AUSERA: Large-Scale Automated Security Risk Assessment of Global Mobile Banking Apps

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Chen, Sen ; Meng, Guozhu ; Su, Ting ; Fan, Lingling ; Xue, Minhui ; Xue, Yinxing ; Liu, Yang ; Xu, Lihua (2018)
  • Subject: Computer Science - Cryptography and Security

Contemporary financial technology (FinTech) that enables cashless mobile payment has been widely adopted by financial institutions, such as banks, due to its convenience and efficiency. However, FinTech has also made massive and dynamic transactions susceptible to security risks. Given large financial losses caused by such vulnerabilities, regulatory technology (RegTech) has been developed, but more comprehensive security risk assessment is specifically desired to develop robust, scalable, and efficient financial activities. In this paper, we undertake the first automated security risk assessment and focus on global banking apps to examine FinTech. First, we analyze a large number of banking apps and propose a comprehensive set of security weaknesses widely existent in these apps. Second, we design a three-phase automated security risk assessment system (Ausera), which combines natural language processing and static analysis of data and control flows, to efficiently identify security weaknesses of banking apps. We performed experiments on 693 real-world banking apps across over 80 countries and unveiled 2,157 weaknesses. To date, 21 banks have acknowledged the weaknesses that we reported. We find that outdated version of banking apps, pollution from third-party libraries, and weak hash functions are all likely to be exploited by attackers. We also show that banking apps of different provenance exhibit various types of security weaknesses, mainly due to economies and regulations that take shape. Given the drastic change in the nature of intermediation, it behooves the RegTech companies and all stakeholders to understand the characteristics and consequences of security risks brought by contemporary FinTech.
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