How to Use Trusted Root Certificates, Prevent MiTM Attacks in Android & iOS Apps

Last updated August 7, 2022 by Appdome

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

What are Untrusted Root Certificates?

Mobile devices come with an OEM list of built-in public certificate authorities (CA). However, certificates and CAs can be altered by hackers or installed on devices and apps in malicious ways (without anyone knowing). This makes it hard to know if the list of CAs currently installed on the device can actually be trusted (because they could have been altered).

Why Prevent Untrusted Root Certificates in Mobile Apps ?

Appdome maintains an up-to-date list of root certificates which is continuously updated with the various worldwide trusted CA authorities (such as Verisign,  Go-Daddy, etc). Appdome inspects certificates and CAs at runtime to ensure that alterations have not been made.

When an SSL/TLS session is initiated with a mobile app,  Appdome compares the CAs currently installed on the mobile device against the updated list of trusted CAs that Appdome maintains. If the CAs on the device do not match the trusted CA list maintained by Appdome, the session is dropped.

 

Preventing Untrusted Root Certificates on Mobile apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Mobile Apps that Prevent Untrusted Root Certificates 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 Untrusted Root Certificates 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 Untrusted Root Certificates.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects untrusted Root Certificates 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 Untrusted Root Certificates (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 Untrusted Root Certificates Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps

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

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Untrusted Root Certificates are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Prevent Untrusted Root Certificates 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 Untrusted Root Certificates 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 Untrusted Root Certificates are 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 Untrusted Root Certificates , 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.

Thank you!

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