Penetration testing any application or public-facing asset is one of the more secure approaches towards maintaining cybersecurity. It’s during this testing process that coding errors and/or vulnerabilities that weren’t visible during the development process pop up. Even if the security risks by themselves may not seem very dangerous, they could be combined with other threat vectors to launch systematic attacks against the app users.
The iOS API has specific security requirements for maintaining the protection of user data and key management. Each API also requires a specially programmed testing environment such as the simulator, emulator, etc. All of these steps combine to form a foolproof security barricade for the iOS interface for a better user experience.
5 Steps Included in an iOS Penetration Checklist
Since there’s a lot of information involved in a typical pentesting process, it’s always better to refer to a checklist with detailed steps when tackling the security aspect. Here are some of the more important steps to be followed:
This is the preliminary step of any penetration testing methods as it allows the testing team to understand the application being tested and look out for common vulnerabilities. Here, the application behaviour must be studied in the context of certain inputs along with the storage of sensitive information. You’ll also need to identify the access methods, server-side APIs, other protocols, and frameworks used along with any other applications or interfaces it interacts with. Finally, check if the Position Independent Executable (PIE) is available on the application with the command otool –hv.
All privileges must be evaluated for their necessity and any elevated privileges should be used with careful consideration for their requirement, such as their use in coding. Try to avoid operating the main process through the role of a different user – instead, design a separate helper tool with the required privileges. However, maintain the privileges according to the helper tool’s scope and operate only until needed. Don’t run GUI applications with elevated privileges and minimum its usage in coding as well.
Always make use of TSL/SSL instead of any customized schemes and generate random numbers using a trusted number generator. Use the secure and effective cryptographic algorithms already available since implementing your own is a tricky business due to the complications in ensuring security.
Your user credentials are the first barrier for the hackers and should be protected accordingly. Limit the storage, validation, and modification of passwords by yourself and take up the secure options provided by iOS for this purpose and to ensure better security. Most networks send data in its unencrypted form, so never assume that a network is secure and send over sensitive information such as passwords in the clear text form.
Server authentication is crucial even if it’s shown as optional under the SSL/TLS protocols. This negligence may provide an opening for the hacker to enter the server, spoof it, and cause irreparable damage for your customers and the reputation of the business. Implement and ensure that strict password policies are followed wherever needed such as the minimum number of characters, capital letters, special symbols, expiration, password retrieval methods, etc.
Installing components into the /Library/StartupItemsor/System/Library/Extensions is risky as code in these directories run on root permissions and need to be audited to detect any security vulnerabilities. All plug-ins and libraries need to be installed from verified sources – if the directories from where these are installed aren’t adequately restricted, your application might be exposed to malicious code and accidentally execute it.
Avoid using custom install scripts as these might not possess the required protection for your application.
A basic checklist is always important before stepping into a complicated and expensive procedure such as iOS penetration testing. Prior knowledge and research allows you to interact with the third-party vendor and ensure that you’re receiving all the required security procedures under the process through proper vulnerability checks. It also makes sure that the basic security measures are set in place to avoid compromising your customers and subsequently, your business’ image.
A lot of service providers will also ask about automated and manual testing methods – it’s always better to use this in a combined approach and not resort to just testing methods. Both these methods cover up for the limitations in the other and will make sure that your iOS application remains protected against all kinds of attacks.
Sometimes, testing a vulnerability in-depth may lead you into a rabbit hole, but this is one of the useful parts of a pentesting process as each vulnerability is exploited to its maximum to test its impact on the application. Therefore, the recommendations initiated at the end of the procedure will encompass all such complications and set up a security barrier against common and specialized attacks.