Should we trust our Phones?

Recently I wrote about the number of malware apps for the android operating system. Well, I think the article I found interesting was found interesting by other people. From an article posted in Network World, it appears that HP found that 90% of Apple iOS mobile apps show security vulnerabilities. Now in reading this summary of the HP report in detail, the point made by HP is not that 90% of iOS apps are malware, rather “86% of the apps tested lacked the means to protect themselves from common exploits.”

As companies expand their IT presence into phone and tablet apps, the question of the security of those platforms needs to be answered. After spending the first 20 years of my career as an application developer, I understand the problem. The first thing you do as a developer is find a solution to the problem that is presented to you. The second to last thing you do (the last always being documentation, if you ever do it) is test your code for unexpected usages. And you never think of all of them. I remember being thanked by a user for writing a particular function a year or so after I had released the code. He told me what he was doing with what I had written and my response was “It does that?” The user was using what I had written to do one thing for something completely different and totally unexpected. What was more interesting is that it was working perfectly.

The problem according to HP is that adequate penetration testing is not done. This is probably because of the speed in which apps are being developed and released. Like any other client, mobile apps are at some point going to be connected back to the corporate servers. Then, like any other client, malware on the client may be transported to the server. As noted above, you never know what someone will do with something you wrote.

As an IT professional, you need to be aware of what apps you are recommending/developing do and what they might do under malicious conditions. Although malware protection is a reactive science, you should be as proactive as possible when evaluating mobile apps.

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