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New Tech Unifies the Android App Execution Environment to the Same Level as iOS

Oslo, Norway: Promon, an industry leader of app security solutions, today announced it has released their patent-pending technological breakthrough, Trusted Execution Zone (TEZ) for Android.

Promon’s First-to-Market software solution is the only technology that offers an automated integration of an isolated and trusted execution environment for apps on Android.

The Peril of Android’s OS and Device Fragmentation

Google’s open source operating system for mobile devices has been great by creating a fertile eco-system for developers and phone manufacturers. The Linux-based open source platform has grown into the mainstay of mobile computing. This has attracted most phone manufacturers as well as millions of developers to build their services and apps upon it. The open ideals that Android was founded upon have led to unprecedented diversity and a smartphone revolution. However, they also sparked one of the most persistent problems of Android: Trust and Security

For each new Android version, Google first releases it to mobile phone manufacturers. This is done to allow them to add their customizations, apps, and other features. These customizations cause several types of problems. In fact, recent studies show that fresh mobile devices were pre-contaminated. Another problem is that these customizations make it harder for the many device manufacturers to follow upstream changes in the operating system. They therefore consequently lag behind in applying security patches.

The mobile eco-system is perhaps best described as a ‘jungle’ of different phone manufacturers, each of which provide their own ‘flavour’ of Android. The eco-system has therefore had significant trust issues from businesses, institutions and users in many different parts of the world. To illustrate the point: In 2018, several thousand devices from more than 1000 different brands were released, and the security threats show no signs of slowing down. By contrast, with iOS, Apple provides a much more unified eco-system.

The runtime environment of an app is like the engine room for the execution of all apps. This is typically comprised of code, which is taking care of initializing and setting up the runtime environment. It also sets up the Android Runtime (Virtual Machine), associated frameworks and operating system libraries taking care of more fundamental tasks.

Tom Lysemose Hansen, Chief Technology Officer of app security specialist Promon, explains.

  • Considering the fragmentation of the Android eco-system, TEZ is solving the problem of having the app executing in an unknown and potentially contaminated execution environment. Clearly, such an environment is far from ideal and does not provide an adequate basis for sensitive solutions like in authentication, payment/finance, or software dealing with for example crypto and PKI. Such apps require a higher level of trust in the execution environment, Hansen says.

The fragmented Android platform makes it hard to detect contamination. Once a device is infected, malware can replace OS components with maliciously modified versions. The well-publicized Triada malware is a case in point. By infecting the important Zygote component of Android, malware like Triada easily becomes part of every apps execution environment (its process) that are launched on a mobile device.

Zygote is part of, and responsible for setting up, the execution environment for all apps on a device. Because of this there is a strong need to provide a separate and wiped execution zone (process). In this zone, trusted and verified code performs the initialization of the execution environment. This is one of the great advantages of Promon’s most recent technology.

TEZ Takes Android App Security to a New and Unified Level

  • Zygote as the launching point for all apps have long been an attractive target for malware. It allows easily spreading infected components and system libraries into any app. Also, contaminated elements cloned into the Virtual Machine, associated frameworks, or system libraries, is a major Android security challenge.
  • Rather than running sensitive elements of the app code in the Android Virtual Machine from the device, we now make it possible to run these in a separate process with standardized and verified components. Ranging from the Android Runtime, and crucial frameworks, to carefully selected Operating system libraries. This takes Android app security to a whole new level, Hansen says.
  • TEZ creates a trusted execution environment for the important parts of an app. It populates the new environment with trusted and verified components, ranging from the Java Virtual Machine to core libraries and components for network communication. In this way TEZ enables app providers to move into a trusted execution zone with ease.
  • Easy deployment is a core feature of all Promon products, and TEZ is no different. It comes with an automated integration tool, and no access to source code is needed. Hence, TEZ also covers third-party code and apps. In a nutshell, we provide a verified and unified execution environment for selected parts of any app. It is also compatible with all Android devices in the Google eco-system, Hansen says.

For more information about Promon, please visit Promon will be present at the RSA Conference (booth number 6560) in San Francisco on 4-8 March 2019.

About Promon

Promon is an industry leader in mobile app security solutions. Its technology is research-based and originates from the globally recognized SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest independent research organizations, and the University of Oslo. Their technology is built on a patented method for detecting and foiling attacks against computer systems.

Promon is a Norwegian limited company registered in 2006, with offices worldwide. The head office is in Oslo, Norway. Please visit or meet us at the RSA Conference booth number 6560 (North Expo) for more information.

Media contacts

Lars Lunde Birkeland, Marketing Director, +4797765827

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