Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST) tools help DevOps teams to identify and remediate security vulnerabilities in the mobile applications they build. MAST tools combine static and dynamic analysis, as well as automatic and manual testing methods, in order to detect vulnerabilities such as insecure data storage, insufficient encryption, and susceptibility to malware attacks, among others. When a MAST solution identifies security issues, it reports those issues back to the development team—often in real-time—so that they can quickly and effectively remediate the vulnerability, improving the overall security of their application before it goes to market.
Improving security and reducing risk are critical when it comes to developing mobile apps, which are used every day by consumers and businesses alike to store and access critical, sensitive information. The breadth and depth of data stored in mobile apps makes them a lucrative target for cybercriminals, who regularly exploit vulnerabilities in apps to steal the user’s data, or use the compromised app as a launch pad from which they can breach further areas of the user’s network. To prevent such a breach from occurring, it’s critical that development teams implement security testing throughout the software development lifecycle—and a strong MAST tool can help them do this.
In this article, we’ll explore the top 7 MAST tools designed to help you identify and remediate vulnerabilities in your mobile applications. We’ll highlight the key use cases and features of each solution, including automatic and manual scanning, application behavior monitoring, vulnerability reporting, and integrations.
Everything You Need To Know About Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST) Tools (FAQs)
What Is Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST)?
Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST) is the process of identifying security vulnerabilities in mobile applications. To achieve this, MAST tools combine the Static Application Security Testing (SAST) and Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) methods used in the broader application security space, but they adapt those techniques so they can be applied to mobile applications.
MAST solutions then complement those techniques with manual testing and behavioral analysis. Some MAST tools also offer recommendations on how best to remediate security issues to reduce risk. Reducing risk is the aim of the game when it comes to application security testing—not only for individuals, but for businesses, too. Mobile devices are commonplace in today’s hybrid-remote workplace, with employees using mobile apps to store and access sensitive corporate data.
If one of those apps had a vulnerability in it, a threat actor could exploit that vulnerability, tapping into the sensitive data stored in the application. They could even use the compromised app as a platform from which to jump to other areas of the network, stealing more data as they went.
Unfortunately, these types of breaches happen all too often today, and mobile devices are becoming an increasingly popular target for cybercriminals due to the fact that they can access multiple different data sources (e.g., email, social media, direct messaging platforms), are used in user authentication processes, and can provide the attacker access to lots of extended functions (e.g., camera, microphone). This means that MAST is more important now than ever before.
Implementing MAST enables developers to identify and remediate vulnerabilities before their applications are ever released to the public—as well as continuously scan their apps for new vulnerabilities after release. This helps avoid costly data breaches, and also makes it easier (and cheaper!) for developers to fix any issues that crop up.
How Do MAST Tools Work?
MAST solutions combine a number of different tools and techniques for vulnerability scanning. Let’s take a look at each of them.
- Static Application Security Testing (SAST). SAST is a vulnerability scanning technique that automatically analyzes the source code, binary, and byte code of an application, without executing it (i.e., while it’s “static”). SAST known as “white box testing”, which means that it takes into account knowledge of the application’s internal design. It’s used to identify vulnerabilities early in the CI/CD pipeline, in the programming and testing phases.
- Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST). DAST is a vulnerability scanning technique that scans the application during runtime. It does this by simulating real-world attack scenarios, and analyzing the application’s responses to those attacks. Because DAST analyzes the application externally, without any knowledge of the app’s internal design, it’s known as “black box testing”. DAST tools require a functioning application to run, which means they are typically used later on in the development lifecycle, during the pre-production and production phases.
- Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST). IAST is a vulnerability scanning technique that scans apps and APIs in real time, whilst they’re being run (or interacted with) by a real user or an automated test runner. IAST tools test the code behind all of the functionality that the tester interacts with, and links any findings (similar to those a DAST solution may find) to the source code for easier remediation, just like a SAST tool does. Because of this, IAST is known as “grey box” testing. It’s commonly used in the production phase of the development lifecycle.
- Manual Testing. Manual testing involves a human tester interacting with the application as though they were a potential attacker trying to compromise it. It’s often used alongside automated testing to spot design flaws or vulnerabilities that an automated tool might miss due to lack of understanding of an app’s business logic and unique use cases.
- Fuzz Testing. Fuzz testing involves automatically injecting invalid, unexpected, or random data into the application, then analyzing how it responds to those inputs. A black box testing technique, “fuzzing” tries to overwhelm the application to expose crashes, failures, or resource leaks.
Businesses often use a combination of these methods when testing the security of their mobile applications, for example, using an automated tool to conduct the majority of their security testing quickly and efficiently, then using manual tests to fill in the gaps and identify logic and intent issues.
What Features Should You Look For In A MAST Tool?
There are a few key features that you should look for in any strong MAST solution:
- Automated mobile application security testing: Your chosen solution should use a variety of—if not all of—the software tools outlined above to automatically and continuously test and analyze your application for potential vulnerabilities. Automatic testing is cost-effective and efficient, and they’re easily integrated into the CI/CD pipeline so don’t slow down the overall production of your app.
- Penetration testing: If your application needs to built in line with regulatory requirements, you should look for a MAST solution that offers pentesting. Pentesting involves both manual and software-based techniques, and is usually carried out by a third party in order to test your application for something very specific. This makes it well-suited to ensuring your app is meeting regulatory requirements.
- Continuous testing: The best MAST solutions continuously test applications to discover new vulnerabilities. Attackers are always finding new ways to compromise code, so it’s likely that your app won’t be as secure five years down the line as when you first built it—unless, of course, you’ve been continuously testing it.
- Integration: Your chosen solution needs to integrate seamlessly with your CI/CD pipeline, including any other development, tracking, and testing tools you’re using. It also needs to support the programming languages you’re using to develop the app.
- Testing across multiple device types: You need to choose a MAST tool that carries out multiple tests across different device types, to account for differences in the way that different devices might display or run the app.