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Taxman: Mobile Tax App Privacy & Security

GregPatton ‎04-14-2014 03:37 AM - edited ‎08-03-2015 06:38 AM

This year, 40% of US-taxpayers indicate they are more likely to file returns this year using a computer or mobile device.  Reacting to this trend tax software companies, like H&R Block, TurboTax and TaxACT, Inc., are developing mobile platforms to streamline the filing process.  Could these apps designed to modernize the process, also be sharing sensitive data, unbeknownst to users?


Using HP Fortify-on-Demand, HP scanned 25 popular tax and finance mobile apps.


 This is what HP Fortify on Demand found:


  • More than 90% of the applications tested contained at least one potential privacy violation such as accessing the mobile device’s address book, accessing the mobile device’s geo-location, storing sensitive data in clear-text, not setting cookie properties securely, and transmitting data insecurely. 
  • One application did not implement backgrounding securely.  It allowed image caching from a social security number (SSN) input screen, possibly exposing the user’s SSN.  
  • Another application transmitted user social security numbers insecurely, placing them in the query string of a request.  Sensitive information within the query string may be logged in various locations, including the mobile device’s log, the application’s web server, and any forward or reverse proxy servers between the two endpoints.  This information could be inadvertently disclosed to third parties via the Referrer header when any off-site links are followed.  Placing sensitive information such as a social security numbers in the query string increases the risk that they will be captured by an attacker.
  • Nearly 40% of the applications utilized and transmitted data to a common advertising framework, which could result in private data and security information being provided to third-party advertising agencies.  Common information passed to ad and analytic frameworks include logs, usernames, passwords, URL strings, UDID information, address book data, call data, and other device information.


The bottom line is that, even with all the best intentions of providing fast tax filing assistance, mobile tax apps could put users at risk to simple privacy attacks.


It's chaos out there.  Are your mobile apps secure?  


Find out more about Fortify on Demand or start a free trial.

About the Author


tax investigation
on ‎05-07-2014 06:32 AM

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online bookkeeping services
on ‎07-19-2014 02:36 AM

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