Study highlights poor encryption practices plaguing iOS, Android apps

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An annual report assessing the vulnerability and threat landscape for organizations, zeroed in on encryption issues that often plague mobile applications.

According to HP's Cyber Risk Report 2013, 46 percent of Android and iOS apps used encryption improperly, leaving users' data vulnerable to theft or misuse.

Out of more than 180 iOS and Android apps audited in HP's data set, developers “either completely miss[ed] encryption before storing sensitive information on [a] device or often [relied] on weak algorithms,” to secure mobile data, the report revealed.

A slim portion of apps afflicted with encryption issues last year, 8 percent, were impacted by poorly implemented certificate verification.

“Although a small fraction, it was interesting to see that developers often released applications with [secure sockets layer] SSL certification validation disabled,” the report said.

Last week, Scott Lambert, director of threat research for HP Security Research (HPSR), told in an interview that encryption concerns highlighted in the report reflect kinks in the mobile developer “ecosystem.”

“Overall, encryption is either misused or missing altogether,” Lambert said of mobile apps. “In the mobile developer ecosystem they want to write code once and have it work on multiple mobile platforms, [for instance] on Android or iPhones. You are generating the same types of weaknesses we see in the desktop arena by storing sensitive information in an unencrypted format.”

Lambert added that the trend leads to a lapse in security affecting individuals' information, as well as organizational data.

“It's not just about a [personal] invasion of privacy, but really sensitive information about the place that you work for also being accessed,” Lambert said.

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