance

Mobile vulnerability assessment tools support organizations in their efforts toward compliance. They give companies access to automated scanning, detection, and reporting facilities that identify the risks against accepted security frameworks and standards. 

How do mobile vulnerability assessment tools facilitate compliance?

1. Regulatory mapping

Vulnerability assessment tools compare the gaps between existing vulnerabilities and various regulations (such as PCI DSSGDPROWASP, and HIPAA) and provide organizations with a standpoint on their security posture and compliance with requirements.

2. Automated compliance checks

Mobile vulnerability assessment tools automate compliance checks by evaluating security configurations, encryption practices, access controls, and other security controls. 

3. Reporting and documentation

Mobile vulnerability assessment tools present tailored reports extrapolating all implications of detected exposures, compliance settings, risk classifications, and actionable steps toward investigating, reporting, and ensuring compliance during the process. 

4. Continuous monitoring

Vulnerability assessment tools with continuous monitoring capabilities enable organizations to stay completely on top of compliance status tracking, detect and address new vulnerabilities along the way, and monitor the latest regulations and industry standards. 

5. Policy enforcement and remediation

Mobile vulnerability assessment tools help observe non-compliant configurations, practices, and settings, produce suggestions for achieving compliance with the regulations, and monitor these throughout the period.

6. Enhanced visibility and control

Mobile vulnerability assessment tools support organizations in their efforts toward compliance. They give companies access to automated scanning, detection, and reporting facilities that identify risks against accepted security frameworks and standards. By offering comprehensive scanning, analysis, and reporting capabilities, they provide enhanced visibility and control over the security posture of mobile devices and applications.

1. Comprehensive asset discovery

VAPT tools scan and probe all connected assets, devices, applications, and services within the organization's network boundary, enabling complete inventory and visibility into the overall digital imprint. 

2. Real-time monitoring and detection

Tools offer real-time monitoring functions, scanning and detecting new vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and security events at all times to supply organizations with the latest updates about emerging risks and threats. 

3. Detailed vulnerability analysis

VAPT tools conduct thorough vulnerability assessments that group vulnerabilities by severity, exploitability, and impact. They provide a list of prioritized risks so that organizations can address the significant threats first. 

4. Customized reporting and dashboards

They provide comprehensive reporting, dashboards, and visualizations. These display risk trends, compliance status, risk levels, and remediation progress and offer stakeholders actionable insights and visibility into the organization's security posture. 

5. Remediation guidance and control

They offer remediation tips, actionable recommendations, and control measures to address highlighted issues. This helps organizations set remediation priorities and plan and implement appropriate remediation strategies that reduce risks and improve security.

How does Appknox help you reduce risks and better secure your mobile applications?

Appknox is one of the best vulnerability assessment tools built for mobile devices that identify and eliminate security vulnerabilities and software defects early in your development cycle. Our SASTDAST, and APIT tools ensure your software is secure, reliable, and compliant. The vulnerabilities found are ranked according to severity, relying on the CVSS scores.

With Appknox’s penetration testing, you can exploit your mobile application's weaknesses and define the threat's seriousness. A security researcher will manually penetrate the application binary to periodically mimic hacker behavior. This will help you regularly track and be ahead of any and all vulnerabilities. 

How can Appknox’s automated vulnerability assessment built for mobile applications help?

  1. 1. Identify and analyze security risks and prioritize severity based on the CVSS reporting. 
  2. 2. Perform real-time fast and API to further down on the vulnerabilities 
  3. 3. Fulfill standard compliance requirements  
  4. 4. Verify and validate through testing  
  5. 5. Achieve compliance and get certified faster

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How is Appknox different from other VAPT Tools?

Appknox is a powerful mobile-first binary code vulnerability assessment and penetration testing tool. It covers 140+ automated SAST, DAST, and API vulnerability test cases for mobile applications. Unlike other applications, Appknox is a fully automated DAST that tests real devices instead of emulators. You can get a detailed report with CVSS scores with just one click.

With Appknox, security teams can configure and efficiently run manual pen tests, consolidate vulnerabilities, and scan the mobile app’s binary in less than 60 minutes.

Key Features: 

  1. 1. Scans of SAST, DAST, API, and penetration testing
  2. 2. Enables manual pen test
  3. 3. Compliant with best standards, such as HIPAA, SOC2, OWASP, NIST, and others
  4. 4. High accuracy with less than 1% false positives
  5. 5. Easy-to-navigate and user-friendly

2. What is the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing?

The major difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing tools is that the former identifies potential weaknesses in an organization’s threat landscape through security scans. Penetration testing simulates real-world attacks to test the application and provide an in-depth analysis of the organization’s security posture. 

3. Should I choose between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing?

Choosing between both is not always necessary; employing vulnerability assessments and penetration testing (VAPT) tools is the best practice for organizations seeking comprehensive security. By combining the two methods, you can get: 

  1. 1. Comprehensive view of your mobile security posture
  2. 2. Faster mean time to remediation
  3. 3. Reduce risk across your threat landscape
  4. 4. Streamlined patch management process

Continuous penetration testing and automating vulnerability management are key to achieving secure networks.  

Published on Apr 20, 2024
Raghunandan J
Written by Raghunandan J
Raghunandan J is a senior product manager at Appknox, a mobile security suite that helps enterprises automate mobile security. With over a decade of expertise in driving the product vision and strategy for a cloud-based mobile security platform, Raghu is a certified ScrumMaster and Business Analyst.
He is the driving force behind our mission to revolutionize AppSec and has a rich experience in agile methodologies and stakeholder management.


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