The makers of two major mobile apps, Fandango and Credit Karma, have settled with the Federal Trade Commission after the commission charged that they deliberately misrepresented the security of their apps and failed to validate SSL certificates. The apps promised users that their data was being sent over secure SSL connections, but the apps had disabled the validation process.
The settlements with the FTC don’t include any monetary penalties, but both companies have been ordered to submit to independent security audits every other year for the next 20 years and to put together comprehensive security programs.
“Consumers are increasingly using mobile apps for sensitive transactions. Yet research suggests that many companies, like Fandango and Credit Karma, have failed to properly implement SSL encryption,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Our cases against Fandango and Credit Karma should remind app developers of the need to make data security central to how they design their apps.”
The FTC complaint against Fandango alleges that the Fandango Movies app on iOS, which enables users to buy movie tickets, included an assertion during checkout telling users that their sensitive information was being sent over a secure connection. However, the app didn’t validate those connections, so users’ financial information was exposed during transmission.
“Before March 2013, Fandango did not test the Fandango Movies application to ensure that the application was validating SSL certificates and securely transmitting consumers’ sensitive personal information. Although Fandango commissioned limited security audits of its applications starting in 2011, more than two years after the release of its iOS application, respondent limited the scope of these security audits to issues presented when the ‘code is decompiled or disassembled,’ i.e., threats arising only from attackers who had physical access to a device. As a result, these audits did not assess whether the iOS application’s transmission of information, including credit card information, was secure,” the FTC complaint says.
The FTC also said that Fandango didn’t have a good process for responding to vulnerability reports from security researchers, leading to the company missing an advisory from a researcher who had discovered the SSL vulnerability.
“In December 2012, a security researcher informed respondent through its Customer Service web form that its iOS application was vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks because it did not validate SSL certificates. Because the security researcher’s message included the term “password,” Fandango’s Customer Service system flagged the message as a password reset request and replied with an automated message providing the researcher with instructions on how to reset passwords. Fandango’s Customer Service system then marked the security researcher’s message as “resolved,” and did not escalate it for further review,” the complaint says.
The problems with the Credit Karma app were similar, as it did not validate SSL certificates during supposedly secure connection attempts. The FTC alleges in its complaint that the company failed to validate SSL certificates on both its iOS and Android apps.
“During the iOS application’s development, Credit Karma had authorized its service provider, the application development firm, to use code that disabled SSL certificate validation ‘in testing only,’ but failed to ensure this code’s removal from the production version of the application. As a result, the iOS application shipped to consumers with the SSL certificate validation vulnerability. Credit Karma could have identified and prevented this vulnerability by performing an adequate security review prior to the iOS application’s launch,” the complaint says.
“In February 2013, one month after addressing the vulnerability in its iOS application, Credit Karma launched the Android version of its application, again without first performing an adequate security review or at least testing the application for previously identified vulnerabilities. As a result, like the iOS application before it, the Android application failed to validate SSL certificates, overriding the defaults provided by the Android APIs.”
The FTC’s complaint against Credit Karma also alleges that the app was storing users’ authentication tokens and passcodes in the clear on users’ devices.
Image from Flickr photos of Erik Drost.