How to Prevent SSL Cookie Hijacking & Mobile MitM Attacks

Last updated August 21, 2022 by Appdome

Learn to Prevent Cookie Hijacking in Mobile apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

What is Cookie Hijacking?

SSL or HTTP cookies are small packets of data stored in your app or browser which are used to facilitate accessing websites or logging into remote services (such as a mobile bank account). Cookies usually contain sensitive data like passwords or user information and is therefore vulnerable to attacks. Cookie hijacking is an attack method used by hackers to access cookies that belong to legitimate mobile users, usually for purposes of impersonating the user, accessing their account, conducting account takeovers (ATO), intercepting communications sessions, or other malicious reasons.

When cookies are generated, they can only be viewed by you – the site owner. No other website can view your cookies.  But these cookies travel across the internet. They are used by ad services and analytics services. So these cookies bounce around from server to server all across the globe. If the connection is not secure, a hacker can easily intercept or access the cookies as part of a mobile man-in-the-middle (MitM attack).

One of the most common ways hackers steal cookies is if they are using the same wifi as you. This kind of wifi hacking is called man-in-the-middle attacks and can take place only if both are connected to the same wireless network. This can also happen to users within the same computer networks.

Why Prevent Cookie Hijacking in Mobile Apps ?

Hijacking cookies is just as powerful (sometimes moreso) as stealing a user’s password. It’s possible that with cookie hijacking, hackers can gain unlimited access to all of your resources. For example, an attacker may steal your identity or confidential company data; purchase items; or steal from your bank account.

A cookie attack is often initiated when an attacker sends a user a fake login. The victim clicks the fake link, which lets the attacker steal the cookie – actually, anything the user types in can be captured by the attacker. The attacker then puts that cookie in their browser and is able to impersonate the legitimate user.

Sometimes, a fake link isn’t even needed. If a user is in a session on an unsecured, public Wi-Fi connection, hackers can easily steal that data that’s traveling through the connection. And this can happen even if the site is secure and your username and password are encrypted.

Appdome detects, prohibits, and protects app connections against cookie hijacking by validating the server SSL certificate chain’s authenticity and providing authenticity proof to the server on behalf of the client.

Preventing Cookie Hijacking on Mobile apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Mobile Apps that Prevent Cookie Hijacking without an SDK or gateway:

  1. Upload the Mobile App to Appdome.

    1. Upload an app to Appdome’s Mobile App Security Build System

    2. Upload Method: Appdome Console or DEV-API
    3. Mobile App Formats: .ipa For iOS device or .apk or .aab
  2. Build the Protection: MiTM Prevention.

    1. Building MiTM Prevention by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

      1. Create and name the Fusion Set (security template) that will contain the MiTM Prevention feature as shown below:
      2. fusion set that contains MiTM Prevention

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the MiTM Prevention feature
        Note: Naming the Fusion Set to correspond to the protection(s) selected is for illustration purposes only (not required).

      3. Follow the steps in Sections 2.2.1-2.2.2 of this article, Building the MiTM Prevention feature via Appdome Console, to add the MiTM Prevention feature to this Fusion Set.

      4. Open the Fusion Set Detail Summary by clicking the “...” symbol on the far-right corner of the Fusion Set, as shown in Figure 1 above, and get the Fusion Set ID from the Fusion Set Detail Summary (as shown below): fusion Set Detail Summary image

        Figure 2: Fusion Set Detail Summary
        Note: Annotating the Fusion Set to identify the protection(s) selected is optional only (not mandatory).

      5. Follow the instructions below to use the Fusion Set ID inside any standard mobile DevOps or CI/CD toolkit like Bitrise, App Center, Jenkins, Travis, Team City, Cirlce CI or other system:
        1. Build an API for the app – for instructions, see the tasks under Appdome API Reference Guide
        2. Look for sample APIs in Appdome’s GitHub Repository
    2. Building the MiTM Prevention feature via Appdome Console

      To build the MiTM Prevention protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Security Tab > Secure Communication section
      2. How: Toggle (turn ON) MiTM Prevention, as shown below. MiTM Prevention option

        Figure 3: Prevent Cookie Hijacking option

      3. When you select the MiTM Prevention you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains MiTM Prevention

        Fusion Set applied MiTM Prevention

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added MiTM Prevention protection

      4. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for MiTM Prevention:
        1. Threat-Events™ OFF > In-App Defense

          If the Threat-Events™ setting is cleared (not selected). Appdome will detect and defend the user and app by enforcing Prevent Cookie Hijacking.

        2. Threat-Events™ ON > In-App Detection

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects a cookie hijacking attempt and passes Appdome’s Threat-Event™ attack intelligence to the app’s business logic for processing, enforcement, and user notification. For more information on consuming and using Appdome Threat-Events™ in the app, see section Using Threat-Events™ for MiTM Prevention Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

        3. Threat-Events™ ON > In-App Defense

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Cookie Hijacking (same as Appdome Enforce) and passes Appdome’s Threat-Event™ attack intelligence the app’s business logic for processing. For more information on consuming and using Appdome Threat-Events™ in the app, see section Using Threat-Events™ for MiTM Prevention Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

      5. Click Build My App at the bottom of the Build Workflow (shown in Figure 3).
    Congratulations!  The MiTM Prevention protection is now added to the mobile app
  3. Certify the MiTM Prevention feature in Mobile Apps.

    After building MiTM Prevention, Appdome generates a Certified Secure™ certificate to guarantee that the MiTM Prevention protection has been added and is protecting the app. To verify that the MiTM Prevention protection has been added to the mobile app, locate the protection in the Certified Secure™ certificate as shown below: MiTM Prevention shown in Certificate secure

    Figure 5: Certified Secure™ certificate

    Each Certified Secure™ certificate provides DevOps and DevSecOps organizations the entire workflow summary, audit trail of each build, and proof of protection that MiTM Prevention has been added to each Mobile app. Certified Secure provides instant and in-line DevSecOps compliance certification that MiTM Prevention and other mobile app security features are in each build of the mobile app

Using Threat-Events™ for Cookie Hijacking Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps

Appdome Threat-Events™ provides consumable in-app mobile app attack intelligence and defense control when Cookie Hijacking is detected. To consume and use Threat-Events™ for Cookie Hijacking in Mobile Apps, use AddObserverForName in Notification Center, and the code samples for Threat-Events™ for Cookie Hijacking shown below.

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Cookie Hijacking are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Prevent Cookie Hijacking Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name MiTM Prevention
Threat-Event Mode
OFF, IN-APP DEFENSE Appdome detects, defends and notifies user (standard OS dialog) using customizable messaging.
ON, IN-APP DETECTON Appdome detects the attack or threat and passes the event in a standard format to the app for processing (app chooses how and when to enforce).
ON, IN-APP DEFENSE Uses Appdome Enforce mode for any attack or threat and passes the event in a standard format to the app for processing (gather intel on attacks and threats without losing any protection).
Certified Secure™ Threat Event Check
Visible in ThreatScope™
Developer Parameters for Preventing Cookie Hijacking Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME SslCertificateValidationFailed
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6500
Threat-Event SCORE
currentThreatEventScore Current Threat-Event score
threatEventsScore Total Threat-events score
Threat-Event Context Keys
messageMessage displayed for the user on event
externalIDThe external ID of the event which can be listened via Threat Events
osVersionOS version of the current device
deviceModelCurrent device model
deviceManufacturerThe manufacturer of the current device
fusedAppTokenThe task ID of the Appdome fusion of the currently running app
kernelInfoInfo about the kernel: system name, node name, release, version and machine.
carrierPlmnPLMN of the device
deviceIDCurrent device ID
reasonCodeReason code of the occured event
buildDateAppdome fusion date of the current application
devicePlatformOS name of the current device
carrierNameCarrier name of the current device
updatedOSVersionIs the OS version up to date
deviceBrandBrand of the device
deviceBoardBoard of the device
buildUserBuild user
buildHostBuild host
sdkVersionSdk version
timeZoneTime zone
deviceFaceDownIs the device face down
locationLongLocation long
locationLatLocation lat
locationStateLocation state
wifiSsidWifi SSID
wifiSsidPermissionStatusWifi SSID permission status
hostFailed host
DeveventDetailedErrorMessageError message
extendedMessageTextExtended message
certificateCNCertificate common name
certificateSHA1Certificate SHA1

With Threat-Events™ enabled (turned ON), Mobile developers can get detailed attack intelligence and granular defense control in Mobile applications and create amazing user experiences for all mobile end users when Cookie Hijacking is detected.

The following is a code sample for native Mobile apps, which uses all values in the specification above for MiTM Prevention:

Prerequisites to Using MiTM Prevention:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Prevent Cookie Hijacking , you’ll need:

Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Apps by using MiTM Prevention. There is no SDK and no library to code or implement in the app and no gateway to deploy in your network. All protections are built into each app and the resulting app is self-defending and self-protecting.

Releasing and Publishing Mobile Apps with MiTM Prevention

After successfully securing your app by using Appdome, there are several available options to complete your project, depending on your app lifecycle or workflow. These include:

All apps protected by Appdome are fully compatible with any public app store, including Apple App Store, Google Play, Huawei App Gallery and more.

Protections Similar to MiTM Prevention

Here are a few related resources:

Check out this article on  MiTM attack prevention

To Zoom out on this topic, check out these resources.

If you have any questions, please send them our way at support.appdome.com or via the chat window on the Appdome platform.

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