Mobile Application Penetration testing

What is penetration testing?

A penetration test, also known as a pentest or ethical hacking, is a cybersecurity approach that allows companies to find, test, and highlight security flaws. Ethical hackers are frequently used to conduct penetration tests including mobile application testing. In order to assess the hackability of an organization’s computer systems, network, or web services, these in-house personnel or third parties imitate the techniques and behaviors of a malicious attacker.

Pen testing can also be used by businesses to ensure that they are adhering to compliance standards. Pentesters or ethical hackers use different methods and strategies for different types of penetration testing, we are going to put the light on mobile application penetration testing.

What is mobile application penetration testing?

A mobile app pentest examines both the app, the APIs, and the servers that support it. Cryptographic analysis and reverse engineering are particularly important in a pentest of a mobile or desktop application.

There are three main pen testing methodologies, each of which provides pen testers with a different level of knowledge to execute their assault. For example, white box testing gives the tester complete access to the program, including the source code and configurations; black box testing gives the tester no access to the application, and gray box penetration testing gives the tester a limited amount of access to the application.

So now after defining all the terms, let us break down the topic and start by talking about the stages of a mobile application penetration testing

Stages of a mobile application Penetration testing

The security audit of a mobile application includes the study of the application’s logic, the technical analysis, and the analysis of elements that could be extracted (reverse engineering). We refer to static analysis and dynamic analysis. Common vulnerabilities of mobile applications are related to the following:

  • poorly stored data
  • Unsecure network communications
  • poorly configured interactions with the platform
  • Unsecure configuration (signature, debug, etc.)

So as we said while doing mobile app penetration testing you are going to go through two main stages dynamic and static analysis

Static Analysis – SAST (Static Application Security Testing)

Static Analysis or SAST (Static Application Security Testing) is based on reverse engineering (or back engineering), it consists of extracting static elements from the audited application, such as source code or meta-information. The elements are then analyzed and studied until their functioning is understood.

The pentester’s aim is to modify a feature or to extract information from it in order to find vulnerabilities.

Inspection of the source code is required even on engagements that do not have a source code audit scoped. Analysis of the source code saves time mapping the application and understanding its functionality, revealing information such as the backend databases, server-side information, authentication system, APIs, and the application programming languages and frameworks used.

Dynamic Analysis or DAST (Dynamic Application Security Testing)

Dynamic code analysis, on the other hand, entails testing the application when it is running/execution state. Both white-box and black-box testing approaches can be used to undertake dynamic code analysis. Finding runtime issues such as buffer overflows, null pointers, and other types of vulnerabilities, as well as inspecting each polymorphic state of the application, are the key benefits of dynamic code analysis. On a mobile device, one of the most common methods of dynamic analysis is:

Runtime Manipulation: The most common form of runtime manipulation is to run the application in debug mode and try to break it with various automated approaches. This approach is used on Android with adb or the native Android debugger. To achieve similar results on iOS, technologies such as cycript are used.

Mobile API penetration testing: Mobile APIs are a security priority because they manipulate data and communicate with servers. Securing the API is a necessary step (and the most essential step) in securing a mobile solution.

An API pentest is similar to a Web application pentest, with regard to the tools used and the types of flaws that could be detected. Common vulnerabilities of APIs are related to the following:

  • Authentication and authorization
  • Bypassing implemented restrictions
  • Problems concerning rights and permissions
  • The implementation and use of third-party components

Mobile Penetration testing methodology

The Mobile Application Security Testing can be divided into four stages:

  • Preparation: requires the pentester to obtain information that is crucial in knowing events that lead to the successful exploitation of mobile applications.
  • Evaluation: analysis involves the penetration tester going through the mobile application and recognizing potential entry points and vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
  • Exploitation: penetration tester trying to exploit discovered vulnerabilities to take profit of the mobile application in a manner not meant by the programmer initially didn’t expect.
  • Reporting: it involves reporting and presenting the discovered results in a manner that makes sense to management. That is also the stage that separates a penetration test from an attack. A complete discussion of the four steps follows.


With new vulnerabilities being discovered every day, securing mobile apps is becoming increasingly difficult. Users’ understanding of the security of mobile apps and devices is quite low. As a result, data security in mobile applications has become a must. Penetration testing for mobile apps aids in-app security and reduces the chance of fraud, virus or malware infections, data leaks, and other security breaches.

Penetration testing for mobile applications can detect and assess flaws and misconfigurations that could lead to security issues like code execution, privilege escalation, data leakage, and information exposure.

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