Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Smartphone Bank App Security Problems

The benefit of Apple having a closed App Store is their scrutiny of all applications submitted. This has helped maintain a superior security record for the iPhone versus any Android phone. However, a big hole in Apple's vetting system has become evident whereby all smartphone users have been put in danger by poorly designed and coded banking applications. Thank you to the SANS Institute for bringing this issue to my attention on in SANS NewsBites Vol. 12 Num. 89:
--Security Flaws in Smartphone Banking Apps (November 5, 2010)
Researchers have found that several banking applications for Android and iPhone contain security flaws that store account information in plaintext. Attackers could potentially steal sensitive data by luring users to maliciously crafted websites designed to find the information. Of the seven applications inspected in the study, just one, from the Vanguard Group, did not store information in plaintext. The institutions were notified of the problems and reportedly have taken steps to fix the flaws.
[Editor's Note (Pescatore): The Android phone world seems to be trying to compete with the iPhone by saying "Droid does anything - no restrictive App Store." The reality is that the Apple iPhone could actually compete by making the bar a bit higher for iPhone apps, to make sure that the apps don't do silly things like storing account info or passwords in the clear on the phone. I think users are very comfortable with "only" having 20 Tetris games to choose from if they know that none of the 20 are going to send their information to identity thieves.]
Dear Apple,

Please vet submitted Apps more thoroughly for security flaws. Much appreciated!

Dear Google,

'Anything goes' does not trump application security.

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