Let’s make sure your Xamarin.Forms App is ready for Penetration Testing, or widely known as PEN Testing! Focused on the Network Communication Layer, so that we can have a peace of mind for ourselves without being annoyed by our QA and Security Analysis team! 😉 lol
In any Mobile App Development project, we need to thoroughly test our Mobile Apps for vulnerabilities and security of user data. That is why these penetration testing processes are very important, we need to make sure that we deliver a mobile application as hardened and safe guarded as possible for our Users.
Now this post is not about securing or hardening the security of your mobile app, but rather how to prepare your Xamarin.Forms built app for QA and PEN Testing procedures.
But why, Xamarin.Forms?
Xamarin.Forms does an incredible job at producing a almost native-like level Mobile Application at the end of development. But given the unique nature of Xamarin.Forms, the .NET framework that we work with, sometimes developers take it for granted, giving all the responsibility to the framework, and we miss some bits that we need to pay attention to in oppose to native mobile development.
We need to make sure our App is compatible with the QA and PEN Testing procedures. Most of the QA and PEN testing revolves around the Native Mobile App environment. But sometimes those typical native mobile app testing processes aren’t compatible with what we work on out of the box of default .NET builds of Xamarin.Forms!
PEN Testing of a Mobile App…
Now there are many different kinds of QA procedures and PEN Test cases, such as local DB analysis, MiTM packet analysis, etc. In order to support those different PEN Test procedures, some times we need to provide separate builds with different configurations of your app to our PEN Test team. Such as disabling SSL Pinning in the app so that they can execute MiTM packet analysis testing on our app, and there could be many different scenarios as such.
So I’m going to share with you some of the important key points that you need to make sure you have configured in your Xamarin.Forms project, specifically in your Network Communication Layer and for some of those custom builds that you might have to provide for the PEN Testing process.
HttpClient Handler setup..
While Xamarin does provide a full fledged Managed HttpClient and Handler, it is best to set up the HattpClient’s handlers to the device native handlers. This will make sure better performance and better native system level security for your app.
On your Xamarin.Forms project solution, go to the Android project node -> Properties -> Android Options -> Click “Advanced” button and take a look at HttpClient implementation and SSL/TLS implementation.
Make sure to set them up as above using the native Android handler, and Default (Native TLS 1.2+) Transport Layer Security for all the web calls. This will make sure all our web endpoint calls will be handled by those configurations which are best suited for performance and security of the native android system.
Then for the iOS, On your Xamarin.Forms project solution, go to the iOS project node -> Properties -> iOS Build and take a look at HttpClient implementation.
Make sure its set to NSUrlSession handler, which will provide your iOS app with native iOS level security and better performance for web endpoint calls. Also this means your app won’t support devices before iOS version 7, so better check your app requirements as well.
HttpClient setup in Xamarin.Forms!
It is very crucial that you imperilment the use of HttpClient in your Xamarin.Forms app properly with performance and security in mind. It would be best to register the instance of HttpClient as a Singleton, and refer to that singular instance for all your web endpoint calls. This will not only make it easy for debugging, also easy for configuring your API/Web endpoint execution layer’s implementation.
And set up a HttpClientHandler to be passed into your HttpClient instance during the instantiation, so that we can include all the custom configuration easily.
Unless its a must, make sure to use the Native HttpClientHandlers for your HttpClient, which will increase the performance and native security features for your app.
- Android: AndroidClientHandler
- iOS: NSUrlSessionHandler
- UWP: WinHttpHandler
Instead using the .NET Managed HttpClientHandler, use the above instances mapped up to your Xamarin.Forms shared environment. Here’s something that might be useful: Xamarin and the HttpClient For iOS, Android and Windows
Do not re-instantiate the same HttpClientHandler nor HttpClient instance during run time and keep those different configuration separately for each HttpClient by registering multiple types with a pre-defined use case. Such as AuthClient for handling authentication and ApiClient for normal endpoint calls.
Although there are third party HttpClient libraries such as ModernHttpClient, that provide better features for these specific scenarios, so you could even try one of them! 😉
Disable SSL Certificate Validation..
In case if you needed to disable HTTPS / SSL Certificate validation for your PEN Test procedures such as Man-in-The-Middle packet trace analysis, then we can easily disable this by overriding the Certificate validation execution in the HttpClientHandler and assigning that to HttpClient.
The above applies of course if you have set up Managed HttpClientHandler in your Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS settings instead of using the native handlers.
If you have set up your projects with Native HttpClientHandler then you can easily disable HTTPS Certificate validation by following ways.
For Android, create a Custom derived implementation of AndroidClientHandler as follows,
for iOS, subscribe to TrustOverride and return true to override certificate validation.
For UWP: subscribe to ServerCertificateValidationCallback and return true to override certificate validation.
As you can see in all the snippets above we’re overriding HTTPS Certificate Validation process manually. Now this is not a build to be pushed for Production, make sure to produce this build as a Test only build for PEN testing. So I would suggest keep this configuration in a separate branch build and opt back to the main branch for production release.
Enable Self-Signed SSL Certificates..
Instead of disabling entire SSL Certificate validation process, we could narrow down the override to a certain SSL Certificates, such as a Self-Signed Certificate endpoints that our PEN Testers might be using.
Although there are many ways to do this, basically we include the given self-signed certificate data in the app’s configuration, or override the validation with it’s key. I would recommend going into the following tutorials for it hence it covers a wide aspect of it for both iOS and Android.
So kudos to nicksnettravels blog! 😉 They’ve got great stuff in there!
As you know by default Android (since Android P) and iOS platforms doesn’t allow insecure non-HTTPS calls to be made from our apps,
- Android P: Protecting users with TLS by default in Android P
- iOS: Preventing Insecure Network Connections
Now we might have to disable this during development until the back end server is TSL enabled or even for a PEN test case with a custom build.
Let’s disable this on Android by using android:networkSecurityConfig in your AndroidManifest.xml with a reference to the @xml/network_security_config which we’ll create next.
Add a new folder called “xml” in your Resources folder and add a new xml file with the name network_security_config.xml this will hold the key to disable or enable HTTPS connections restriction as you wish.
You can set cleartextTrafficPermitted to false later during production build.
And on iOS add the following configuration in the info.plist file.
Oh once again, make sure to disable this during PROD builds!
System Proxy Settings support!
Something to keep in mind is that you don’t need to worry about System Proxy settings as long as you’re using the Native HttpClientHandlers as they would by default use the system preferences under the hood, but if you’re using Managed .NET HttpClientHandlers then you need to handle the System native Proxy Settings.
You can do this by creating a Platform specific Service that will extract the System Proxy Settings, and you can use that when you’re instantiating HttpClientHanlder. This article provides a great example for it: HttpClient and Proxy
Is all good? 😉
Now before you ship out your build for the PEN test you can make sure everything is in place according to your specific requirements.
BadSSL (https://badssl.com/) is a great web tool to check whether your app is able to access non-https endpoints or self-signed certificate endpoints and so on based on your PEN Test requirement. You can call upon those test endpoints directly from your app to make sure they’re accessible or not.
Network monitoring tools like Fiddler and Charles Proxy, allows you to set up dummy local proxy servers that you can test with in order to make sure your app supports proxy communication or in that case App’s compatibility with using System proxy settings. You could even monitor the data streams going in and out of the app, and see if they’re properly secured with encryption.
So for this demo I prepared a little sample app which showcases the use of non-HTTPS, Self-Signed endpoints access, and Proxy settings reading capabilities. Check out below Android, iOS and UWP run times…
As you can see it’s able to go through all the defined scenarios I mentioned before. For this demo app I’m using all Native HttpClientHandlers, so I’m using the exact code snippets I’ve shared in this blog post. Now let me try to emulate some failure scenarios where its missing some configuration I shared in this post.
Full demo code: github.com/UdaraAlwis/XFPenTestPrepDemo
1st I’m emulating the instance where Self-Signed HTTPS endpoints unauthorized to execute as well as Non-HTTPS endpoints blocked by default System Security layer. 2nd one shows where the Self-Signed HTTPS is diabled but non-HTTPS endpoints allowed and so on to the 3rd scenario.
Well that’s it. Hope this helps you to configure your app properly with security in mind and provide builds for the PEN Test processes according to the requirements. 🙂
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