Security Experts:

Focus of Endpoint Breaches Will Shift to Mobile Devices by 2017: Gartner

At the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit taking place in the United Arab Emirates, the IT research and advisory firm's analysts are discussing the latest mobile security trends and threats.

Gartner predicts that mobile devices will become increasingly targeted by cybercriminals in the upcoming years, and warned organizations of some risks they face unless they take measures. Gartner believes that by 2015, over 75% of mobile applications will fail basic security tests.

Experts point out that enterprise employees often use insecure applications that are capable of performing business functions and accessing sensitive information.

“Enterprises that embrace mobile computing and bring your own device (BYOD) strategies are vulnerable to security breaches unless they adopt methods and technologies for mobile application security testing and risk assurance,” noted Dionisio Zumerle, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Most enterprises are inexperienced in mobile application security. Even when application security testing is undertaken, it is often done casually by developers who are mostly concerned with the functionality of applications, not their security.”

Zumerle believes that companies specializing in static and dynamic application security testing will enhance their services to address the challenges of verifying mobile apps. A new testing technology, called behavioral analysis, which monitors running apps for malicious and risky activities, is also increasingly used. However, experts warn that the server layer of mobile applications must also be tested to ensure that they don't pose a risk.

"Today, more than 90 percent of enterprises use third-party commercial applications for their mobile BYOD strategies, and this is where current major application security testing efforts should be applied,"  Zumerle explained. "[Enterprises and individuals] should download and use only those applications that have successfully passed security tests conducted by specialized application security testing vendors."

While currently most attacks target desktop devices, Gartner predicts that the focus of endpoint breaches will shift to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. There are already a lot of attacks targeting mobile applications and the security features incorporated into devices are not enough to prevent breaches, the company said. 

Furthermore, Gartner believes that 75% of mobile security breaches will not be the result of sophisticated technical attacks. Instead, many attacks will rely on app misconfigurations.

Gartner is not the only organization warning of the dangers of insecure mobile apps. The CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University (CERT/CC) has been working on compiling a list of popular Android applications that are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks because they fail to properly validate SSL certificates. The list contains hundreds of apps that have failed both static and dynamic tests.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.