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

Last updated January 9, 2023 by Appdome

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

How can a Mobile App Run with an Untrusted Certificate?

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 Running a Mobile App with Untrusted Root Certificates?

Appdome maintains an up-to-date list of root certificates which is continuously updated with the various worldwide trusted CA authorities (such as Verisign and Go-Daddy). 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 Running with Untrusted Root Certificates on Mobile apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these simple steps to create self-defending Mobile Apps that Prevent Running with 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 feature: Trusted Root Certificates.

    1. Building Trusted Root Certificates by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

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

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Trusted Root Certificates 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 Trusted Root Certificates feature via Appdome Console, to add the Trusted Root Certificates 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 Trusted Root Certificates feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Trusted Root Certificates 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: Check whether MiTM Prevention is toggled On (enabled), otherwise enable it . You can see that the feature Trusted Root Certificates is enabled by default, as shown below. Trusted Root Certificates option

        Figure 3: Prevent Running with Untrusted Root Certificates option
        Note: The App Compromise Notification contains an easy to follow default remediation path for the mobile app end user. You can customize this message as required to achieve brand specific support, workflow or other messaging.

      3. When you enable 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 Trusted Root Certificates

        Fusion Set applied Trusted Root Certificates

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Trusted Root Certificates protection

      4. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Trusted Root Certificates:
        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 Running with 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 Trusted Root Certificates Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Running with 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 Trusted Root Certificates Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

    After building Trusted Root Certificates, Appdome generates a Certified Secure™ certificate to guarantee that the Trusted Root Certificates protection has been added and is protecting the app. To verify that the Trusted Root Certificates protection has been added to the mobile app, locate the protection in the Certified Secure™ certificate as shown below: Trusted Root Certificates 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 Trusted Root Certificates has been added to each Mobile app. Certified Secure provides instant and in-line DevSecOps compliance certification that Trusted Root Certificates and other mobile app security features are in each build of the mobile app

Using Threat-Events™ for Running with Untrusted Root Certificates Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps

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

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

Threat-Event™ Elements Prevent Running with Untrusted Root Certificates Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Trusted Root Certificates
Threat-Event Mode
OFF, IN-APP DEFENSE Appdome detects, defends and notifies user (standard OS dialog) using customizable messaging.
ON, IN-APP DETECTION 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 Running with 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 Running with Untrusted Root Certificates are detected.

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

Prerequisites to Using Trusted Root Certificates:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Prevent Running with Untrusted Root Certificates , you’ll need:

Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Apps by using Trusted Root Certificates. 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 Trusted Root Certificates

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.

Features Similar to Trusted Root Certificates

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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