Android Security: Adding Tampering Detection to Your App

android Tampering

Android operating systems are among the most popular Mobile OS used across several devices. With more than 2.5 million applications, the Android Play Store is one of the largest app stores in the world. Despite stringent security protocols and publishing guidelines, Android apps are often tampered with.

One of the critical reasons why Android tampering has been so widespread is because it’s open source. This makes most applications vulnerable to cyberattacks, leading to Android security issues. Android apps are vulnerable to tampering, which manipulates the code and can expose user data.

This article will discuss Android tampering. How to avoid it through an effective detection system on your application.  First, let us understand why tamper detection is crucial for Android security.

Why tamper detection is essential for Android apps?

Tamper detection is crucial for Android apps because it protects users against malicious cyber-attacks. Hackers can manipulate application code to cause tampering. It enables cyber attackers to execute data theft, install malware, and control user’s devices. Tempering detection techniques can prevent such occurrences, allowing developers to secure app experiences.

Types of Android app tampering methods

Attackers can compromise Android security by tampering with applications using several methods, like

1. Binary patching

Binary patching in which attackers alter an app’s code to change its behavior. Attackers change the instructions or replace code with malicious code in the app file to execute binary patching.

2. Code injection

Injecting malicious code into an app codebase, or code injection, can modify its behavior. Attackers often use techniques like SQL injection or JavaScript injection to carry out this attack.

3. Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks

MITM attacks involve attackers intercepting the communication between the app browser and the server. In this attack, cyber attackers can access data exchanged between the browser and server to modify it.

4. Method hooking

Method hooking is a technique some individuals use to intercept calls to a specific method within an app’s code and modify its behavior. However, this technique can bypass security measures, steal data, or perform other malicious activities.

5. Reverse engineering

Developers should secure their code and prevent reverse engineering to ensure user safety and security. Attackers can use reverse engineering techniques such as decompilers and debuggers to analyze an app’s code and identify vulnerabilities or weak points.

6. Rooting or jailbreaking

Gaining access to a mobile device’s root or administrative privileges, known as rooting or jailbreaking, allows attackers to modify the app’s code or data directly.

You can avoid application tampering by early detection through different techniques you can add to your app.

Types of tampering detection techniques

Here are some main types you can use forAndroid security:

1. Checksums

Checksum or hash is a sequence of alphabets and numbers used to validate the data for errors. It produces a checksum when you run your code file through an algorithm such as SHA-1 or SHA-256/512. Executing the cryptographic hash function, the algorithm creates a checksum and an input of a specific length.

Developers can use checksum validation to ensure that the original code file’s integrity is intact and there is no tampering. For users, checking the authenticity of the application is crucial because a tampered source code installed on their device can cause security issues.

Using the checksum or hash, users can validate whether the app installed on their device is not tampered with and secure for usage.

2. Tamper Proofing Data

Protecting the integrity of Android applications is a must to avoid tampering attempts. Tamper-proofing data serves as a crucial defense against unauthorized alterations from hackers. This involves measures like data encryption, cryptographic hashing, code signing, and secure storage. Using these techniques, developers can ensure that the data in their apps is safe and unaltered.

3. Control flow integrity

Control flow integrity (CFI) is a security measure that prevents unauthorized alterations to any compiled binary control flow graph. It ensures Android security by making it challenging attackers to identify valid execution paths. CFI tracks the program’s valid execution paths and prevents any deviations.

4. Anti-tampering libraries

These libraries offer code obfuscation, anti-debugging features, self-check summing, and sometimes self-healing abilities. It helps detect and prevent unauthorized alterations to Android app code or execution flows. Implementing one or more of these libraries can significantly enhance the tamper resistance of Android apps.

Some of the anti-tampering libraries you can use to improve Android security are,

  • DexGuard is a commercial obfuscation and anti-tampering library for Android that uses techniques like renaming, control flow obfuscation, and string encryption to prevent tampering.
  • ProGuard is a free obfuscation tool provided by Google that is integrated into the Android build process. It helps protect against tampering by obfuscating code, resource names, and defensive class loading.
  • Allatori helps protect Android apps through anti-debugging, encryption, obfuscation, and self-modification to make reverse engineering and unauthorized modifications difficult.
  • Tigress is an open-source library that uses techniques like opaque predicates, control flow guarding, and self-check summing to detect code tampering or unauthorized execution flows.
  • DroidSec focuses on protecting against runtime attacks through techniques like anti-debugging, memory protection, self-check summing, and encryption of sensitive data.

5. Jailbreak or root detection

Implementing jailbreak or root detection is crucial to Android security, allowing you to check signs of jailbreaking or rooting. There are various ways to detect jailbreak or root, including checking for specific files or folders only found on jailbroken or rooted devices and looking for changes to system files or settings.

If you are an Android app developer, including jailbreak or root detection to protect your app from unauthorized access or modification is essential.

Key takeaways

Android applications can be prone to cyber-attacks due to code tampering. As a developer and app publisher, you must ensure user data protection for better compliance with information regulations. Using tampering detection methods, you can ensure the application’s integrity is intact and secure. We have discussed some of the best methods to detect Android app tampering. However, the method for your project will depend on specific requirements.

Santos Cruickshank

Santos Cruickshank

With years of software development experience under his belt, Santos Cruickshank has always been passionate about learning about different kinds of software for PC and apps for smartphones. Santos Cruickshank has been one of the lead developers for Slack back in 2017 and now works as a freelance software developer. Apart from that, he also loves to write and educate people about software development and how to use them.