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9: WAP and Mobile HTML Security
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used on the sites; however, as history shows, features on these sites will probably continue to grow while the security standards remain static This chapter discusses the security of WAP and Mobile HTML sites Here s a list of the key areas covered: WAP and Mobile HTML basics Authentication Encryption Application attacks on Mobile WAP/HTML sites WAP and mobile browser weaknesses
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WAP and Mobile HTML Basics
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Wireless Application Protocol provides a method to access the Internet from mobile devices WAP architecture includes a few items, such as a WAP browser on the mobile device, the destination application/HTTP web server, and a WAP gateway in between the mobile device and the application/HTTP web server A WAP gateway is an entity that acts much like a proxy server between a mobile device and the HTTP server Its job is to translate content from web applications in a form readable by mobile devices, such as with the use of WML WAP has two major versions: WAP 10 and WAP 20 It should be noted the WAP gateways are required in WAP 10 but are an optional component in WAP 20 Figure 9-1 shows a WAP architecture In the early days of WAP, which used WAP 10, Wireless Markup Language (WML) was solely supported WML was based on HTML, with limited to no support for cookies WAP websites heavily relied on WML to display content to
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Figure 9-1
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WAP architecture
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Mobile Application Security
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users, but quickly ran out of all the bells and whistles that users/developers desired About four years later, WAP 20 was established WAP 20 supported more items that make the web experience similar to the PC, such as xHTML, CSS, TLS, and wider support for cookies Furthermore, WAP 20 no longer required a WAP gateway, which alleviated some security concerns with WAP 10 (discussed in the WAP 10 section) As the industry continued to evolve, so did mobile devices Nowadays, WAP 20 and Mobile HTML sites dominate mobile web applications Mobile HTML sites are slimmed-down versions of tradition web applications, but viewable on devices with limited view screen and storage capacities (usually with a smartphone or PDA)
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Authentication on WAP/Mobile HTML Sites
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One of the many problems that WAP and Mobile HTML developers have with mobile devices is the keyboard PDA-style phones come with a mini-keyboard that looks similar to traditional keyboards, containing letters A Z and support for every number (0 9) and many special characters by using a SHIFT-style key (see Figure 9-2) On the other hand, non-PDA phones have the traditional 0 9 keys only, with letters above numbers 2 9 and special character support under number 1 or 0 (see Figure 9-3) Although the use of PDA-style mobile phones is increasing every day, non-PDA mobile devices are the most popular, which have the traditional 0 9 keys only The limitation of the 0 9 keys creates a significant challenge to WAP and Mobile HTML developers in terms of user experience and authentication For example, banking and e-commerce organizations want to make authentication to their sites as easy and secure as possible, thus making the adoption rate high Traditionally, strong passwords are often required for banking and e-commerce sites, often requiring numbers, letters,
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Figure 9-2
PDA-style keyboard
9: WAP and Mobile HTML Security
Figure 9-3
Non-PDA-style keyboard
and a special character Although these standards are great when a traditional keyboard is available, they become very difficult when only the 0 9 keys are available on traditional handsets For example, using the keyboard in Figure 9-2, the relatively simply password of isec444 would only require selecting the letters i-s-e-c, selecting the SHIFT key, and then selecting the number 4 three times, requiring a total of eight key presses On the flip side, the same password used with the keys shown in Figure 9-3 would require selecting the number 4 key four times (to get to i), the number 7 key five times (to get to s), the number 3 key three times (to get to e), the number 2 key four times (to get to c), and then the number 4 key three times, for a total of 19 keypresses The latter option requires more than double the effort to enter a simple password and virtually kills the user sign-on experience In order to create a better and easier experience, mobile WAP/Mobile HTML sites have introduced the use of a mobile PIN, which replaces the password; however, this also lowers the security of the authentication process For example, many WAP/Mobile HTML sites allow a phone to be registered to an account After a phone is registered via a web application, the mobile phone number can be used instead of a username, and a mobile PIN can be used instead of a password Unlike traditional passwords, the mobile PIN can only be numbers and is usually four to eight values in length (with at least one major bank limiting PINs to only four numeric values only) The use of a numeric-only value for the PIN increases the user experience by significantly reducing the amount of keypresses to use the mobile device (the same idea holds for the username, by the use of a numeric phone number instead of an alphanumeric username) In either case, when the username is replaced with a phone number and the password is replaced with a PIN, the user experience is improved, but security is reduced In this use case, a site that usually takes a unique username and strong password has just been reduced to a phone number and numeric value Although low
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