Mobile Application Penetration Testing Tools & Service Providers

Introduction to Mobile Application Penetration Testing:

A decade ago, due to the evolution of technology, all of us started to understand more about the IT industry and that was the time when we all got to know about how and what could be done using computer systems.

Slowly, it became possible to transfer money online using the internet instead of visiting a bank in person and waiting in queue to perform a transaction. Owing to high demand, all the banks started to operate online. But, did we all feel comfortable and secured to use this feature right from the beginning?

The answer to this would be a big “NO”. When it comes to money matters, we all think twice or even more than that.

Mobile Application Penetration Testing

When something is newly launched, we need to ensure if it is secured in all aspects, all the websites that we use nowadays go through several layers of security checks before they are exposed to the public.

However, the trend is changing again and we want everything to happen at a click of a button which is possible using Mobile Apps. Now, how do you ensure all the mobile apps you download from play store or iStore are safe to use. With any download comes the risk of malicious attacks.

For this reason and in order to ensure if their app gets preferred over the others, the app developers should ensure that their apps are successfully security tested before they actually publish for download.

This article will give you a detailed explanation of the types of mobile apps, what should be expected from penetration testing of mobile apps? how can testing be conducted? along with the service providers who offer services for mobile app testing and list of some common tools which can be used for testing.

Mobile Apps and their Types

Before we move on deep into how to pen test a mobile app, it is very important to ensure that you have some background knowledge about Mobile Apps.

Let’s understand the different types of Mobile Apps.

#1) Native Mobile Application

Native App means the apps that are created for a particular platform like iOS or Android, written in a particular programming language and they can be installed from the respective stores like Google’s play store or Apple’s app store.

They offer the most user-friendly experience and can be operated simply by clicking on their icon. Facebook, Instagram, Angry Birds etc., are some good examples of Native apps.

The problem with these apps is that they do not work with all type of devices like if an app is created for Android, it will not work on iOS and vice- versa. Native Apps can also work without Internet connectivity.

#2) Mobile Browser Based Application/Mobile Web Apps

Mobile Web app is basically an app that runs on a browser and they are device independent. The Same app can be run using an iOS device or an Android Smartphone.

Mobile apps are mostly written in HTML5. These are easy to be published because this doesn’t need permission from Google or Apple to allow on their store.

Web apps can directly be downloaded using the download button available on the websites. The best example includes our shopping sites like Flipkart, Amazon etc.

#3) Mobile Hybrid Application

These are the applications which are partly native and partly non-native.

They can be downloaded from stores as well as run in a browser. The benefit of developing these type of apps is that it supports the cross-platform development and hence reduces the overall development cost, which means it allows reusing the same code component on a different device.

Also, mobile apps can be developed quickly. In addition, hybrid mobile apps allow you to get the features of both native and web apps.

Review some of the known dummy vulnerable mobile applications

In fact, there are some known vulnerable applications which are created to give users an idea of Mobile Testing.

These apps have vulnerabilities which are intentional to help users/testers practice and enhance their pen test knowledge. You can refer to iMAS, GoatDroid, DVIA, MobiSec etc, for an in-depth knowledge.

#1) DVIA 

Click here for the official website.

#2) GoatDroid

Click here for the official website.

#3) MobiSec 

Click here for the official website.

What Should You Expect from your Test?

The reason we test is to find out as many issues as we can and to ensure that the issues are found before it actually impacts the end users. The main reason for getting mobile security issue is because developers want to create more useful apps than the secured apps and there are chances of lack of security awareness while developing the apps.

In this section, I am going to cover the vulnerabilities/Security Flaws that you should look out to find as part of the testing.

Common Security flaws to look for:

  • Data Storage format – It all depends on which format the data is stored i.e whether in plain text or other formats. For E.g., Android stores username and password in plain text which makes it more vulnerable.
  • Stored Sensitive Data – Sometimes developers hard-code passwords or store sensitive information which can get compromised easily.
  • Bad Coding Methods – Usage of Open SSL library which is vulnerable to FREAK attack is one of the things to check for.
  • Data Encryption – It is important to ensure if the data transmission is done in a secure way, and stored data are encrypted properly.
  • Weak Password Creation – Apps should have a mechanism to check for password strength. Weak passwords are always vulnerable to attacks.
  • Data Synching – Transmission of data or data synching should be done via a secure method. The way in which the data is transmitted or synched with the cloud can lead to attacks and hence data loss may occur.

Testing for mobile app still remains a challenge when compared to web testing because for the web, we have several scanners available and mobile apps being fairly new in the market, we are still creating cheat sheets or coming up with new ways to scan and have more secured mobile apps created for the end users.

Steps to Penetration Test Mobile Apps

Given below are the various steps involved in Pen testing Mobile Apps.

#1) Test Environment Setup

Test Environment setup is a process in itself and can be a separate topic for reading. I haven’t mentioned much details about setting up the test environment here because it will differ based on the testing, but I have included it here because I didn’t want to completely miss this step.

Some of the testing types can be performed on a real device whereas some can be done on Emulators. Also, it differs based on which platform we plan to test, like for Android applications we may need to install SDK’s and for iOS, we will require jailbreaking.

#2) Discover /Application Understanding

Each of the mobile application will work differently, so the very first step in your testing should be to discover or find out more information about the application under test.

Discover understanding should also involve identifying on how the application connects to the OS and the backend server. It should include checking for libraries used, understanding the platform better, and finding out if the application is a native/web/hybrid type. This step can also be called as “Information Gathering step”.

#3) Application Analysis/Assessment

As a part of this step, install the application on the mobile device, and take a snapshot of the file system and registry both before and after installation.

Analyse the information available to identify the areas of weakness and which can be exploited, likewise understand how sensitive information is stored, how data is transmitted, how interaction with the third party is taking place etc.

#4) Reverse Engineering

This will be required if the tester doesn’t have the source code.

Code reviews will be planned to understand how the application functions internally. The intention of doing this is to search for vulnerabilities.

#5) Traffic Interception

In this step, configure the device to route through a proxy, which should help in intercepting traffic and finding out flaws like injection or authorization issues.

#6) Exploitation

Once analysis and proxy setting are done, the exploitation can be done where you behave like a hacker, simulate attacks and try to compromise the system. Exploit the system and perform malicious activities.

#7) Reporting

The above step would form the main testing step, so the last step should be to compile a report mentioning about all the findings.

A good report should consist of details of all the vulnerabilities found along with business and technical risk assessment score. Another important point which can be mentioned is a recommendation for the fix.

Mobile Application Penetration Testing Service Providers

Below mentioned is a list of the Service Providers of Mobile Application Penetration Testing.

#1) Appsec

Click here for the official website.

#2) Procheckup

Click here for the official website.

#3) Praetorian

Click here for the official website.

#4) Cigital

Click here for the official website.

#5) Wesecureapp

Click here for the official website.

#6) Netspi

Click here for the official website.

#7) CyberChops

Click here for the official website.

#8) ApprayTechnologies

Click here for the official website.

#9) Jumpsec

Click here for the official website.

Mobile Application Penetration Testing Tools

There are several Mobile Application Penetration Testing tools that are available in the market.

Given below are few among them.

#1) Core Impact Pro (Android, iOS, and Windows)

Click here for more details on this tool.

#2) ZANTI (Android)

Click here for more details on this tool.

#3) Ianalyzer (iOS)

Click here for more details on this tool.

#4) DVIA (iOS)

Click here for more details on this tool.

Other Tools

  • Port Scanner (Android)
  • Fing (Android & iOS)
  • DroidSheep (Android)
  • Intercepter-NG (Android)
  • Nessus (Android)
  • Droid SQLi (Android)
  • Orweb (Android)


Hope you all enjoyed reading this informative article on mobile app testing. In my opinion, mobility testing is still an area which hasn’t been explored completely.

In a way, we can consider this to have brought in a change and give us an opportunity to rethink our capabilities and start thinking out of the box and different from our traditional testing approach.

Developers are putting their creativity and coming up with different variations of apps, so even we as testers have a lot more to do!

Hope this article would have enriched your knowledge on Mobile App Penetration Testing!!