Mobile Banking and The Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde: Is Your App Safe?

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We live in an era where our lives are intertwined with our devices. With the majority of banking transactions moving from physical to digital environments, the question of just how impenetrable these financial fortresses are to the modern-day digital Bonnie and Clyde is more pressing than ever.

Sophisticated cyber threats, often referred to as ‘Mobile Banking Trojans‘, are honing their craft to target and exploit vulnerabilities in financial applications. This presents an alarming challenge not only for end-users but also for the institutions and their employees responsible for customer safety.

The Banking Trojan Revolution is Here, Are You Prepared?

The term ‘trojan’ brings to mind the ancient Greek story of the deceptive gift that brought about the fall of Troy. Similarly, mobile banking trojans present a false sense of security before they wreak havoc. Financial trojans such as Ginp, Cerberus, and Maza-in are evolving rapidly, becoming more stealthy, sophisticated, and targeted with each iteration. Our latest research uncovered that 29 malware families targeted 1,800 banking applications across 61 countries last year. 

These trojans are no amateurs – they operate with surgical precision, familiar with the minutiae of app security almost as well as the developers who built them. They exploit weaknesses, steal customer credentials and financial information, and extract funds.

Understanding The Adversary

Unlike traditional malware that casts a wide net, mobile banking trojans are precision-engineered with specific apps and regions in mind. They are tailored to the banking app’s user interface and user experience. Their development is increasingly professional, with malicious code often mirroring that of legitimate software.

Their goal is to remain undetected while orchestrating financial fraud. They may use overlay screens to masquerade as the banking app while collecting sensitive information directly from users such as … Alternatively, they may manipulate transaction details before they are sent to the bank, rerouting funds to accounts under the attacker’s control.

The Defense

For mobile app security and development professionals, defending against banking trojans can be challenging. To do so, you need a multifaceted platform that understands adversaries and adapts to constantly changing threats.

Zimperium’s Mobile Application Protection Suite (MAPS) provides mobile app teams with centralized threat visibility and comprehensive in-app protection from development through runtime. It offers four capabilities, including Mobile Application Security Testing (MAST), App Shielding, Key Protection, and Runtime Protection (RASP). It combines both inside-out and outside-in security approaches to help organizations build compliant, secure, and resilient mobile apps.

The Role of AI and Machine Learning

In the arms race against banking trojans, the application of AI and Machine Learning (ML) is proving invaluable. These technologies can analyze vast quantities of data to identify patterns that may indicate fraud more quickly than humanly possible. Zimperium’s Mobile Application Protection Suite provides proactive and adaptive security, combining deterministic, behavioral, and machine learning methods, surpassing outdated signature checks to provide real-time on-device protection. 

Building a Fortress

The onus is on mobile banking app developers to build fortresses that can repel these modern-day digital marauders. It means rethinking security at every stage of app development, from design to deployment and everything in between. The user must be an integral part of this process, with a UI/UX designed to protect as well as serve.

Within Zimperium’s MAPS is zScan, which offers rapid, automated penetration tests for each build, ensuring vulnerabilities are detected and addressed promptly without slowing down releases. zScan focuses on finding vulnerabilities that make the application prone to abuse and exploitation once on the app stores and end-user devices. The scan runs in minutes, so developers can integrate it into DevOps workflows while maintaining development velocity, increasing remediation time, and reducing costs associated with end-of-cycle pen testing.

You Are Only as Safe as Your Weakest Link

At the end of the day, the safety of a mobile banking app is only as good as the weakest link in its security chain. This could be an outdated API, a single unencrypted database entry, or a neglected third-party library.

The security of a mobile banking app requires a holistic approach that touches every aspect of its development and maintenance. It demands attention to detail, vigilance, and a commitment to staying one step ahead of the forces that would challenge its security.

The Future is Zimperium’s Mobile Application Security Suite

The future of mobile banking security is bright, with innovative technologies and approaches constantly emerging. Zimperium MAPS can protect the sanctity of mobile banking for both current and future generations. The digital Bonnie and Clyde may be resourceful, but with a fortified app and an even more fortified team behind it, they’ll find their luck has run out.

In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, complacency is not just a risk – it’s an invitation. As professionals entrusted with the safety and confidence of mobile banking customers, it’s our responsibility to be meticulous in our defenses. After all, it’s not just an app we’re protecting – it’s the financial well-being and trust of its users.

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Melissa Gaffney is part of the marketing team at Zimperium. She has six years of experience within cybersecurity and has previously worked for McAfee, Trellix and Kryptowire. She is a cybersecurity evangelist and has written many blogs and bylines on industry related topics.

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