More Mobile Apps Means More Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

When you travel outside your corporate network with your mobile device, you are much more vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. This is how attackers intercept data as it’s being passed from a mobile device to a server.

Of course, this is problematic for a number of reasons. CSO Online demonstrated how easy it is to steal all sorts of information from this connection, including login credentials, private data and confidential documents.

More Devices, More Problems

There are several issues at play here that are worth considering for security professionals. First, mobile endpoints are more vulnerable to these kinds of attacks, because bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies make it harder for IT to manage devices in the corporate network. As the number of mobile devices increases, so do the potential sources of infection.

Second, because users bring their own phones and tablets to work, they feel comfortable downloading whatever applications they wish to these devices. Sometimes those apps are infected with malware. Because so many apps have been compromised, millions of users are exposed to man-in-the-middle and other attacks.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack Targets iOS Apps

Many mobile apps are vulnerable to a newly discovered man-in-the-middle attack. Earlier this year, security researcher Will Strafach reported that more than 70 different iOS apps were vulnerable to a very sophisticated type of attack involving forged Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificates. If a user downloads such an app and is on the same wireless network as an attacker, his or her mobile device could be compromised.

Since Strafach published his analysis, a few companies, such as HipChat and Foxit PDF, fixed their apps. However, most of the programs he originally identified have yet to be patched.

Sloppy Security

Finally, app developers are sometimes sloppy. It isn’t just the app that contains potential exploits — if it connects to a database, that could be a source of compromise as well. Appthority recently discovered more than 1,000 apps that could potentially leak data from unsecured servers.

Clearly, we have a long way to go to improve the security of mobile devices and the apps that run on them. Hopefully, knowing about these issues will help increase your vigilance.

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David Strom

Security Evangelist

David is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, video blogger, and online communications professional who also advises numerous startup and well-established technology ventures. He began his career as an in-house IT analyst and has founded numerous technology print and online publications, such as editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine and as part of the launch team of PC Week's Connectivity section. David has written two books and spoken around the world at various conferences and been on national radio and television talking about network technologies. He continues to build websites and publish articles on a wide variety of technology topics geared towards networking, security, channel, PC enthusiasts, OEMs, and consumers. In addition to these activities, he consults to vendors and evaluates emerging technologies, products, strategies, and trends to help position and improve their technology products.