Mar 22, 2016

Offensive Security Testing of Mobile Applications

Mobile applications and services are playing a key role in enterprise communications as well as financial and subscriber services. Larger organisations supervise mobile devices of employees for corporate communication and office collaboration. Financial companies offer mobile services to improve customer satisfaction and to shape their new habits. Service providers also supply mobile devices with some applications to offer their subscriber services such as entertainment or communication. However, due to insufficient security enforced on mobile applications, they are also under attack by malware, state-sponsored actors or just causal attackers who are after unauthorised financial benefits or cyber intelligence. Android, Windows and iOS mobile platforms offer security features to improve mobile security, they require full integration of mobile applications though.

This tutorial will be focused on the mobile applications security testing with practical exercises to highlight mobile security vulnerabilities of applications and design. Device security testing requirements including supervised devices, stolen device cases and MDM requirements will be discussed with demonstrations. New security testing techniques for Android, Windows and iOS applications will also be parts of the exercises such as assessing secure storage requirements, analysing multi-platform security integration, reverse engineering of mobile applications, testing cloud services and debugging supervised devices. The exercises are based on sample vulnerable applications as well as real life mobile applications available on the application stores. Improving mobile security testing skills may help software developers, consultants, administrators and architects to improve existing services as well as penetration testers to improve existing security testing services such as mobile applications and MDM security testing.

Tutorial registration (AusCERT Conference 2016)



Mobile applications and devices need a well-designed test platform for security assessments. Various test devices including tablets, mobile phones, virtual machines, embedded devices and watches are required to run target mobile applications. Jailbreaking and customisation of devices is another task to create a flexible test platform. In addition, essential test tools, official SDKs and vulnerable applications should be parts the test lab. In this section, participants will learn fundamentals of mobile security and how can they build a test lab.


Supervised devices, financial applications and subscriber services may need a secure platform integration to manage users’ actions. Secure storage, secure compile, encryption used and platform security objects such as sandboxing, internal services used (e.g. intent, broadcast, content provider, keychain/keystore), fingerprint modules, two-factor authentication and device policies are essential testing targets. Moreover, application specific services, information disclosure issues and functions used should be analysed in security perspective. During exercises, sample applications will be tested for common mobile security vulnerabilities, lack of platform integration, application specific security issues and insecure design.


Reverse engineering for mobile applications is required to identify fundamental security issues such as information disclosure through source code, security bypass using runtime manipulation, insecure security and access management. In addition, it can be used for attacking target applications as malware, bypassing sandboxed information and bypassing security policies such as jailbreak detection and device enforcements. Reverse engineering section will teach fundamentals for mobile security such ARM shellcoding, explaining VMs (e.g. Xamarin/Mono, Dalvik and ART), disassembling mobile applications and debugging using GDB, LLDB and ADB. The exercises in this section will include unpacking and dissembling applications, Drozer exercises, runtime manipulation exercises using Cyript and GDB.


Mobile applications need backend services on cloud or corporate networks to complete their features. However, most of mobile applications have security issues to implement transport security for backend services. Encryption issues such as lack of TLS enforcements, insecure crypto options and missing TLS pinning features are well-known security vulnerabilities for mobile implementations. Exercises in this section are based on using various proxies to intercept mobile traffic, attacking TLS implementations and bypassing TLS pinning.


Device security testing requirements including supervised devices, stolen device cases and MDM requirements will be discussed in this section. Various security problems of MDM solutions, well-known design issues, lack of cloud security and bypassing enforcements will be demonstrated.