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The relevance of mobile applications is continuously growing. Researchers predict that by 2025, App Store spending could reach $200 billion. Not only that, but mobile apps are becoming easier to offer, as almost half of small businesses in the US provide a mobile app for customer use in 2022.
It’s a tale as old as time: As the popularity of mobile apps grows, so do the threats against them. To ensure your mobile apps are adequately defended, avoid putting all of your security eggs into one basket by only conducting an annual penetration test (pen test).
Instead, combine pentesting and an automated mobile application security testing (MAST) tool throughout the whole software development life cycle to complement your ongoing security strategy.
While they both work towards a common goal of strengthening your security posture, the process of pentesting and MAST have a variety of differences worth noting.
For many mobile app development teams, pentesting is a popular start to a security program. It provides an external security assessment of your app if you don’t have the time, resources, or security expertise necessary to assess the security posture of your app on your own.
Pen tests are commonly conducted by ethical hackers — security experts who break into (or penetrate) an app, device, system, or code with permission from the target’s owner. In this specific context, the ethical hacker would execute an attack while providing the security team with full visibility throughout, producing the information and insights needed to measure how vulnerable their mobile app is to threat actors. The quality and depth of a mobile app pen test will vary greatly depending on the time spent and the experience of the security professional you use.
In contrast to putting your mobile app security testing in the hands of an external team, an automated mobile application security testing tool allows you to take full ownership of the security testing process. A MAST solution provides developers with the resources and tools needed to quickly find vulnerabilities, harden code, and mitigate risks through static and dynamic analysis.
With a tool doing the testing for you, your security program will become cost-effective and manageable enough to gain more consistent feedback on your app’s security posture so you can put focus on other tasks that can’t be automated.
As both pentesting and MAST share a common goal, developers and security teams may think that they only need to choose one over the other. But the most effective and efficient way to ensure that your mobile apps are as secure as possible is to use pentesting and MAST in tandem.
While pentesting allows mobile app development teams to quickly gain outside security knowledge and expertise, it can be costly and time-consuming. The cost of pentesting mobile apps can vary between $1,500 and $5,000 and can take up to 10 days to perform. Finding and fixing issues late in the process or when apps are in the market is very expensive and cost increases exponentially.
By pairing pentesting efforts with an automated MAST tool, you can continuously find and fix vulnerabilities in real-time. This method is cost-effective, makes vulnerabilities easier to address, and greatly reduces the workload that often comes from pentesting (since you’ll already have an idea of your mobile app’s security posture going in). You may ask, why do I need pentesting if I already have an automated security testing tool? The answer is, not all security tests can be fully automated, so to get an exhaustive security assessment, some manual tests should be performed by an internal or external pen test team. In some cases, a pen test report is also a key requirement for compliance purposes.
To continuously identify the weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and prevent threats that could impact your mobile app, you’ll need the right solution.
An automated MAST tool like AppSweep will provide fast, accurate, and actionable feedback to dramatically improve the security posture of your mobile app throughout the development cycle.
Developers can intuitively review and analyze their mobile app security scan results through navigating the class structure and app package, which are common concepts from any developer’s integrated development environment (IDE). AppSweep can quickly understand the dependencies in your code by using your mapping files to view package hierarchy, deobfuscate names, and more.
Additionally, gaining actionable insights early in the software development life cycle (SDLC) will help prevent the interruptions and context-switching required for late-stage security testing. This reduces your workload and helps release apps faster.
To learn more about how a MAST tool like AppSweep could improve your mobile app security posture, check out the most common security issues we found from reviewing over 100,000 findings from the first 45 days of AppSweep’s release.