Data scrapers target websites, APIs, applications, and platforms that contain user data. The intention is always to steal data and use it for malicious intentions, mostly financial fraud. In most cases, these scrapers are purpose-built to attack the target applications. Web applications are an easy target for bot scraping. Bot detection is easier on a web application than on a mobile phone.
Mobile apps are a bit secure against data scraping. This is because it is hard to access the same instance of an app being used on a given mobile device on another one. Thus it is difficult to crawl mobile apps with botnets. But it is not impossible. Besides, data encryption discourages most forms of app scraping techniques. However, some mobile apps are easy to scrap especially if they work the same way websites do in serving content.
Some methods like running apps on Android and mobile platform emulators installed on PCs and those that work through extensions can facilitate scraping information from mobile apps. A Chrome extension known as the ARC Welder for instance allows you to run any mobile apps via browser and monitor traffic using Fidler or WireShark. These tools can then monitor traffic on the apps via computers. Also, most of these would be in-house or personal data scraping unless where the app is itself infiltrated with malware.
It is possible to inject apps with malware code that can facilitate data scraping. Most hackers try to come up with their version of applications that emulate original apps but with malware code, and post them for downloading on the Internet. Once this lands on the user’s device, then it becomes easy to scrape data remotely with help of other malware.
The mobile browser app is a common target by hackers through malware injection techniques. RSA found in 2019 that out of the 72% fraud activity they tracked, more than half were related to mobile browsers and 13% to mobile apps. In 2020, the attacks from mobile browsers rose to 29%. It said that fraud transactions from mobile devices were increasing. This is because most people are now using mobile phones for shopping and other financial transactions. These attacks, according to RSA involve phishing attacks, rogue mobile apps, and Trojan malware.
The most common methods include tricking users to click on a link by sending text messages and spam emails. Once clicked the malware aids interception of data. Hence, it may end up stealing login information for that particular user. If it steals login information for corporates where employees log in to company platforms, then it may lead to extensive credential stuffing and other expansive data breaches.
Not to fail to mention that employees now find it easier to use mobile phones to do many job tasks at home or on the go. These tasks include depositing checks, filling out banking information, and responding to client queries.
Hackers also study apps to try and discover vulnerabilities they can exploit with other software remotely. An example is vulnerabilities once discovered on the iOS mail app. It allowed hackers to remotely attack a device by sending emails via the app. Apps also contain internal errors that either allow other users to view information belonging to other people or allow hackers to use other tools to breach the app.
Most of the apps and techniques claimed to be used for security surveillance contain breaches that allow criminals to scrap data and information. In most cases, there is no transparency and accountability regarding what tools are used, what data is collected, and how the data is used.
Social media apps on mobile phones are also a common target for data breaches. Thieves now start these campaigns using personal context. These are easier to lure users into clicking links.
Methods used to execute phishing attacks on mobile phones
In the URL padding method, the URL presented to the user for clicking contains a real domain on a larger URL address that also hides the real destination to a hacker website. Users are tricked to click on this link and then directed to the hacker’s website. The website on which the URL directs could look similar to the real website and users can even log in and thus give away their information to hackers.
Tiny URLs are shortened URLs. Users are easily tricked because the link does not reveal the actual location on its name or address until after it is clicked. These are very common in SMS phishing attacks. Hackers can also use screen overlays that replicate login pages of legitimate sites. Users can then be tricked to log in through the overlays thus giving away their login information. This is very common on mobile apps where users need to log in.
Phishing sites can also embed codes to verify that the device being used is a mobile phone and end up stealing customer information. SMS spoofing involves sending a text message to a user where a link is included. Once the user clicks on this link, hackers can intercept email and other communications.
Mobile App Bot Detection
Mobile app API security techniques allow app owners and developers to detect vulnerabilities launched using bots either on mobile apps and browsers. Most of these come in the form of third-party SDKs which developers can use to integrate bot detection and blocking functionalities on their apps. The client-side tools will analyze any traffic as the user interacts with the particular apps. The app will then send all behavioral data to a third-party API and the API will respond by blocking the bot or requiring entry of captcha by the user. The data helps the API to determine whether the user is a bot or a human. Once the bot is blocked, this prevents any monitoring, data collection, or unauthorized automated login by the bot.
These third-party APIs allow anyone to monitor traffic to their apps. It is possible for the app developer or owner to thus identify any malicious attacks on their apps and traffic. Owners of apps are even allowed to formulate custom rules to respond to any activity from any bots. They can see all traffic from any bot as well as that coming from real users.