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Security firm bids to map mobile app security flaws

30 July 2010  |  6202 views  |  0 Fingers on smartphone keypad

Smartphone security outfit Lookout has unveiled an 'App Genome Project', mapping mobile applications in order to identify potential threats.

The issue of application security was highlighted earlier this week when Citi admitted a flaw in its iPhone app resulted in it improperly storing customer account information.

Unveiling its project at the Black Hat security conference this week, Lookout says it has so far scanned nearly 300,000 and fully mapped almost 100,000 applications for the iPhone and Google Android platforms.

The research shows Android apps are generally less likely than those for the iPhone to be capable of accessing a person's contact list or retrieving their location.

The App Genome Project also found that a large proportion of applications contain third party code with the capability to interact with sensitive data in a way that may not be apparent to users or developers. Nearly half - 47% - of free Android applications included this third party code, compared to just 23% for the iPhone.

Lookout says it has found a series of wallpaper applications in the Android Market that are gathering seemingly unnecessary data and transmitting it to a server over an unencrypted network connection.

However, in a blog, Kevin MaHaffey, CTO, Lookout, stresses that "while this sort of data collection from a wallpaper application is certainly suspicious, there's no evidence of malicious behaviour".

John Hering, CEO, Lookout, says: "The App Genome Project is an important step in securing our mobile phones against threats. With a real time database, we can quickly identify threats in the wild and swiftly move to protect consumers. Early results point to the need for developers to be more aggressive about protecting consumers' personal information, including what information is accessed, what is sent off the phone and how it is stored."

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