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Code obfuscation

How Android obfuscation enhances app security

By Tana Blegen September 01, 2021 12:22 pm

The Android operating system is hugely popular, and developers are constantly building new apps designed to run on the system. Generally speaking, all mobile code is prone to reverse engineering – but code written in languages that allow dynamic introspection at runtime, such as Java, is particularly at risk. This article will give a short introduction to Android Obfuscation and why it’s important.

Promon SHIELD™ obfuscates your Android app in combination with state-of-the-art runtime protection. Learn more about our in-app protection solution here.

Why Android apps need obfuscation

The Android operating system is open source, which is an advantage for developers to be innovative and create groundbreaking apps. However, this also leaves the apps prone to attacks from potential hackers. 

Most research conducted on financial services apps show that a large number of such apps for Android devices do not make use of obfuscation methods – and if they do, they often don’t take full advantage of it. 

Unprotected Android apps increase the risk of exposing your businesses to IP theft, loss of revenue, or reputation damage. App providers must actively protect their apps against emerging threats with a strong layer of defense to safeguard critical code from attackers. 

What are the advantages of obfuscating code for Android apps?

Obfuscation is a series of code transformations that turn application code into a modified version that is hard to understand and reverse-engineer. 

This way, you ensure that your product’s intellectual property is protected against security threats, the discovery of app vulnerabilities and unauthorized access. 

When your app’s code is obfuscated, the threshold for an attacker to carry out a reverse engineer-attack is significantly increased, as it will often be too time-consuming and costly to succeed.

With code obfuscation, you can:

  • Prevent code from being copied and used without permission
  • Make your app’s functional logic on the client side and algorithms less exposed
  • Make it harder for attackers to find vulnerabilities in your code

How to protect your Android apps

Code obfuscation is a standard method to prevent hackers from decompiling and reverse engineering an app’s code. Many Android apps don’t have a sufficient level of protection and often limit their obfuscation methods to code minification alone. 

For your Android apps, you should choose a security software that applies advanced and multiple obfuscation techniques.

Some obfuscation techniques for Android

  • Renaming: Class, function, and method names will be renamed in a randomized fashion.
  • Namespace flattening: All obfuscated classes will be moved into one big flat namespace, which removes information about logical class grouping.
  • Code shuffling: Code that belongs in one class can be moved to another class, and all references to this code can be updated accordingly. This creates new application internal code dependencies that are both confusing to an attacker and acts as an internal binding mechanism that makes it harder to remove certain parts of the code tree.

How Promon SHIELD™ for Android protects your app

While obfuscation is an important security measure that will help protect apps against reverse engineering and intellectual property theft, this security measure alone is not enough to fully protect your apps from malware and real-world attack scenarios.  

Therefore, complete code protection combined with comprehensive runtime protection is essential to fully protect your Android apps. Choose security software that applies advanced and strong obfuscation techniques to your apps in addition to other protection mechanisms. 

In addition to applying strong obfuscation techniques to your Android apps, our app shielding solution will also monitor your app’s runtime behavior and detect if your app is executing in an insecure environment. Promon SHIELD™ also detects the presence of code hooks, blocks the injection of malicious code into the app, and enables your app to modify its behavior in real-time to interrupt potential attacks. 

Utilizing code obfuscation in combination with a multi-layered In-App Protection solution will make your apps less prone to reverse engineering and intellectual property theft.