Mobile Apps Represent a New Threat Target

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-06-05

IBM's New Software Tightens Security for Mobile Devices

ORLANDO, Fla. €” IBM  (NYSE: IBM) announced new software to help organizations develop mobile applications that are more secure by design.

With the new software, IBM customers can build security into the initial design of their mobile applications so that vulnerabilities will be detected early in the development process. The announcement, made at the IBM Innovate 2012 conference here, further expands IBM's strategy to provide clients with a mobile platform that spans application development, integration, security and management.

When IBM launched the IBM Security Systems Division last year, a key goal for the organization was to eliminate silos that existed in the security space. Patrick Vandenberg, program director for IBM Security, said IBM has done just that and the new mobile technology is an example of that.

€œBefore now, every group had its own security solutions in their own silos, Vandenberg said. €œSo consumption of security was difficult.€ Yet, all of that has changed now, he said.

Today, with more than 5 billion mobile devices in the world€”and only 2 billion computers€”the shift to mobile devices as the primary form of connecting to corporate networks is increasing rapidly. Securing those devices is becoming a top priority for security executives and CIOs. As companies embrace the growing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, the need to secure the applications that run on these devices is becoming more critical. According to the 2011 "IBM X-Force Trend and Risk Report,"   mobile exploits increased by 19 percent in 2011. In addition, according to the recently released data from the IBM Center for Applied Insights study, 55 percent of respondents cited mobile security as a primary technology concern over the next two years.

The rapid consumerization of mobile endpoints, applications and services has created the urgent need to secure corporate applications on employees' devices, IBM said. With the latest release of the IBM Security AppScan portfolio, IBM now offers a robust application development security solution, allowing clients to integrate mobile application security testing throughout the application lifecycle.

"We are seeing increased demand from companies looking to extend their corporate applications to mobile devices," said Stuart Dross, vice president of sales and marketing at Cigital, in a statement. "The ability to scan native and hybrid mobile applications for security vulnerabilities is a major step forward in securing sensitive data and mitigating security risks."

Meanwhile, mobile applications represent a new threat target, since they carry a higher risk of attack compared with Web application vulnerabilities, IBM said. Attackers are increasingly focusing on mobile applications because many organizations are not aware of the security risks introduced by the most basic mobile applications. Beyond the traditional threats, for example, a hacker could perform a SQL injection or scripting attack on the applications. Mobile applications also come under attack from malware and phishing, or scanning QR codes with malicious scripts. Additionally, mobile applications have vulnerabilities specific to mobile devices because they often store sensitive data that can be leaked to malicious applications. This data, once stored locally, typically is outside the protection of the corporate security programs. The new AppScan analysis capabilities will find these vulnerabilities to help developers build more secure mobile applications. 

Mobile Apps Represent a New Threat Target

€œProviding clients with the ability to scan mobile applications for vulnerabilities--including applications developed in-house and outsourced is the next step of our mobile strategy," said Marc van Zadelhoff, vice president of strategy and product management for IBM Security Systems, in a statement. "With more than 120,000 of our own employees accessing IBM's network through mobile devices, we have had to focus heavily on developing a way for employees to work safely and securely."

With this move, IBM claims to be the first vendor to offer static application security testing (SAST) for Android applications, which allows clients to conduct their own testing for mobile applications. In the past, for mobile application security testing to be done, clients would have to send their applications and software IP, or intellectual property, to an off-site vendor to test for vulnerabilities. This approach doesn't scale, and the response time is too slow, as mobile applications undergo constant revisions and updates. Organizations need to address mobile application security testing in-house early in the software development life cycle.

In addition to the mobile application testing capabilities, integration with IBM's QRadar Security Intelligence Platform allows for increased Security Intelligence when an application is moved into production. And by correlating known application vulnerabilities with user and network activity, QRadar can automatically raise or lower the priority score of security incidents.

Meanwhile, IBM also is offering a new cross-site scripting (XSS) analyzer, which uses a learning mode to quickly evaluate millions of potential tests from less than 20 core tests. This new XSS analyzer finds more XSS vulnerabilities faster than any previous version of AppScan, Vandenberg said. New static analysis capabilities help companies adopt broad application security practices through simplified on-boarding of applications and empowering nonsecurity specialists to test faster than with prior releases.

IBM also offers predefined and customizable templates that provide development teams the ability to quickly focus on a rule set prioritized by their security teams, helping corporations focus on key issues for them across their organization.

In addition to the QRadar integration, AppScan offers integration points with IBM Security Network IPS and IBM Security SiteProtector, and is a regular complement sold with IBM Guardium and IBM Security Access Management solutions for end-to-end application security. The approach is to provide a comprehensive and integrated security framework for applications across the development and production lifecycle.

IBM has a broad portfolio of mobile security solutions, ranging from helping secure data on the device, to running safer mobile applications. IBM has been steadily investing in the mobile space for more than a decade, both organically and through acquisitions, to build a complete portfolio of software and services that delivers enterprise-ready mobility for clients.

IBM Security AppScan will be generally available this quarter.

Vandenberg said in a mobile environment, developers not only have to be concerned with the management and security of the mobile device, but also secure access to the network and the security of the mobile apps themselves.

However, Jack Danahy, director for advanced security for IBM Security Systems, said mobile developers tend to be much more security-conscious than typical enterprise developers. €œWhat€™s changed is that break-ins are so much a part of their public consciousness that they just naturally deal with security more.

€œThe young crop of developers has never known things any other way,€ Vandenberg agreed. €œThere needs to be a security requirements discussion before coding is ever done€

€œWhat we€™re looking for aspirationally is that requirements for security obtain peer status with functional requirements.€

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