Top 10 Vulnerabilities Faced by Android Apps

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Mobile applications are crucial in today’s business environment. Apart from being a source for revenue generation, they help build a vital relationship between companies and their customers.

However, in terms of mobile app security, the figures are distressing:

  • About 75% of apps would fail even a rudimentary security assessment.
  • More than 80% of apps have at least one security shortcoming.
  • Mobile security vulnerabilities have been discovered in more than 90% of ioS and Android apps

Being the popular and much-admired mobile operating system, Android-based apps are always at risk for security threats.  Hackers constantly try to break in and get access to the sensitive information of the users, for their vested interests.

Android application vulnerabilities have been a hitch due to the Google Play’s open format, and also due to the side loading of apps by the users, taking away any supervision in terms of the safety of apps.

Expert testing of iphone app development agency has revealed that in the majority of cases, insecure data storage has been the most common security flaw.

Nowadays mobile phone operating systems employ convoluted security processes.  By default, an installed app can only access files in its own allotted sandbox folders, and user rights do not permit files to be altered from the system.  However, mistakes made while developing and writing code for mobile apps can create security susceptibilities and hackers can exploit those.

Following are the most common security vulnerabilities faced by Android apps:

Android Fragmentation Risks –

In layman’s terms, Android Fragmentation indicates the fact that a huge number of various Android OS versions exist and are operational in the digital world.

Not all the Android users will be able to update their particular OS at the same time.  Also, every app that is deployed in the Android market should be able to run on majority of the OS versions so as to not isolate any users.  Considering the variability of Android versions in existence, one can very easily figure out why Android fragmentation is contemplated as the main weakness of the OS.  According to a report, about 40% of Android users around the world are no longer receiving crucial security updates from Google, which makes them vulnerable to risks of malware attacks, data theft, and a range of security breaches.  This apparently adds stress on the developers as they have to create apps for OSes with unpredictable security.

Pervasive fragmentation in Android has varied and extensive effects on the digital market along with both hardware and software development practices.

Android App Permissions –

Android apps can request extensive permissions which, if granted to a malicious app, can undermine the device, its resources and the data stored on it.

To avoid privacy and security issues, by default, the Android operating system grants minimal privileges to apps.  The apps then need to explicitly request additional permissions from the end-user, to perform privileged tasks, such as making phone calls, sending/reading SMS, accessing the GPS position, etc. Therefore, to avoid suspicion, malicious apps usually request very few (or no) privileges.  However, Android apps can synchronize and delegate tasks amongst each other, through inter-process communication (IPC) messages. The likelihood to request an action from a malicious app, poses a threat of permission re-delegation vulnerabilities.

Customizing the OS –

Although this may sound a bit odd, customization of the operating system is a major security threat faced by Android applications. In order to achieve more functionality, it is very common for users to customize their operating system. However, few users have the propensity to alter the OS by assimilating launchers and customization layers which in turn creates gaps in the security measures.

Downloading Apps from Unauthorized Sources –

Given the open-source nature of Android, building an Android app is a free affair. Due to this Android applications are not just limited to the Google Play Store, they are available on a variety of stores – even the unauthorized ones. It is therefore quite easy for someone to build malicious apps and upload them online.Also, it is important to note that time and again users lapse into unauthorized sites to download apps in order to avoid paying for an app they want. They then unintentionally download malicious apps which would attack their device and sneak into their data.

Lack of Binary Protection –

This is another serious mobile app vulnerability that can unmask the users’ sensitive data to hackers. Utilizing reverse engineering, attackers can get their hands on such sensitive information like business logic, passwords, API keys, etc.  A hacker, by using automated tools, can reverse engineer an app and transform it to execute malicious actions.

Improper Encryption/Insufficient Cryptography –

The two conditions in which a system’s cryptography may get infringed to reveal sensitive data are:

  • Weak underlying algorithm that is used for encryption and decryption.
  • Flaws in the implementation of the cryptographic process.

There are several factors that can result in broken cryptography in mobile apps, such as:

  • Circumventing in-built code encryption algorithms.
  • Improper management of digital keys.
  • Usage of custom or denigrated encryption protocols.

Inadequate cryptographic controls can result in the unauthorized accessing of sensitive data (for instance personal information of the user) from the device.

Improper Session Handling –

In order to make the mobile app user-friendly and easier to use, very often mobile developers allow non-expiring or long user sessions.  Cutting the log-in time reduces the friction for the users.  Also, this helps to moderate the time to purchase and checkout which in turn helps the company to generate more revenue.

For session management, mobile apps utilize OAUTH tokens, SSO services, and cookies.  In order to warrant proper session handling, the mobile app should authenticate the user via the backend and then issue a session cookie to the app.

Improper session handling happens when a hacker could gain access to a session token at any point in a transaction between the mobile application and the backend servers.  An attacker having gained access to the session tokens can imitate a valid user and perform sensitive transactions. In critical cases, a hacker might masquerade as an administrative user and gain access to higher privileges, which could lead to dangerous outcomes.

Obsolete Tools to Test Mobile Applications –

Many developers are still using testing tools for android applications that are only compatible with antiquated Angular 8.0.

JavaScript-Binding-Over-HTTP (JBOH) and JavaScript Binding Annotation –

Network attackers can manipulate the network by taking over HTTL traffic through JavaScript binding (add Javascript Interface) and loading Web view content over HTTP.  Hackers frequently make posts on the user’s social network from the device without needing any special Android permissions in the host app via HTTP or DNS hijacking.

Read more – Apps to Install and Avoid on Your Smartphones

Lack of Multifactor Authentication –

A mobile app is exposed to attack by hackers in absence of proper user authentication.App developers/administrators would install the anti-virus, build a firewall, deploy encryption and carry out periodical vulnerability tests; however, all these efforts will be in vain in the absence of multifactor authentication.

Multifactor authentication is the process of employing an additional layer of security authentication in the form of a confirmation code sent through SMS or answer to a personal question used for authentication.  Multifactor authentication is crucial to ensure that the account is only accessible to the user who owns it and not to anyone else.

It is perspicuous to recognize that despite considerations, some security challenges carry a greater chance to be missed. Therefore, it necessitates app development teams to espouse a secure Android development process.

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