The vast majority of mobile cryptocurrency wallet apps employ poor security.
Or so claims new research from San Francisco security firm High-Tech Bridge based on an analysis of more than 2,000 apps on Google Play. Of the first 30 crypto apps with up to 100,000 total installations, 93 percent contain at least three "medium-risk" vulnerabilities and 90 percent contain at least two "high-risk" issues.
Among the most-downloaded apps, the numbers are a little better, but not by much. Ninety-four percent of apps with over 500,000 installations contain at least three "medium-risk" vulnerabilities and 77 percent contain at least two high-risk vulnerabilities.
The most common vulnerabilities, according to the analysis, include "insecure data storage," which means information that should be private can leak unintentionally, and "insufficient cryptography," which indicates some form of cryptography was implemented to shield data, but was used incorrectly.
In short, this means users might be at risk.
"Depending on the application functionality, design and vulnerabilities, a wide spectrum of nuisances is possible, up to sensitive data and even the wallet (private key) theft," said Ilia Kolochenko, CEO and founder of High-Tech Bridge.
Kolochenko attributes the poor scores to a lack of emphasis on security across mobile development.
"For many years, cybersecurity companies and independent experts were notifying mobile app developers about the risks of 'agile' development that usually imply no framework to assure secure design, secure coding and hardening techniques or application security testing," he added.
Users and developers can use the company's free security analysis tool, Mobile X-Ray, to plug in mobile apps and see the vulnerabilities for themselves.
However, when it comes to securing funds, there's plenty that can go wrong. The tech firm implies that its own research doesn't go far enough. Its analysis, for instance, only looks at the frontend of the apps, and there could be other problems in the backend.
The report remarks: "This is just the tip of the iceberg."