Application Attacks

Tips to Avoid Static and Dynamic Mobile Application Attacks

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We use apps for everything, from ride sharing and food delivery to banking and shopping. However, the widespread adoption of mobile apps has also led to an increase in mobile app threats and attacks. Attackers are finding innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities in mobile apps and gain unauthorized access to sensitive user data.

Both Static And Dynamic Mobile Application Attacks pose a serious risk to end users’ privacy and security. While static attacks target the source code of the application, dynamic attacks exploit vulnerabilities at run-time when the application is active. As mobile app developers, we must employ multiple layers of defense to make our apps attack-resistant. This article outlines actionable tips to mitigate the risks from both static and dynamic mobile application attacks.

  • Understand OWASP Mobile’s Top 10 Vulnerabilities

The OWASP Mobile Top 10 list documents the most critical mobile app security risks. As mobile app developers, having in-depth knowledge of these vulnerabilities is the first step towards building secure apps. The ten risks include weaknesses in data storage, authentication, network communication, code quality, platform interactions, etc. Analyzing your app against the OWASP Top 10 will highlight potential loopholes.

  • Implement proper input validation.

Lack of input validation is the primary enabler of injection attacks like SQL injection, command injection, etc. These dynamic attacks involve injecting malicious code by taking advantage of improper data validation. Always sanitize external inputs before processing them. Define validation rules for expected data types, length, format, and range of input values. Escaping special characters also prevents code injection risks.

  • Adopt static and dynamic analysis testing.

Combine static and dynamic application security testing as part of your application development lifecycle. Static analysis involves scanning the source code for vulnerabilities in the pre-compile state. Dynamic analysis evaluates the risks when the application is running. Together, they offer comprehensive risk coverage. Open source and commercial tools are available for identifying high-risk code across the application layers, third-party libraries, and platform integrations.

  • Store sensitive data securely.

The number one risk to mobile data is unauthorized access in the event of lost or stolen devices. Adopt proven encryption standards like 256-bit AES to encrypt all sensitive user data stored locally on mobile devices and during network transmissions. Additionally, minimize data collection and storage footprints on mobile apps. Storing data on backend servers instead of locally on devices reduces exposure significantly. Mandating strong passwords for local storage further minimizes the impact of data breaches.

  • Implement server-side controls.

Excessive client-side processing makes apps vulnerable to reverse engineering, tampering, and manipulation attacks. Implement critical functionality only on the trusted backend server side. Sensitive code within client-side app binaries can be decompiled and exploited for malicious intent. Value validations, business logic processing, cryptography techniques, and access controls should always be enforced on protected servers hosted in secured environments.

  • Sign and Obfuscate Application Code

Code obfuscation protects proprietary source code, whereas code signing ensures the code is from a legitimate source and has not been tampered with. Although obfuscation can be reverse engineered with effort, combining it with app signing raises the complexity bar for attackers attempting to modify code or exploit vulnerabilities by decompiling binaries. Enable app code integrity checks during installation and usage to detect tampering attempts. Periodically apply updates and patches released by code signing authorities.

  • Limit Access to Platform Features

Mobile platforms provide broad access to device capabilities like GPS, NFC, Bluetooth, contact lists, etc. However, apps don’t always need access to all these functions. Limit access using the principle of least privilege to only those device resources that are absolutely essential for the app functionality being built. For example, a calculator app does not need access to SMS and MMS functions. Request permission only when needed, and revoke it after the specific operation is complete.

  • Protect App Transport Layer Security

Data transmission between the mobile app and backend systems takes place over the network transport layer. Both web service APIs as well as raw TCP/IP sockets must utilize transport layer encryption via TLS protocols. Allow only TLS v1.2 and above, supporting strong ciphers like AES or CHACHA, for encrypting all network communication channels. Disable old SSL protocols and weak cipher configurations across all network infrastructure components to close security gaps.

  • Mask account IDs and passwords

Account authentication in apps often requires users to enter login credentials. Such sensitive information should be masked completely from user view when entered via app UI forms. The password characters must be replaced by dots or asterisks instead of the actual characters typed. Account identifiers, which serve as primary keys for database records, should also be partially masked to prevent guessing attacks targeted using identity guessing algorithms.

  • Implement runtime application self-protection.

An emerging area in mobile app security is runtime application self-protection (RASP). RASP provides real-time monitoring of apps while in use for detecting and responding to attacks. Unlike conventional security controls, which focus on perimeter defense, RASP focuses inward on risks originating from within the application environment due to run-time interactions between users, systems, and processes.

By instrumenting RASP safeguards directly into application code, mobile apps can counter dynamic injection attacks and zero-day threats right at runtime. Without the need for any rule configuration, relevant protection triggers are activated automatically based on an analysis of runtime app behavior and context.


As mobile applications become ubiquitous, the threats from data breaches and attacks also grow exponentially. Developers need to embed security into apps by design, following the principles of “privacy by design” and “security by design.” Building proactive defenses via input validations, static analysis, transport layer encryption, code signing, least privilege access, and masking of critical data are some of the best practices for countering the OWASP Mobile Top 10 risks. Going beyond a single layer of defense to adopting a defense-in-depth approach across the people, processes, and technology triad is key to minimizing both static and dynamic mobile app risks today as well as in the future. With security built in as an integral ingredient of the mobile application development lifecycle, organizations can assure the safety of end-user data as well as their own proprietary application assets when deployed across millions of devices with high exposure to threats.

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