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How secure are the most popular crypto currencies mobile apps?

November 29, 2017

We tested the most popular crypto currency mobile apps from Google Play for common vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Over 90% may be in trouble.


Introduction

Over 1300 crypto currencies exist today with over $328,331,711,597 market capitalization (at the moment of this post publication). One of the most popular and oldest cryptocurrency - Bitcoin has reached $10,000 price after several months of fluctuation, but continuous and steady growth.

A wide spectrum of mobile applications for crypto currencies were released during the last few years by various startups, independent digital experts and even licensed banking institutions. The total number of crypto currency applications in Google Play designed to store, process or trade crypto currencies has exceeded two thousand and continues to grow.

Obviously, cybercriminals could not pass on such an outstanding opportunity and are aggressively targeting all possible stakeholders of the emerging digital currency market.

Almost every week a new crypto currency exchange is compromised, causing multi-million losses to people who entrusted their coins to the exchange. Fraudsters leverage a new trend of ICO (discouraged by the European Securities and Markets Authority), gather quick cash from naïve investors and disappear just after.

Such events have already become a daily routine in the turbulent world of the new Klondike, exacerbating less frequent but highly detrimental weaknesses in crypto currencies that may wipe out few hundreds millions at once.


Research and Free Online Service to Test Mobile Apps

High-Tech Bridge decided to analyze another attack vector on digital currencies and their proponents: mobile applications. For this purpose, we used our free online service Mobile X-Ray that performs dynamic, static and interactive testing or mobile applications for various vulnerabilities and weaknesses including OWASP Mobile Top 10, as well as analyzes potential risks to user privacy.

We took the most popular crypto currency mobile applications from Google Play from the “Finance” category and tested them for security flaws and design weaknesses that can endanger the user, his or her data stored on the device or send/received via the network, or the mobile device itself.


First 30 applications with up to 100,000 installations

  • 93% of applications contained at least 3 medium-risk vulnerabilities
  • 90% of applications contained at least 2 high-risk vulnerabilities
  • 87% of applications were vulnerable MITM attacks exposing app data to interception
  • 66% of applications contained hardcoded sensitive data including passwords or API keys
  • 57% of applications were using functionality that can jeopardize user privacy
  • 70% of applications did not have any hardening or protection of their backend (APIs or web services)
  • 80% of application were sending [potentially] sensitive data without any encryption over HTTP
  • 37% of applications were sending [potentially] sensitive data with weak or insufficient encryption
  • 77% of applications were still using SSLv3 or TLS 1.0 banned by PCI DSS
  • 44% of applications had backends (APIs or web services) vulnerable to POODLE vulnerability
  • 100% of applications didn’t have any protection against reverse-engineering

The most popular vulnerabilities are (from OWASP Top 10):

  • M1 - Improper Platform Usage
  • M5 - Insufficient Cryptography
  • M2 - Insecure Data Storage

First 30 applications with up to 500,000 installations

  • 66% of applications contained at least 3 medium-risk vulnerabilities
  • 87% of applications contained at least 2 high-risk vulnerability
  • 37% of applications were vulnerable MITM attacks exposing all data to interception
  • 34% of applications contained hardcoded sensitive data including passwords or API keys
  • 17% of applications were using functionality that can jeopardize user privacy
  • 77% of applications did not have any hardening or protection of their backend (APIs or web services)
  • 37% of application were sending [potentially] sensitive data without any encryption over HTTP
  • 24% of applications were sending [potentially] sensitive data with weak or insufficient encryption
  • 70% of applications were still using SSLv3 or TLS 1.0 banned by PCI DSS
  • 14% of applications had backends (APIs or web services) vulnerable to POODLE vulnerability
  • 100% of applications didn’t have any protection against reverse-engineering

The most popular vulnerabilities are (from OWASP Top 10):

  • M1 - Improper Platform Usage
  • M2 - Insecure Data Storage
  • M5 - Insufficient Cryptography

First 30 applications with over 500’000 installations

  • 94% of applications contained at least 3 medium-risk vulnerabilities
  • 77% of applications contained at least 2 high-risk vulnerability
  • 17% of applications were vulnerable MITM attacks exposing all data to interception
  • 44% of applications contained hardcoded sensitive data including passwords or API keys
  • 66% of applications were using functionality that can jeopardize user privacy
  • 94% of applications did not have any hardening or protection of their backend (APIs or web services)
  • 66% of application were sending [potentially] sensitive data without any encryption over HTTP
  • 50% of applications were sending [potentially] sensitive data with weak or insufficient encryption
  • 94% of applications were still using SSLv3 or TLS 1.0 banned by PCI DSS
  • 0% of applications had backends (APIs or web services) vulnerable to POODLE vulnerability
  • 100% of applications didn’t have any protection against reverse-engineering

The most popular vulnerabilities are (from OWASP Top 10):

  • M1 - Improper Platform Usage
  • M2 - Insecure Data Storage
  • M5 - Insufficient Cryptography

Conclusions and Remediation

Ilia Kolochenko, CEO and Founder of High-Tech Bridge, comments: “Unfortunately, I am not surprised with the outcomes of the research. For many years, cybersecurity companies and independent experts were notifying mobile app developers about the risks of “agile” development that usually imply no framework to assure secure design, secure coding and hardening techniques or application security testing.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A mobile app usually contains much less exploitable vulnerabilities than its backend. Weakness in a mobile application may lead to breach of the mobile device or its data, while a vulnerable API on the backend - may allow attackers to steal the integrity of users’ data.

To minimize security vulnerabilities and weaknesses in mobile applications, developers should carefully plan and rigorously implement security and privacy from the early stages of development. Internal and external application security testing is also critically important and should be performed on a regular basis. Requirements of various regulations, such as GDPR, should also be assessed and duly implemented.”

At High-Tech Bridge, to facilitate the uneasy work of mobile application developers, we have launched the Mobile X-Ray free online service with SAST, DAST and IAST capabilities for native and hybrid Android and iOS applications. Our award-winning ImmuniWeb® Mobile provides the most comprehensive manual testing of mobile app and its backend, enhanced by our proprietary machine learning technology.

Any of the applications used in the research, as well as any other applications, can be re-tested via our free service (no registration required).


User Comments
Add Comment
4 responses to "How secure are the most popular crypto currencies mobile apps?"
Luis 2017-11-29 19:34:17 UTC Comment this
This article is useless if you don't actually list the apps.
High-Tech Bridge 2017-11-29 22:50:12 UTC Comment this
You can test any of these (or any other) apps yourself in one click here: www.htbridge.com/mobile
anon 2017-11-30 00:41:26 UTC Comment this
Luis wrote:
This article is useless if you don't actually list the apps.
agree. A simple list so users can check their own installs would be useful.
Can't imagine why it's not included in this article.
Groon 2017-12-04 15:51:14 UTC Comment this
I can easily imagine why it's not included: The thrust of the article is NOT that there are a few insecure apps. Quite the contrary. The lesson here is that the vast majority of cryptocurrency apps have dangerous security vulnerabilities. Putting a list of just a few apps with such vulnerabilities could easily mislead readers into thinking that if their app wasn't on the list, they were "OK". Therefore, the author very sensibly published the URL where you can test any app you want: www.htbridge.com/mobile
and didn't single out any particular apps.
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