The Mobile Application Hacker’s Handbook

The Mobile Application Hacker’s Handbook

English | 2015 | ISBN: 978-1118958506 | 816 Pages | PDF, EPUB | 16 MB


See your app through a hacker’s eyes to find the real sources of vulnerability
The Mobile Application Hacker’s Handbook is a comprehensive guide to securing all mobile applications by approaching the issue from a hacker’s point of view. Heavily practical, this book provides expert guidance toward discovering and exploiting flaws in mobile applications on the iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone platforms. You will learn a proven methodology for approaching mobile application assessments, and the techniques used to prevent, disrupt, and remediate the various types of attacks. Coverage includes data storage, cryptography, transport layers, data leakage, injection attacks, runtime manipulation, security controls, and cross-platform apps, with vulnerabilities highlighted and detailed information on the methods hackers use to get around standard security.
Mobile applications are widely used in the consumer and enterprise markets to process and/or store sensitive data. There is currently little published on the topic of mobile security, but with over a million apps in the Apple App Store alone, the attack surface is significant. This book helps you secure mobile apps by demonstrating the ways in which hackers exploit weak points and flaws to gain access to data. * Understand the ways data can be stored, and how cryptography is defeated * Set up an environment for identifying insecurities and the data leakages that arise * Develop extensions to bypass security controls and perform injection attacks * Learn the different attacks that apply specifically to cross-platform apps
IT security breaches have made big headlines, with millions of consumers vulnerable as major corporations come under attack. Learning the tricks of the hacker’s trade allows security professionals to lock the app up tight. For better mobile security and less vulnerable data, The Mobile Application Hacker’s Handbook is a practical, comprehensive guide.

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Mobile Application (In)security

The Evolution of Mobile Applications

The first mobile phone applications were developed by handset manufacturers; documentation was sparse, and little information existed in the public domain on the operating internals. This can perhaps be attributed to a fear from the vendors that opening the platforms to third-party development might have exposed trade secrets in what was not yet a fully developed technology. The early applications were similar to many of the manufacturer-based apps found on today’s phone, such as contacts and calendars, and simple games such as Nokia’s popular Snake.

When smartphones emerged as the successor to personal digital assistants (PDAs), application development really began to take off. The growth of mobile applications can perhaps be directly attributed to the increased processing power and capabilities of the smartphone combined with the growing demand for functionality driven by the consumer market. As smartphones have evolved, mobile applications have been able to take advantage of the enhancements of the platforms. Improvements in the global positioning system (GPS), camera, battery life, displays, and processor have all contributed to the feature-rich applications that we know today.

Third-party application development came to fruition in 2008 when Apple announced the first third-party application distribution service, the App Store. This followed on from the company’s first smartphone, the iPhone, which had been released the previous year. Google closely followed with the Android Market, otherwise known today as Google Play. Today, a number of additional distribution markets exist, including the Windows Phone Store, the Amazon Appstore, and the BlackBerry World to name but a few.

The increased competition for third-party application development has left the developer markets somewhat fragmented. The majority of mobile applications are platform specific, and software vendors are forced to work with different operating systems, programming languages, and tools to provide multi-platform coverage. That is, iOS applications traditionally have been developed using Objective-C, Android, and BlackBerry applications using Java (up until BlackBerry 10, which also uses Qt) and Windows Phone applications using the .NET Framework. This fragmentation can often leave organizations requiring multiple development teams and maintaining multiple codebases.

However, a recent increase has occurred in the development of cross-platform mobile applications as organizations look to reduce development costs and overheads. Cross-platform frameworks and development of HTML5 browser-based applications have grown in popularity for these exact reasons and, in our opinion, will continue to be increasingly adopted.

Mobile Application Security

Mobile applications are affected by a range of security vulnerabilities, many of which are inherited from traditional attacks against web and desktop applications. However, several other classes of attack are specific to the mobile area and arise due to the way in which mobile applications are used and the relatively unique entry points and the attack surfaces that these apps create. Consider the possible attack surfaces for a mobile application that developers should be aware of and look to defend against:

Most mobile applications perform some kind of network communication, and due to the nature in which mobile devices are used, this communication may often occur over an untrusted or insecure network such as hotel or café Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot, or cellular. Unless data is adequately secured in transit, it may expose an application to a number of possible risks, including disclosure of sensitive data and injection attacks.
Mobile devices are carried with you wherever you go, creating many opportunities for them to be lost or stolen. Mobile application developers must recognize the risks from data recovery attempts against a device’s filesystem. Any residual content that an application leaves on the filesystem, whether it’s through persistent storage or temporary caching, can potentially expose sensitive data to an attacker.
A scenario that is fairly unique to mobile applications is awareness of threats originating from the host device. Malware is rife within the mobile space, particularly in the unofficial distribution markets, and developers must be conscious of attacks from other applications.
Mobile applications can derive input from a large number of possible sources, which creates a significant number of possible entry points. For example, seeing applications accept data from one or many of the following is not uncommon: near field communication (NFC), Bluetooth, camera, microphone, short message service (SMS), and universal serial bus (USB) or quick response (QR) codes to name but a few.

Attacking iOS Applications

In Chapter 2 you learned a great deal about iOS applications, how they function, how they are distributed, and how they are built. This knowledge provides a foundation with which to explore this chapter, which focuses on the following scenarios for attacking iOS applications:

  • Attacking from the network, including using tainted data originating from server-side applications
  • Attacking an application with physical access to the device
  • Attacking an application with interactive access to a device, including from the perspective of another application on the device

When conducting an assessment of any mobile application, consider these three attack surfaces so you can make informed decisions when identifying and exploiting different attack vectors.

Attacking Android Applications


This chapter focuses heavily on attacking applications on a device and their communication channels with Internet servers. This chapter does not cover vulnerabilities found in Internet servers. Dozens of publications have discussed this vast topic in the past, and it will continue to change. Web service vulnerabilities or other APIs that an application may communicate with are also not covered.

Before delving into attacking applications, we need to explore some application security model quirks that will be used as the basis for attack later in the chapter.

Attacking Windows Phone Applications