Last Friday, there was an unusual joint announcement from Apple and Google providing details of a new phone API for Covid-19 contact tracing via Bluetooth. The protocol allows mobile phones to continually transmit Bluetooth advertisements to one another. This includes a proximity identifier derived from randomly generated keys that can be held secretly on each device. If a phone user is later diagnosed with Covid-19, they are able to upload the daily tracing keys for those days when they might have been infectious.
With smartphone usage now a global phenomenon, mobile apps and connectivity are common denominators binding people the world over. And as the world’s nations grapple with the common dilemma of how to manage the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus or COVID-19, it’s little wonder that governments and health authorities across the planet are turning to mobile app technology as a weapon in their crisis management arsenal.
In recent weeks we have been following the race to build contact tracing smartphone apps in the worldwide fight against COVID-19. Such apps are a powerful weapon in controlling the growth of infection by automating the scaling of the contact tracing process. By tracking interactions between people, the apps allow instant user notification if they have recently been in close proximity with anyone later diagnosed with COVID-19. This allows immediate social distancing or self isolation measures to be instituted for that potential infected user, slowing the spread of the virus. It would have been better if these apps were widely available during the initial phase of the pandemic, but they may still have a crucial role to play as we eventually emerge from full lockdown We have some specific suggestions about how this can be achieved while maintaining citizen anonymity.
At a time when the world could use some good news, any good news, the central health crisis continues to get compounded by a persistent wave of cyberattacks targeted at companies and their employees. Not even healthcare institutions and agencies at the center of responding to the emergency have been spared, with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and even a UK-based coronavirus testing facility being targeted by cyber profiteers.
As mobile apps become increasingly paramount to operating successfully in today’s markets, a big question mark over API security is raised. Gartner has previously predicted that by 2022, “API abuses will be the most-frequent attack vector resulting in data breaches for enterprise web applications.” Since every mobile app out there is powered by APIs, securing them is clearly a top priority.
“It's the wave of the future,” declared the US State of West Virginia's Secretary of State of following a limited deployment of a blockchain-based voting app for the state's general midterm elections. For cybersecurity and election integrity advocates, however, the move was “an example of all the things states shouldn’t do when it comes to securing their elections.”
In my previous article, Using a Reverse Proxy to Protect Third Party APIs, I left you without a solution to secure the purple API key inside the mobile devices in the graphic above from being extracted by the bad guy wearing the orange hat. As promised I am going to show you in this article how you can implement a solution for it.
Rather than securing the purple API key, wouldn’t it be better not to have it in the first place or at least to make sure that if it is extracted then it can’t be used at scale by malicious actors? Well that's what a Mobile App Attestation solution is for, and we will start this article by explaining what it is. Spoiler alert: it allows you to secure your API without needing to ship any type of secret inside your mobile app or, if you already have a secret in your mobile app, it allows you to ensure that the secret can’t be used to abuse your API.
In 2015, “white hat” hackers remotely attacked a Jeep Cherokee and left it paralyzed on the side of a highway. They returned in 2016 with an in-vehicle hack to prove that things could get much worse. In 2017, researchers from an IT security company analyzed some of the most popular mobile apps from car manufacturers to find that every app was vulnerable to attacks in some shape or form. In 2018, the number of Black Hat attacks overtook White Hat incidents for the first time in the history of Smart Mobility.
In this article you will start by learning what Third Party APIs are, and why you shouldn’t access them directly from within your mobile app. Next you will learn what a Reverse Proxy is, followed by when and why you should use it to protect the access to the Third Party APIs used in your mobile app.