Setting up a Testing Environment for Android Apps

Basic Android Testing Setup

By now, you should have a basic understanding of the way Android apps are structured and deployed. In this chapter, we'll talk about setting up a security testing environment and describe basic testing processes you'll be using. This chapter is the foundation for the more detailed testing methods discussed in later chapters.

You can set up a fully functioning test environment on almost any machine running Windows, Linux, or Mac OS.

Host Device

At the very least, you'll need Android Studio (which comes with the Android SDK) platform tools, an emulator, and an app to manage the various SDK versions and framework components. Android Studio also comes with an Android Virtual Device (AVD) Manager application for creating emulator images. Make sure that the newest SDK tools and platform tools packages are installed on your system.

Setting up the Android SDK

Local Android SDK installations are managed via Android Studio. Create an empty project in Android Studio and select "Tools->Android->SDK Manager" to open the SDK Manager GUI. The "SDK Platforms" tab is where you install SDKs for multiple API levels. Recent API levels are:

  • Android 9.0 (API level 28)

  • Android 8.1 (API level 27)

  • Android 8.0 (API level 26)

  • Android 7.1 (API level 25)

An overview of all Android codenames, their version number and API Levels can be found in the Android Developer Documentation.

SDK Manager

Installed SDKs are on the following paths:





Note: On Linux, you need to choose an SDK directory. /opt, /srv, and /usr/local are common choices.

Testing Device

Testing on a Real Device

-- ToDo:

For dynamic analysis, you'll need an Android device to run the target app on. In principle, you can test without a real Android device and use only the emulator. However, apps execute quite slowly on the emulator, and this can make security testing tedious. Testing on a real device makes for a smoother process and a more realistic environment.

When working with an Android physical device, you'll want to enable Developer Mode and USB debugging on the device in order to use the ADB debugging interface. Since Android 4.2, the "Developer options" sub menu in the Settings app is hidden by default. To activate it, tap the "Build number" section of the "About phone" view seven times. Note that the build number field's location varies slightly by device—for example, on LG Phones, it is under "About phone -> Software information." Once you have done this, "Developer options" will be shown at bottom of the Settings menu. Once developer options are activated, you can enable debugging with the "USB debugging" switch.

Testing on the Emulator

You can create an Android Virtual Device with the AVD manager for testing, which is available within Android Studio. You can either start an Android Virtual Device (AVD) by using the AVD Manager in Android Studio or start the AVD manager from the command line with the android command, which is found in the tools directory of the Android SDK:

$ ./android avd

There are several downsides to using an emulator. You may not be able to test an app properly in an emulator if the app relies on a specific mobile network or uses NFC or Bluetooth. Testing within an emulator is also usually slower, and the testing itself may cause issues.

Nevertheless, you can emulate many hardware characteristics, such as GPS and SMS.

Although there exist several free Android emulators, we recommend using AVD as it provides enhanced features appropriate for testing your app compared to the others.

Several tools and VMs that can be used to test an app within an emulator environment are available:

Please also verify the "Tools" section at the end of this book.

Getting Privileged Access

Rooting (i.e., modifying the OS so that you can run commands as the root user) is recommended for testing on a real device. This gives you full control over the operating system and allows you to bypass restrictions such as app sandboxing. These privileges in turn allow you to use techniques like code injection and function hooking more easily.

Note that rooting is risky, and three main consequences need to be clarified before you proceed. Rooting can have the following negative effects:

  • voiding the device warranty (always check the manufacturer's policy before taking any action)

  • "bricking" the device, i.e., rendering it inoperable and unusable

  • creating additional security risks (because built-in exploit mitigations are often removed)

You should not root a personal device that you store your private information on. We recommend getting a cheap, dedicated test device instead. Many older devices, such as Google's Nexus series, can run the newest Android versions and are perfectly fine for testing.

You need to understand that rooting your device is ultimately YOUR decision and that OWASP shall in no way be held responsible for any damage. If you're uncertain, seek expert advice before starting the rooting process.

Which Mobiles Can Be Rooted

Virtually any Android mobile can be rooted. Commercial versions of Android OS (which are Linux OS evolutions at the kernel level) are optimized for the mobile world. Some features have been removed or disabled for these versions, for example, non-privileged users' ability to become the 'root' user (who has elevated privileges). Rooting a phone means allowing users to become the root user, e.g., adding a standard Linux executable called su, which is used to change to another user account.

To root a mobile device, first unlock its boot loader. The unlocking procedure depends on the device manufacturer. However, for practical reasons, rooting some mobile devices is more popular than rooting others, particularly when it comes to security testing: devices created by Google and manufactured by companies like Samsung, LG, and Motorola are among the most popular, particularly because they are used by many developers. The device warranty is not nullified when the boot loader is unlocked and Google provides many tools to support the root itself. A curated list of guides for rooting all major brand devices is posted on the XDA forums.

Rooting with Magisk

Magisk ("Magic Mask") is one way to root your Android device. It's specialty lies in the way the modifications on the system are performed. While other rooting tools alter the actual data on the system partition, Magisk does not (which is called "systemless"). This enables a way to hide the modifications from root-sensitive applications (e.g. for banking or games) and allows using the official Android OTA upgrades without the need to unroot the device beforehand.

You can get familiar with Magisk reading the official documentation on GitHub. If you don't have Magisk installed, you can find installation instructions in the documentation. If you use an official Android version and plan to upgrade it, Magisk provides a tutorial on GitHub.

Furthermore, developers can use the power of Magisk to create custom modules and submit them to the official Magisk Modules repository. Submitted modules can then be installed inside the Magisk Manager application. One of these installable modules is a systemless version of the famous Xposed Framework (available for SDK versions up to 27).

Root Detection

An extensive list of root detection methods is presented in the "Testing Anti-Reversing Defenses on Android" chapter.

For a typical mobile app security build, you'll usually want to test a debug build with root detection disabled. If such a build is not available for testing, you can disable root detection in a variety of ways that will be introduced later in this book.

-- ToDo:


adb (Android Debug Bridge), shipped with the Android SDK, bridges the gap between your local development environment and a connected Android device. You'll usually leverage it to test apps on the emulator or a connected device via USB or WiFi. Use the adb devices command to list the connected devices and execute it with the -l argument to retrieve more details on them.

$ adb devices -l
List of devices attached
090c285c0b97f748 device usb:1-1 product:razor model:Nexus_7 device:flo
emulator-5554 device product:sdk_google_phone_x86 model:Android_SDK_built_for_x86 device:generic_x86 transport_id:1

adb provides other useful commands such as adb shell to start an interactive shell on a target and adb forward to forward traffic on a specific host port to a different port on a connect device.

$ adb forward tcp:<host port> tcp:<device port>
$ adb -s emulator-5554 shell
root@generic_x86:/ # ls

You'll come across different use cases on how you can use adb commands when testing later in this book. Note that you must define the serialnummer of the target device with the -s argument (as shown by the previous code snippet) in case you have multiple devices connected.


apktool is used to unpack Android app packages (APKs). Simply unzipping APKs with the standard unzip utility leaves some files unreadable. AndroidManifest.xml is encoded into binary XML format which isn’t readable with a text editor. Also, the app resources are still packaged into a single archive file.

When run with default command line flags, apktool automatically decodes the Manifest file to text-based XML format and extracts the file resources (it also disassembles the .DEX files to smali code – a feature that we’ll revisit later in this book).

$ apktool d base.apk
I: Using Apktool 2.1.0 on base.apk
I: Loading resource table...
I: Decoding AndroidManifest.xml with resources...
I: Loading resource table from file: /Users/sven/Library/apktool/framework/1.apk
I: Regular manifest package...
I: Decoding file-resources...
I: Decoding values */* XMLs...
I: Baksmaling classes.dex...
I: Copying assets and libs...
I: Copying unknown files...
I: Copying original files...
$ cd base
$ ls -alh
total 32
drwxr-xr-x 9 sven staff 306B Dec 5 16:29 .
drwxr-xr-x 5 sven staff 170B Dec 5 16:29 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 10K Dec 5 16:29 AndroidManifest.xml
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 401B Dec 5 16:29 apktool.yml
drwxr-xr-x 6 sven staff 204B Dec 5 16:29 assets
drwxr-xr-x 3 sven staff 102B Dec 5 16:29 lib
drwxr-xr-x 4 sven staff 136B Dec 5 16:29 original
drwxr-xr-x 131 sven staff 4.3K Dec 5 16:29 res
drwxr-xr-x 9 sven staff 306B Dec 5 16:29 smali

The unpacked files are:

  • AndroidManifest.xml: The decoded Manifest file, which can be opened and edited in a text editor.

  • apktool.yml: file containing information about the output of apktool

  • original: folder containing the MANIFEST.MF file, which contains information about the files contained in the JAR file

  • res: directory containing the app’s resources

  • smali: directory containing the disassembled Dalvik bytecode.

You can also use apktool to repackage decoded resources back to binary APK/JAR. See the section "Exploring the App Package" later on this chapter and section "Repackaging" in the chapter "Tampering and Reverse Engineering on Android" for more information and practical examples.


-- ToDo:

Frida "lets you inject snippets of JavaScript or your own library into native apps on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and QNX." Although it was originally based on Google's V8 JavaScript runtime, Frida has used Duktape since version 9.

Code can be injected in several ways. For example, Xposed permanently modifies the Android app loader, providing hooks for running your own code every time a new process is started. In contrast, Frida implements code injection by writing code directly into process memory. When attached to a running app, Frida uses ptrace to hijack a thread of a running process. This thread is used to allocate a chunk of memory and populate it with a mini-bootstrapper. The bootstrapper starts a fresh thread, connects to the Frida debugging server that's running on the device, and loads a dynamically generated library file that contains the Frida agent and instrumentation code. The hijacked thread resumes after being restored to its original state, and process execution continues as usual.

Frida injects a complete JavaScript runtime into the process, along with a powerful API that provides a lot of useful functionality, including calling and hooking native functions and injecting structured data into memory. It also supports interaction with the Android Java runtime.


FRIDA Architecture, source:

Here are some more APIs FRIDA offers on Android:

  • Instantiate Java objects and call static and non-static class methods

  • Replace Java method implementations

  • Enumerate live instances of specific classes by scanning the Java heap (Dalvik only)

  • Scan process memory for occurrences of a string

  • Intercept native function calls to run your own code at function entry and exit

The FRIDA Stalker —a code tracing engine based on dynamic recompilation— is available for Android (with support for ARM64), including various enhancements, since Frida version 10.5 ( Some features have limited support on current Android devices, such as support for ART (, so it is recommended to start out with the Dalvik runtime.

Installing Frida

To install Frida locally, simply use PyPI:

$ sudo pip install frida

Your Android device doesn't need to be rooted to run Frida, but it's the easiest setup. We assume a rooted device here unless otherwise noted. Download the frida-server binary from the Frida releases page. Make sure that you download the right frida-server binary for the architecture of your Android device or emulator: x86, x86_64, arm or arm64. Make sure that the server version (at least the major version number) matches the version of your local Frida installation. PyPI usually installs the latest version of Frida. If you're unsure which version is installed, you can check with the Frida command line tool:

$ frida --version
$ wget

Or you can run the following command to automatically detect frida version and download the right frida-server binary:

$ wget$(frida --version)/frida-server-$(frida --version)-android-arm.xz

Copy frida-server to the device and run it:

$ adb push frida-server /data/local/tmp/
$ adb shell "chmod 755 /data/local/tmp/frida-server"
$ adb shell "su -c /data/local/tmp/frida-server &"

Using Frida

With frida-server running, you should now be able to get a list of running processes with the following command:

$ frida-ps -U
PID Name
----- --------------------------------------------------------------
276 adbd
198 bridgemgrd

The -U option lets Frida search for USB devices or emulators.

To trace specific (low-level) library calls, you can use the frida-trace command line tool:

$ frida-trace -i "open" -U

This generates a little JavaScript in __handlers__/, which Frida injects into the process. The script traces all calls to the open function in You can modify the generated script according to your needs with Frida JavaScript API.

Use frida CLI to work with Frida interactively. It hooks into a process and gives you a command line interface to Frida's API.

$ frida -U

With the -l option, you can also use the Frida CLI to load scripts , e.g., to load myscript.js:

$ frida -U -l myscript.js

Frida also provides a Java API, which is especially helpful for dealing with Android apps. It lets you work with Java classes and objects directly. Here is a script to overwrite the onResume function of an Activity class:

Java.perform(function () {
var Activity = Java.use("");
Activity.onResume.implementation = function () {
console.log("[*] onResume() got called!");

The above script calls Java.perform to make sure that your code gets executed in the context of the Java VM. It instantiates a wrapper for the class via Java.use and overwrites the onResume() function. The new onResume() function implementation prints a notice to the console and calls the original onResume() method by invoking this.onResume() every time an activity is resumed in the app.

Frida also lets you search for and work with instantiated objects that are on the heap. The following script searches for instances of android.view.View objects and calls their toString method. The result is printed to the console:

setImmediate(function() {
console.log("[*] Starting script");
Java.perform(function () {
Java.choose("android.view.View", {
console.log("[*] Instance found: " + instance.toString());
"onComplete":function() {
console.log("[*] Finished heap search")

The output would look like this:

[*] Starting script
[*] Instance found: android.view.View{7ccea78 G.ED..... ......ID 0,0-0,0 #7f0c01fc app:id/action_bar_black_background}
[*] Instance found: android.view.View{2809551 V.ED..... ........ 0,1731-0,1731 #7f0c01ff app:id/menu_anchor_stub}
[*] Instance found: android.view.View{be471b6 G.ED..... ......I. 0,0-0,0 #7f0c01f5 app:id/location_bar_verbose_status_separator}
[*] Instance found: android.view.View{3ae0eb7 V.ED..... ........ 0,0-1080,63 #102002f android:id/statusBarBackground}
[*] Finished heap search

You can also use Java's reflection capabilities. To list the public methods of the android.view.View class, you could create a wrapper for this class in Frida and call getMethods() from the wrapper's class property:

Java.perform(function () {
var view = Java.use("android.view.View");
var methods = view.class.getMethods();
for(var i = 0; i < methods.length; i++) {

Frida also provides bindings for various languages, including Python, C, NodeJS, and Swift.


Objection is a "runtime mobile exploration toolkit, powered by Frida". Its main goal is to allow security testing on non-rooted devices through an intuitive interface.

Objection achieves this goal by providing you with the tools to easily inject the Frida gadget into an application by repackaging it. This way, you can deploy the repackaged app to the non-rooted device by sideloading it and interact with the application as explained in the previous section.

However, Objection also provides a REPL that allows you to interact with the application, giving you the ability to perform any action that the application can perform. A full list of the features of Objection can be found on the project's homepage, but here are a few interesting ones:

  • Repackage applications to include the Frida gadget

  • Disable SSL pinning for popular methods

  • Access application storage to download or upload files

  • Execute custom Frida scripts

  • List the Activities, Services and Broadcast receivers

  • Start Activities

The ability to perform advanced dynamic analysis on non-rooted devices is one of the features that makes Objection incredibly useful. An application may contain advanced RASP controls which detect your rooting method and injecting a frida-gadget may be the easiest way to bypass those controls. Furthermore, the included Frida scripts make it very easy to quickly analyze an application, or get around basic security controls.

Finally, in case you do have access to a rooted device, Objection can connect directly to the running Frida server to provide all its functionality without needing to repackage the application.

Installing Objection

Objection can be installed through pip as described on Objection's Wiki.

$ pip3 install objection

If your device is jailbroken, you are now ready to interact with any application running on the device and you can skip to the "Using Objection" section below.

However, if you want to test on a non-rooted device, you will first need to include the Frida gadget in the application. The Objection Wiki describes the needed steps in detail, but after making the right preparations, you'll be able to patch an APK by calling the objection command:

$ objection patchapk --source app-release.apk

The patched application then needs to be installed using adb, as explained in "Basic Testing Operations - Installing Apps".

Using Objection

Starting up Objection depends on whether you've patched the APK or whether you are using a rooted device running Frida-server. For running a patched APK, objection will automatically find any attached devices and search for a listening Frida gadget. However, when using frida-server, you need to explicitly tell frida-server which application you want to analyze.

# Connecting to a patched APK
objection explore
# Find the correct name using frida-ps
$ frida-ps -Ua | grep -i telegram
30268 Telegram org.telegram.messenger
# Connecting to the Telegram app through Frida-server
$ objection --gadget="org.telegram.messenger" explore

Once you are in the Objection REPL, you can execute any of the available commands. Below is an overview of some of the most useful ones:

# Show the different storage locations belonging to the app
$ env
# Disable popular ssl pinning methods
$ android sslpinning disable
# List items in the keystore
$ android keystore list
# Try to circumvent root detection
$ android root disable

More information on using the Objection REPL can be found on the Objection Wiki


radare2 is a popular reverse engineering framework for analysis, disassembling, debugging and patching that is scriptable and supports many architectures and file formats including Android/iOS apps. For Android, Dalvik DEX (odex, multidex), ELF (executables, .so, ART) and Java (JNI and Java classes) are supported, and it even has a web server for collaborative work. It also contains several useful scripts that can help you during mobile application analysis as it offers low level disassembling and safe static analysis that comes handy when traditional tools fail.

Installing radare2

Please refer to radare2's official installation instructions.

Using radare2

r2 is a set of small command-line utilities that can be used together or independently. Utilities like rabin2, rasm2, rahash2, radiff2, rafind2, ragg2, rarun2, rax2, and of course radare2.

You can use rafind2 to read strings directly from the encoded AndroidManifest.xml. Use this to list permissions, activities, providers, services, receivers and other information stored in AndroidManifest.xml

# Permissions
$ rafind2 -ZS permission AndroidManifest.xml
# Activities
$ rafind2 -ZS activity AndroidManifest.xml
# Content Providers
$ rafind2 -ZS provider AndroidManifest.xml
# Services
$ rafind2 -ZS service AndroidManifest.xml
# Receivers
$ rafind2 -ZS receiver AndroidManifest.xml

You can load DEX classes with the following command.

$ r2 classes.dex

In the very rare case it doesn't get detected properly, you can use the flag -a to manually set the architecture to Dalvik.

$ r2 -a dalvik classes.dex

Once loaded, you can print the disassembly opcodes with the r2 command pd.

[0x000009c8]> pd

You can limit the number of opcodes displayed by appending the number to the command pd.

[0x000009c8]> pd 10
;-- entry0:
;-- Lsg/vantagepoint/uncrackable1/MainActivity.method.onCreate(Landroid/os/Bundle;)V:
;-- method.protected.Lsg_vantagepoint_uncrackable1_MainActivity.Lsg_vantagepoint_uncrackable1_MainActivity.method.onCreate_Landroid_os_Bundle__V:
;-- ip:
0x000009c8 710027000000 invoke-static {}, Lsg/vantagepoint/a/c.a()Z ; 0x27
0x000009ce 0a00 move-result v0
,=< 0x000009d0 39000e00 if-nez v0, 0x000009ec
| 0x000009d4 710028000000 invoke-static {}, Lsg/vantagepoint/a/c.b()Z
; 0x29
|| 0x000009e6 0a00 move-result v0
,===< 0x000009e8 38000700 if-eqz v0, 0x000009f6
|``-> 0x000009ec 1a003f00 const-string v0, str.Root_detected ; 0x11bf

You can print the class names with the r2 command icq.

[0x000009c8]> icq
0x0000069c [0x0000078c - 0x000007b8] Lsg/vantagepoint/a/a Ljava/lang/Object;
0x000006bc [0x000007c8 - 0x000007ec] Lsg/vantagepoint/a/b Ljava/lang/Object;
0x0000073c [0x00000958 - 0x00000abc] Lsg/vantagepoint/uncrackable1/MainActivity Landroid/app/Activity;
0x0000075c [0x00000acc - 0x00000bb2] Lsg/vantagepoint/uncrackable1/a Ljava/lang/Object;

You can print the external methods with the r2 command iiq.

[0x000009c8]> iiq
0x0000075c [0x00000acc - 0x00000bb2] 230 class 6 Lsg/vantagepoint/uncrackable1/a super: Ljava/lang/Object;
0x00000acc method 0 sp Lsg/vantagepoint/uncrackable1/a.method.a(Ljava/lang/String;)Z
0x00000b5c method 1 sp Lsg/vantagepoint/uncrackable1/a.method.b(Ljava/lang/String;)[B

You can print all the strings with the r2 command izq.

[0x000009c8]> izq
0xc50 39 39 /dev/com.koushikdutta.superuser.daemon/
0xc79 25 25 /system/app/Superuser.apk
0xd23 44 44 5UJiFctbmgbDoLXmpL12mkno8HT4Lv8dlat8FxR2GOc=
0xd51 32 32 8d127684cbc37c17616d806cf50473cc
0xd76 6 6 <init>
0xd83 10 10 AES error:
0xd8f 20 20 AES/ECB/PKCS7Padding
0xda5 18 18 App is debuggable!
0xdc0 9 9 CodeCheck
0x11ac 7 7 Nope...
0x11bf 14 14 Root detected!

Radare2 is very powerful and has dozens of commands that you can find on the radare2 command documentation.


r2frida is a project that allows radare2 to connect to Frida, effectively merging the powerful reverse engineering capabilities of radare2 with the dynamic instrumentation toolkit of Frida. R2frida allows you to:

  • Attach radare2 to any local process or remote frida-server via USB or TCP.

  • Read/Write memory from the target process.

  • Load Frida information such as maps, symbols, imports, classes and methods into radare2.

  • Call r2 commands from Frida as it exposes the r2pipe interface into the Frida Javascript API.

Installing r2frida

Before installing r2frida, make sure you have installed radare2 on your system. On GNU/Debian you also need to install the following dependencies:

$ sudo apt install -y make gcc libzip-dev nodejs npm curl pkg-config git

Once the dependencies are installed, you may proceed to install r2frida. The recommended installation method is via r2pm. To install with r2pm, simply run the following command:

$ r2pm -ci r2frida

However, you may also compile r2frida yourself in the traditional way. You can find how to do this in the official documentation of r2frida.

Using r2frida

With frida-server running, you should now be able to attach to it using the pid, spawn path, host and port, or device-id. For example, to attach to PID 1234:

$ r2 frida://1234

For more examples on how to connect to frida-server, see the usage section in the r2frida's README page.

Once attached, you should see the r2 prompt with the device-id. r2frida commands must start with \ or =!. For example, you may retrieve target information with the command \i:

[0x00000000]> \i
arch x86
bits 64
os linux
pid 2218
uid 1000
objc false
runtime V8
java false
cylang false
pageSize 4096
pointerSize 8
codeSigningPolicy optional
isDebuggerAttached false

To search in memory for a specific keyword, you may use the search command \/:

[0x00000000]> \/ unacceptable
Searching 12 bytes: 75 6e 61 63 63 65 70 74 61 62 6c 65
Searching 12 bytes in [0x0000561f05ebf000-0x0000561f05eca000]
Searching 12 bytes in [0xffffffffff600000-0xffffffffff601000]
hits: 23
0x561f072d89ee hit12_0 unacceptable policyunsupported md algorithmvar bad valuec
0x561f0732a91a hit12_1 unacceptableSearching 12 bytes: 75 6e 61 63 63 65 70 74 61

To output the search results in json format, we simply add j to our previous search command. This can be used in most of the commands:

[0x00000000]> \/j unacceptable
Searching 12 bytes: 75 6e 61 63 63 65 70 74 61 62 6c 65
Searching 12 bytes in [0x0000561f05ebf000-0x0000561f05eca000]
Searching 12 bytes in [0xffffffffff600000-0xffffffffff601000]
hits: 23
{"address":"0x561f072c4223","size":12,"flag":"hit14_1","content":"unacceptable policyunsupported md algorithmvar bad valuec0"},{"address":"0x561f072c4275","size":12,"flag":"hit14_2","content":"unacceptableSearching 12 bytes: 75 6e 61 63 63 65 70 74 61"},{"address":"0x561f072c42c8","size":12,"flag":"hit14_3","content":"unacceptableSearching 12 bytes: 75 6e 61 63 63 65 70 74 61 "},

To list the loaded libraries use the command \il and filter the results using the internal grep from radare2 with the command ~. For example, the following command will list the loaded libraries matching the keywords keystore, ssl and crypto:

[0x00000000]> \il~keystore,ssl,crypto

Similarly, to list the exports and filter the results by a specific keyword:

[0x00000000]> \iE
0x7f3357bb7ef0 f SSL_CIPHER_get_bits
0x7f3357bb8260 f SSL_CIPHER_find
0x7f3357bb82c0 f SSL_CIPHER_get_digest_nid
0x7f3357bb8380 f SSL_CIPHER_is_aead
0x7f3357bb8270 f SSL_CIPHER_get_cipher_nid
0x7f3357bb7ed0 f SSL_CIPHER_get_name
0x7f3357bb8340 f SSL_CIPHER_get_auth_nid
0x7f3357bb7930 f SSL_CIPHER_description
0x7f3357bb8300 f SSL_CIPHER_get_kx_nid
0x7f3357bb7ea0 f SSL_CIPHER_get_version
0x7f3357bb7f10 f SSL_CIPHER_get_id

To list or set a breakpoint use the command db. This is useful when analyzing/modifying memory:

[0x00000000]> \db

Finally, remember that you can also run Frida JS code with . script.js:

[0x00000000]> \. agent.js

You can find more examples on how to use r2frida on their Wiki project.


Drozer is an Android security assessment framework that allows you to search for security vulnerabilities in apps and devices by assuming the role of a third-party app interacting with the other application's IPC endpoints and the underlying OS.

The advantage of using Drozer consists on its ability to automate several tasks and that it can be expanded through modules. The modules are very helpful and they cover different categories including a scanner category that allows you to scan for known defects with a simple command such as the module scanner.provider.injection which detects SQL injections in content providers in all the apps installed in the system. Without drozer, simple tasks such as listing the app's permissions require several steps that include decompiling the APK and manually analyzing the results.

Installing Drozer

You can refer to drozer GitHub page (for Linux and Windows, for macOS please refer to this blog post) and the drozer website for prerequisites and installation instructions.

The installation instructions for drozer on Unix, Linux and Windows are explained in the drozer Github page. For macOS this blog post will be demonstrating all installation instructions.

Using Drozer

Before you can start using drozer, you'll also need the drozer agent that runs on the Android device itself. Download the latest drozer agent from the releases page and install it with adb install drozer.apk.

Once the setup is completed you can start a session to an emulator or a device connected per USB by running adb forward tcp:31415 tcp:31415 and drozer console connect. See the full instructions here.

Now you are ready to begin analyzing apps. A good first step is to enumerate the attack surface of an app which can be done easily with the following command:

$ dz> run app.package.attacksurface <package>

Again, without drozer this would have required several steps. The module app.package.attacksurface lists activies, broadcast receivers, content providers and services that are exported, hence, they are public and can be accessed through other apps. Once we have identified our attack surface, we can interact with the IPC endpoints through drozer without having to write a separate standalone app as it would be required for certain tasks such as communicating with a content provider.

For example, if the app has an exported Activity that leaks sensitive information we can invoke it with the Drozer module app.activity.start:

$ dz> run app.activity.start --component <package> <component name>

This previous command will start the activity, hopefully leaking some sensitive information. Drozer has modules for every type of IPC mechanism. Download InsecureBankv2 if you would like to try the modules with an intentionally vulnerable application that illustrates common problems related to IPC endpoints. Pay close attention to the modules in the scanner category as they are very helpful automatically detecting vulnerabilities even in system packages, specially if you are using a ROM provided by your cellphone company. Even SQL injection vulnerabilities in system packages by Google have been identified in the past with drozer.

Other Drozer commands

Here's a non-exhaustive list of commands you can use to start exploring on Android:

# List all the installed packages
$ dz> run app.package.list
# Find the package name of a specific app
$ dz> run app.package.list –f (string to be searched)
# See basic information
$ dz> run –a (package name)
# Identify the exported application components
$ dz> run app.package.attacksurface (package name)
# Identify the list of exported Activities
$ dz> run -a (package name)
# Launch the exported Activities
$ dz> run app.activity.start --component (package name) (component name)
# Identify the list of exported Broadcast receivers
$ dz> run -a (package name)
# Send a message to a Broadcast receiver
$ dz> run app.broadcast.send --action (broadcast receiver name) -- extra (number of arguments)
# Detect SQL injections in content providers
$ dz> run scanner.provider.injection -a (package name)

Other Drozer resources

Other resources where you might find useful information are:


Xposed is a "framework for modules that can change the behavior of the system and apps without touching any APKs." Technically, it is an extended version of Zygote that exports APIs for running Java code when a new process is started. Running Java code in the context of the newly instantiated app makes it possible to resolve, hook, and override Java methods belonging to the app. Xposed uses reflection to examine and modify the running app. Changes are applied in memory and persist only during the process' runtime since the application binaries are not modified.

To use Xposed, you need to first install the Xposed framework on a rooted device as explained on XDA-Developers Xposed framework hub. Modules can be installed through the Xposed Installer app, and they can be toggled on and off through the GUI.

Note: given that a plain installation of the Xposed framework is easily detected with Safetynet, we recommend using Magisk to install Xposed. This way, applications with Safetynet attestation should have a higher chance of being testable with Xposed modules.

Xposed has been compared to Frida. When you run Frida server on a rooted device, you will end up with a similarly effective setup. Both frameworks deliver a lot of value when you want to do dynamic instrumentation. When Frida crashes the app, you can try something similar with Xposed. Next, similar to the abudance of Frida scripts, you can easily use one of the many modules that come with Xposed, such as the earlier discussed module to bypass SSL pinning (JustTrustMe and SSLUnpinning). Xposed includes other modules, such as Inspeckage which allow you to do more in depth application testing as well. On top of that, you can create your own modules as well to patch often used security mechanisms of Android applications.

Xposed can also be installed on an emulator through the following script:

echo "Start your emulator with 'emulator -avd NAMEOFX86A8.0 -writable-system -selinux permissive -wipe-data'"
adb root && adb remount
adb install SuperSU\ v2.79.apk #binary can be downloaded from
adb push root_avd-master/SuperSU/x86/su /system/xbin/su
adb shell chmod 0755 /system/xbin/su
adb shell setenforce 0
adb shell su --install
adb shell su --daemon&
adb push busybox /data/busybox #binary can be downloaded from
# adb shell "mount -o remount,rw /system && mv /data/busybox /system/bin/busybox && chmod 755 /system/bin/busybox && /system/bin/busybox --install /system/bin"
adb shell chmod 755 /data/busybox
adb shell 'sh -c "./data/busybox --install /data"'
adb shell 'sh -c "mkdir /data/xposed"'
adb push /data/xposed/ #can be downloaded from
adb shell chmod 0755 /data/xposed
adb shell 'sh -c "./data/unzip /data/xposed/ -d /data/xposed/"'
adb shell 'sh -c "cp /data/xposed/xposed/META-INF/com/google/android/*.* /data/xposed/xposed/"'
echo "Now adb shell and do 'su', next: go to ./data/xposed/xposed, make executable and run it in that directory after running SUperSU"
echo "Next, restart emulator"
echo "Next, adb install XposedInstaller_3.1.5.apk"
echo "Next, run installer and then adb reboot"
echo "Want to use it again? Start your emulator with 'emulator -avd NAMEOFX86A8.0 -writable-system -selinux permissive'"

Please note that Xposed, as of early 2019, does not work on Android Pie yet.


-- ToDo:

Angr is a Python framework for analyzing binaries. It is useful for both static and dynamic symbolic ("concolic") analysis. Angr operates on the VEX intermediate language and comes with a loader for ELF/ARM binaries, so it is perfect for dealing with native Android binaries.

Since version 8 Angr is based on Python 3, and it's available from PyPI. With pip, it's easy to install on *nix operating systems and Mac OS:

$ pip install angr

Creating a dedicated virtual environment with Virtualenv is recommended because some of its dependencies contain forked versions Z3 and PyVEX, which overwrite the original versions. You can skip this step if you don't use these libraries for anything else.

Comprehensive documentation, including an installation guide, tutorials, and usage examples is available on Gitbooks page of angr. A complete API reference is also available.

Basic Testing Operations

Accessing the Device Shell

One of the most common things you do when testing an app is accessing the device shell. In this section we'll see how to access the Android shell both remotely from your host computer with/without a USB cable and locally from the device itself.

Remote Shell

In order to connect to the shell of an Android device from your host computer, adb is usually your tool of choice (unless you prefer to use remote SSH access, e.g. via Termux).

For this section we assume that you've properly enabled Developer Mode and USB debugging as explained in "Testing on a Real Device". Once you've connected your Android device via USB, you can access the remote device's shell by running:

$ adb shell

press Control + D or type exit to quit

If your device is rooted or you're using the emulator, you can get root access by running su once in the remote shell:

$ adb shell
bullhead:/ $ su
bullhead:/ # id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root) context=u:r:su:s0

Only if you're working with an emulator you may alternatively restart adb with root permissions with the command adb root so next time you enter adb shell you'll have root access already. This also allows to transfer data bidirectionally between your workstation and the Android file system, even with access to locations where only the root user has access to (via adb push/pull). See more about data transfer in section "Host-Device Data Transfer" below.

Connect to Multiple Devices

If you have more than one device, remember to include the -s flag followed by the device serial ID on all your adb commands (e.g. adb -s emulator-5554 shell or adb -s 00b604081540b7c6 shell). You can get a list of all connected devices and their serial IDs by using the following command:

$ adb devices
List of devices attached
00c907098530a82c device
emulator-5554 device

Connect to a Device over Wi-Fi

You can also access your Android device without using the USB cable. For this you'll have to connect both your host computer and your Android device to the same Wi-Fi network and follow the next steps:

  • Connect the device to the host computer with a USB cable and set the target device to listen for a TCP/IP connection on port 5555: adb tcpip 5555.

  • Disconnect the USB cable from the target device and run adb connect <device_ip_address>. Check that the device is now available by running adb devices.

  • Open the shell with adb shell.

However, notice that by doing this you leave your device open to anyone being in the same network and knowing the IP address of your device. You may rather prefer using the USB connection.

For example, on a Nexus device, you can find the IP address at Settings -> System -> About phone -> Status -> IP address or by going to the Wi-Fi menu and tapping once on the network you're connected to.

See the full instructions and considerations in the Android Developers Documentation.

Connect to a Device via SSH

If you prefer, you can also enable SSH access. A convenient option is to use Termux, which you can easily configure to offer SSH access (with password or public key authentication) and start it with the command sshd (starts by default on port 8022). In order to connect to the Termux via SSH you can simply run the command ssh -p 8022 <ip_address> (where ip_address is the actual remote device IP). This option has some additional benefits as it allows to access the file system via SFTP also on port 8022.

On-device Shell App

While usually using an on-device shell (terminal emulator) might be very tedious compared to a remote shell, it can prove handy for debugging in case of, for example, network issues or check some configuration.

Termux is a terminal emulator for Android that provides a Linux environment that works directly with or without rooting and with no setup required. The installation of additional packages is a trivial task thanks to its own APT package manager (which makes a difference in comparison to other terminal emulator apps). You can search for specific packages by using the command pkg search <pkg_name> and install packages with pkg install <pkg_name>. You can install Termux straight from Google Play.

Host-Device Data Transfer

Using adb

You can copy files to and from a device by using the commands adb pull <remote> <local> and adb push <local> <remote> commands. Their usage is very straightforward. For example, the following will copy foo.txt from your current directory (local) to the sdcard folder (remote):

$ adb push foo.txt /sdcard/foo.txt

This approach is commonly used when you know exactly what you want to copy and from/to where and also supports bulk file transfer, e.g. you can pull (copy) a whole directory from the Android device to your workstation.

$ adb pull /sdcard
/sdcard/: 1190 files pulled. 14.1 MB/s (304526427 bytes in 20.566s)

Using Android Studio Device File Explorer

Android Studio has a built-in Device File Explorer which you can open by going to View -> Tool Windows -> Device File Explorer.

Android Studio Device File Explorer

If you're using a rooted device you can now start exploring the whole file system. However, when using a non-rooted device accessing the app sandboxes won't work unless the app is debuggable and even then you are "jailed" within the app sandbox.

Using objection

This option is useful when you are working on a specific app and want to copy files you might encounter inside its sandbox (notice that you'll only have access to the files that the target app has access to). This approach works without having to set the app as debuggable, which is otherwise required when using Android Studio's Device File Explorer.

First, connect to the app with Objection as explained in "Recommended Tools - Objection". Then, use ls and cd as you normally would on your terminal to explore the available files:

$ frida-ps -U | grep -i owasp
21228 sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android
$ objection -g sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android explore
...g.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android on (google: 8.1.0) [usb] # cd ..
...g.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android on (google: 8.1.0) [usb] # ls
Type ... Name
--------- ... -------------------
Directory ... cache
Directory ... code_cache
Directory ... lib
Directory ... shared_prefs
Directory ... files
Directory ... app_ACRA-approved
Directory ... app_ACRA-unapproved
Directory ... databases
Readable: True Writable: True

One you have a file you want to download you can just run file download <some_file>. This will download that file to your working directory. The same way you can upload files using file upload.

...[usb] # ls
Type ... Name
------ ... -----------------------------------------------
File ... sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android_preferences.xml
Readable: True Writable: True
...[usb] # file download sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android_preferences.xml
Downloading ...
Streaming file from device...
Writing bytes to destination...
Successfully downloaded ... to sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android_preferences.xml

The downside is that, at the time of this writing, objection does not support bulk file transfer yet, so you're restricted to copy individual files. Still, this can come handy in some scenarios where you're already exploring the app using objection anyway and find some interesting file. Instead of e.g. taking note of the full path of that file and use adb pull <path_to_some_file> from a separate terminal, you might just want to directly do file download <some_file>.

Using Termux

If you have a rooted device and have Termux installed and have properly configured SSH access on it, you should have an SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) server already running on port 8022. You may access it from your terminal:

$ sftp -P 8022 root@localhost
sftp> cd /data/data
sftp> ls -1

Or simply by using an SFTP-capable client like FileZilla:

SFTP Access

Check the Termux Wiki to learn more about remote file access methods.

Obtaining and Extracting Apps

There are several ways of extracting apk files from a device. You will need to decide which one is the easiest method depending if the app is public or private.

Alternative App Stores

One of the easiest options is to download the apk from websites that mirror public applications from the Google Play Store. However, keep in mind that these sites are not offical and there is no guarantee that the application hasn't been repackaged or contain malware. A few reputable websites that host APKs and are not known for modifying apps and even list SHA-1 and SHA-256 checksums of the apps are:

Beware that you do not have control over these sites and you cannot guarantee what they do in the future. Only use them if it's your only option left.

Extracting the App Package from the Device

Obtaining app packages from the device is the recommended method as we can guarantee the app hasn't been modified by a third-party.

To obtain applications from a non-rooted device, you could use adb. If you don't know the package name, the first step is to list all the applications installed on the device:

$ adb shell pm list packages

Once you have located the package name of the application, you need the full path where it is stored on the system to download it.

$ adb shell pm path <package name>

With the full path to the apk, you can now simply use adb pull to extract the apk.

$ adb pull <apk path>

The apk will be downloaded in your working directory.

There are also apps like APK Extractor that do not require root and can even share the extracted apk via your prefered method. This can be useful if you don't feel like connecting the device or setting up adb over the network to transfer the file.

Both of the methods mentioned previously do not require root, hence, they can be used on rooted and non-rooted devices.

Installing Apps

Use adb install to install an APK on an emulator or connected device.

adb install path_to_apk

Note that if you have the original source code and use Android Studio, you do not need to do this because Android Studio handles the packaging and installation of the app for you.

Information Gathering

One fundamental step when analyzing apps is information gathering. This can be done by inspecting the app package on your workstation or remotely by accessing the app data on the device. You'll find more advanced techniques in the subsequent chapters but, for now, we will focus on the basics: getting a list of all installed apps, exploring the app package and accessing the app data directories on the device itself. This should give you a bit of context about what the app is all about without even having to reverse engineer it or perform more advanced analysis. We will be answering questions such as:

  • Which files are included in the package?

  • Which native libraries does the app use?

  • Which app components does the app define? Any services or content providers?

  • Is the app debuggable?

  • Does the app contain a network security policy?

  • Does the app create any new files when being installed?

Listing Installed Apps

When targeting apps that are installed on the device, you'll first have to figure out the correct package name of the application you want to analyze. You can retrieve the installed apps either by using pm (Android Package Manager) or by using frida-ps:

$ adb shell pm list packages

You can include flags to show only third party apps (-3) and the location of their APK file (-f), which you can use afterwards to download it via adb pull:

$ adb shell pm list packages -3 -f

This is the same as running adb shell pm path <app_package_id> on an app package ID:

$ adb shell pm path sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android

Use frida-ps -Uai to get all apps (-a) currently installed (-i) on the connected USB device (-U):

$ frida-ps -Uai
PID Name Identifier
----- ---------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------
766 Android System android
21228 Attack me if u can sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android
4281 Termux com.termux
- Uncrackable1 sg.vantagepoint.uncrackable1
- drozer Agent

Note that this also shows the PID of the apps that are running at the moment. Take a note of the "Identifier" and the PID if any as you'll need them afterwards.

Exploring the App Package

Once you have collected the package name of the application you want to target, you'll want to start gathering information about it. First, retrieve the APK as explained in "Basic Testing Operations - Obtaining and Extracting Apps".

APK files are actually ZIP files that can be unpacked using a standard unarchiver:

$ unzip base.apk
$ ls -lah
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 11K Dec 5 14:45 AndroidManifest.xml
drwxr-xr-x 5 sven staff 170B Dec 5 16:18 META-INF
drwxr-xr-x 6 sven staff 204B Dec 5 16:17 assets
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 3.5M Dec 5 14:41 classes.dex
drwxr-xr-x 3 sven staff 102B Dec 5 16:18 lib
drwxr-xr-x 27 sven staff 918B Dec 5 16:17 res
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 241K Dec 5 14:45 resources.arsc

The following files are unpacked:

  • AndroidManifest.xml: contains the definition of the app's package name, target and minimum API level, app configuration, app components, permissions, etc.

  • META-INF: contains the app's metadata

    • MANIFEST.MF: stores hashes of the app resources

    • CERT.RSA: the app's certificate(s)

    • CERT.SF: list of resources and the SHA-1 digest of the corresponding lines in the MANIFEST.MF file

  • assets: directory containing app assets (files used within the Android app, such as XML files, JavaScript files, and pictures), which the AssetManager can retrieve

  • classes.dex: classes compiled in the DEX file format, the Dalvik virtual machine/Android Runtime can process. DEX is Java bytecode for the Dalvik Virtual Machine. It is optimized for small devices

  • lib: directory containing 3rd party libraries that are part of the APK.

  • res: directory containing resources that haven't been compiled into resources.arsc

  • resources.arsc: file containing precompiled resources, such as XML files for the layout

As unzipping with the standard unzip utility leaves some files such as the AndroidManifest.xml unreadable, you better unpack the APK using apktool as described in "Recommended Tools - apktool". The unpacking results into:

$ ls -alh
total 32
drwxr-xr-x 9 sven staff 306B Dec 5 16:29 .
drwxr-xr-x 5 sven staff 170B Dec 5 16:29 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 10K Dec 5 16:29 AndroidManifest.xml
-rw-r--r-- 1 sven staff 401B Dec 5 16:29 apktool.yml
drwxr-xr-x 6 sven staff 204B Dec 5 16:29 assets
drwxr-xr-x 3 sven staff 102B Dec 5 16:29 lib
drwxr-xr-x 4 sven staff 136B Dec 5 16:29 original
drwxr-xr-x 131 sven staff 4.3K Dec 5 16:29 res
drwxr-xr-x 9 sven staff 306B Dec 5 16:29 smali

The Android Manifest

The Android Manifest is the main source of information, it includes a lot of interesting information such as the package name, the permissions, app components, etc.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of some info and the corresponding keywords that you can easily search for in the Android Manifest by just inspecting the file or by using grep -i <keyword> AndroidManifest.xml:

  • App permissions: permission (see "Android Platform APIs")

  • Backup allowance: android:allowBackup (see "Data Storage on Android")

  • App components: activity, service, provider, receiver (see "Android Platform APIs" and "Data Storage on Android")

  • Debuggable flag: debuggable (see "Code Quality and Build Settings of Android Apps")

Please refer to the mentioned chapters to learn more about how to test each of these points.

App Binary

As seen above in "Exploring the App Package", the app binary (classes.dex) can be found in the root directory of the app package. It is a so-called DEX (Dalvik Executable) file that contains compiled Java code. Due to its nature, after applying some conversions you'll be able to use a decompiler to produce Java code. We've also seen the folder smali that was obtained after we run apktool. This contains the disassembled Dalvik bytecode in an intermediate language called smali, which is a human-readable representation of the Dalvik executable.

Refer to the section "Statically Analyzing Java Code" in the chapter "Tampering and Reverse Engineering on Android" for more information about how to reverse engineer DEX files.

Native Libraries

You can inspect the lib folder in the APK:

$ ls -1 lib/armeabi/

or from the device with objection:

...g.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android on (google: 8.1.0) [usb] # ls lib
Type ... Name
------ ... ------------------------
File ...
File ...
File ...
File ...

For now this is all information you can get about the native libraries unless you start reverse engineering them, which is done using a different approach than the one used to reverse the app binary as this code cannot be decompiled but only disassembled. Refer to the section "Statically Analyzing Native Code" in the chapter "Tampering and Reverse Engineering on Android" for more information about how to reverse engineer these libraries.

Other App Resources

It is normally worth taking a look at the rest of the resources and files that you may find in the root folder of the APK as some times they contain additional goodies like key stores, encrypted databases, certificates, etc.

Accessing App Data Directories

Once you have installed the app, there is further information to explore, where tools like objection come in handy.

When using objection you can retrieve different kinds of information, where env will show you all the directory information of the app.

$ objection -g sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android explore
...g.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android on (google: 8.1.0) [usb] # env
Name Path
---------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
cacheDirectory /data/user/0/sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android/cache
codeCacheDirectory /data/user/0/sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android/code_cache
externalCacheDirectory /storage/emulated/0/Android/data/sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android/cache
filesDirectory /data/user/0/sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android/files
obbDir /storage/emulated/0/Android/obb/sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android
packageCodePath /data/app/sg.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android-kR0ovWl9eoU_yh0jPJ9caQ==/base.apk

Among this information we find:

  • The internal data directory (aka. sandbox directory) which is at /data/data/[package-name] or /data/user/0/[package-name]

  • The external data directory at /storage/emulated/0/Android/data/[package-name] or /sdcard/Android/data/[package-name]

  • The path to the app package in /data/app/

The internal data directory is used by the app to store data created during runtime and has the following basic structure:

...g.vp.owasp_mobile.omtg_android on (google: 8.1.0) [usb] # ls
Type ... Name
--------- ... -------------------
Directory ... cache
Directory ... code_cache
Directory ... lib
Directory ... shared_prefs
Directory ... files
Directory ... databases
Readable: True Writable: True

Each folder has its own purpose:

  • cache: This location is used for data caching. For example, the WebView cache is found in this directory.

  • code_cache: This is the location of the file system's application-specific cache directory designed for storing cached code. On devices running Android 5 (API level 21) or later, the system will delete any files stored in this location when the app or the entire platform is upgraded.

  • lib: This folder stores native libraries written in C/C++. These libraries can have one of several file extensions, including .so and .dll (x86 support). This folder contains subdirectories for the platforms the app has native libraries for, including

    • armeabi: compiled code for all ARM-based processors

    • armeabi-v7a: compiled code for all ARM-based processors, version 7 and above only

    • arm64-v8a: compiled code for all 64-bit ARM-based processors, version 8 and above based only

    • x86: compiled code for x86 processors only

    • x86_64: compiled code for x86_64 processors only

    • mips: compiled code for MIPS processors

  • shared_prefs: This folder contains an XML file that stores values saved via the SharedPreferences APIs.

  • files: This folder stores regular files created by the app.

  • databases: This folder stores SQLite database files generated by the app at runtime, e.g., user data files.

However, the app might store more data not only inside these folders but also in the parent folder (/data/data/[package-name]).

Refer to the "Testing Data Storage" chapter for more information and best practices on securely storing sensitive data.

Monitoring System Logs

On Android you can easily inspect the log of system messages by using Logcat. There are two ways to execute Logcat:

  • Logcat is part of Dalvik Debug Monitor Server (DDMS) in Android Studio. If the app is running in debug mode, the log output will be shown in the Android Monitor on the Logcat tab. You can filter the app's log output by defining patterns in Logcat.

Log output in Android Studio
  • You can execute Logcat with adb to store the log output permanently:

$ adb logcat > logcat.log

With the following command you can specifically grep for the log output of the app in scope, just insert the package name. Of course your app needs to be running for ps to be able to get its PID.

$ adb logcat | grep "$(adb shell ps | grep <package-name> | awk '{print $2}')"

Static Analysis

Manual Static Analysis

In Android app security testing, black-box testing (with access to the compiled binary, but not the original source code) is almost equivalent to white-box testing. The majority of apps can be decompiled easily, and having some reverse engineering knowledge and access to bytecode and binary code is almost as good as having the original code unless the release build has been purposefully obfuscated.

For source code testing, you'll need a setup similar to the developer's setup, including a test environment that includes the Android SDK and an IDE. Access to either a physical device or an emulator (for debugging the app) is recommended.

During black box testing, you won't have access to the original form of the source code. You'll usually have the application package in Android's .apk format, which can be installed on an Android device or reverse engineered to help you retrieve parts of the source code.

The following pull the APK from the device:

$ adb shell pm list packages
$ adb shell pm path com.awesomeproject
$ adb pull /data/app/com.awesomeproject-1/base.apk

apkx provides an easy method of retrieving an APK's source code via the command line. It also packages dex2jar and CFR and automates the extraction, conversion, and decompilation steps. Install it as follows:

$ git clone
$ cd apkx
$ sudo ./

This should copy apkx to /usr/local/bin. Run it on the APK that you want to test as follows:

$ apkx UnCrackable-Level1.apk
Extracting UnCrackable-Level1.apk to UnCrackable-Level1
Converting: classes.dex -> classes.jar (dex2jar)
dex2jar UnCrackable-Level1/classes.dex -> UnCrackable-Level1/classes.jar
Decompiling to UnCrackable-Level1/src (cfr)

If the application is based solely on Java and doesn't have any native libraries (C/C++ code), the reverse engineering process is relatively easy and recovers almost all the source code. Nevertheless, if the code is obfuscated, this process may be very time-consuming and unproductive. This also applies to applications that contain a native library. They can still be reverse engineered, but the process is not automated and requires knowledge of low-level details.

The "Tampering and Reverse Engineering on Android" section contains more details about reverse engineering Android.

Automated Static Analysis

You should use tools for efficient static analysis. They allow the tester to focus on the more complicated business logic. A plethora of static code analyzers are available, ranging from open source scanners to full-blown enterprise-ready scanners. The best tool for the job depends on budget, client requirements, and the tester's preferences.

Some static analyzers rely on the availability of the source code; others take the compiled APK as input. Keep in mind that static analyzers may not be able to find all problems by themselves even though they can help us focus on potential problems. Review each finding carefully and try to understand what the app is doing to improve your chances of finding vulnerabilities.

Configure the static analyzer properly to reduce the likelihood of false positives. and maybe only select several vulnerability categories in the scan. The results generated by static analyzers can otherwise be overwhelming, and your efforts can be counterproductive if you must manually investigate a large report.

There are several open source tools for automated security analysis of an APK.

For enterprise tools, see the section "Static Source Code Analysis" in the chapter "Testing Tools."

Dynamic Analysis

Dynamic Analysis tests the mobile app by executing and running the app binary and analysing its workflows for vulnerabilities. For example, vulnerabilities regarding data storage might be sometimes hard to catch during static analysis, but in dynamic analysis you can easily spot what information is stored persistently and if the information is protected properly. Besides this, dynamic analysis allows the tester to properly identify:

  • Business logic flaws

  • Vulnerabilities in the tested environments

  • Weak input validation and bad input/output encoding as they are processed through one or multiple services

Analysis can be assisted by automated tools, such as MobSF, while assessing an application. An application can be assessed by side-loading it, re-packaging it, or by simply attacking the installed version.

Using Non-Rooted Devices

Non-rooted devices provide the tester with two benefits:

  • Replicate an environment that the application is intended to run on.

  • Thanks to tools like objection, you can patch the app in order to test it like if you were on a rooted device (but of course being jailed to that one app).

In order to dynamically analyze the application, you can also rely on objection which is leveraging Frida. However, in order to be able to use objection on non-rooted devices you have to perform one additional step: patch the APK to include the Frida gadget library. Objection communicates then using a Python API with the mobile phone through the installed Frida gadget.

In order to accomplish this, the following commands can set you up and running:

# Download the Uncrackable APK
$ wget
# Patch the APK with the Frida Gadget
$ objection patchapk --source UnCrackable-Level1.apk
# Install the patched APK on the android phone
$ adb install UnCrackable-Level1.objection.apk
# After running the mobile phone, objection will detect the running frida-server through the APK
$ objection explore

The section Setting up a Network Testing Environment assists tremendously with the dynamic analysis process. As this is a basic guide, the two sections are separate as each can be used on its own. For advanced purposes, it is essential to combine the knowledge gained from both sections.

Setting up a Network Testing Environment

Basic Network Monitoring/Sniffing

Remotely sniffing all Android traffic in real-time is possible with tcpdump, netcat (nc), and Wireshark. First, make sure that you have the latest version of Android tcpdump on your phone. Here are the installation steps:

$ adb root
$ adb remount
$ adb push /wherever/you/put/tcpdump /system/xbin/tcpdump

If execution of adb root returns the error adbd cannot run as root in production builds, install tcpdump as follows:

$ adb push /wherever/you/put/tcpdump /data/local/tmp/tcpdump
$ adb shell
$ su
$ mount -o rw,remount /system;
$ cp /data/local/tmp/tcpdump /system/xbin/
$ cd /system/xbin
$ chmod 755 tcpdump

Remember: To use tcpdump, you need root privileges on the phone!

Execute tcpdump once to see if it works. Once a few packets have come in, you can stop tcpdump by pressing CTRL+c.

$ tcpdump
tcpdump: verbose output suppressed, use -v or -vv for full protocol decode
listening on wlan0, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 262144 bytes
04:54:06.590751 00:9e:1e:10:7f:69 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, RRCP-0x23 reply
04:54:09.659658 00:9e:1e:10:7f:69 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, RRCP-0x23 reply
04:54:10.579795 00:9e:1e:10:7f:69 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, RRCP-0x23 reply
3 packets captured
3 packets received by filter
0 packets dropped by kernel

To remotely sniff the Android phone's network traffic, first execute tcpdump and pipe its output to netcat (nc):

$ tcpdump -i wlan0 -s0 -w - | nc -l -p 11111

The tcpdump command above involves

  • listening on the wlan0 interface,

  • defining the size (snapshot length) of the capture in bytes to get everything (-s0), and

  • writing to a file (-w). Instead of a filename, we pass -, which will make tcpdump write to stdout.

By using the pipe (|), we sent all output from tcpdump to netcat, which opens a listener on port 11111. You'll usually want to monitor the wlan0 interface. If you need another interface, list the available options with the command $ ip addr.

To access port 11111, you need to forward the port to your machine via adb.

$ adb forward tcp:11111 tcp:11111

The following command connects you to the forwarded port via netcat and piping to Wireshark.

$ nc localhost 11111 | wireshark -k -S -i -

Wireshark should start immediately (-k). It gets all data from stdin (-i -) via netcat, which is connected to the forwarded port. You should see all the phone's traffic from the wlan0 interface.


You can display the captured traffic in a human-readable format with Wireshark. Figure out which protocols are used and whether they are unencrypted. Capturing all traffic (TCP and UDP) is important, so you should execute all functions of the tested application and analyze it.

Wireshark and tcpdump

This neat little trick allows you now to identify what kind of protocols are used and to which endpoints the app is talking to. The questions is now, how can I test the endpoints if Burp is not capable of showing the traffic? There is no easy answer for this, but a few Burp plugins that can get you started.

Firebase/Google Cloud Messaging (FCM/GCM)

Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), the successor to Google Cloud Messaging (GCM), is a free service offered by Google that allows you to send messages between an application server and client apps. The server and client app communicate via the FCM/GCM connection server, which handles downstream and upstream messages.

Architectural Overview

Downstream messages (push notifications) are sent from the application server to the client app; upstream messages are sent from the client app to the server.

FCM is available for Android, iOS, and Chrome. FCM currently provides two connection server protocols: HTTP and XMPP. As described in the official documentation, these protocols are implemented differently. The following example demonstrates how to intercept both protocols.

Preparation of Test Setup

You need to either configure iptables on your phone or use bettercap to be able to intercept traffic.

FCM can use either XMPP or HTTP to communicate with the Google backend.


FCM uses the ports 5228, 5229, and 5230 for HTTP communication. Usually, only port 5228 is used.

  • Configure local port forwarding for the ports used by FCM. The following example applies to Mac OS X:

$ echo "
rdr pass inet proto tcp from any to any port 5228-> port 8080
rdr pass inet proto tcp from any to any port 5229 -> port 8080
rdr pass inet proto tcp from any to any port 5230 -> port 8080
" | sudo pfctl -ef -
  • The interception proxy must listen to the port specified in the port forwarding rule above (port 8080).


For XMPP communication, FCM uses ports 5235 (Production) and 5236 (Testing).

  • Configure local port forwarding for the ports used by FCM. The following example applies to Mac OS X:

$ echo "
rdr pass inet proto tcp from any to any port 5235-> port 8080
rdr pass inet proto tcp from any to any port 5236 -> port 8080
" | sudo pfctl -ef -

Intercepting the Requests

The interception proxy must listen to the port specified in the port forwarding rule above (port 8080).

Start the app and trigger a function that uses FCM. You should see HTTP messages in your interception proxy.

Intercepted Messages

End-to-End Encryption for Push Notifications

As an additional layer of security, push notifications can be encrypted by using Capillary. Capillary is a library to simplify the sending of end-to-end (E2E) encrypted push messages from Java-based application servers to Android clients.

Setting Up an Interception Proxy

Several tools support the network analysis of applications that rely on the HTTP(S) protocol. The most important tools are the so-called interception proxies; OWASP ZAP and Burp Suite Professional are the most famous. An interception proxy gives the tester a man-in-the-middle position. This position is useful for reading and/or modifying all app requests and endpoint responses, which are used for testing Authorization, Session, Management, etc.

Interception Proxy for a Virtual Device

Setting Up a Web Proxy on an Android Virtual Device (AVD)

The following procedure, which works on the Android emulator that ships with Android Studio 3.x, is for setting up an HTTP proxy on the emulator:

  1. Set up your proxy to listen on localhost and for example port 8080.

  2. Configure the HTTP proxy in the emulator settings:

    • Click on the three dots in the emulator menu bar

    • Open the Settings Menu

    • Click on the Proxy tab

    • Select "Manual proxy configuration"

    • Enter "" in the "Host Name" field and your proxy port in the "Port number" field (e.g., "8080")

    • Tap "Apply"

HTTP and HTTPS requests should now be routed over the proxy on the host machine. If not, try toggling airplane mode off and on.

A proxy for an AVD can also be configured on the command line by using the emulator command when starting an AVD. The following example starts the AVD Nexus_5X_API_23 and setting a proxy to and port 8080.

$ emulator @Nexus_5X_API_23 -http-proxy

Installing a CA Certificate on the Virtual Device

An easy way to install a CA certificate is to push the certificate to the device and add it to the certificate store via Security Settings. For example, you can install the PortSwigger (Burp) CA certificate as follows:

  1. Start Burp and use a web browser on the host to navigate to burp/, then download cacert.der by clicking the "CA Certificate" button.

  2. Change the file extension from .der to .cer.

  3. Push the file to the emulator:

    $ adb push cacert.cer /sdcard/
  4. Navigate to "Settings" -> "Security" -> "Install from SD Card."

  5. Scroll down and tap cacert.cer.

You should then be prompted to confirm installation of the certificate (you'll also be asked to set a device PIN if you haven't already).

For Android 7 and above follow the same procedure described in the "Bypassing the Network Security Configuration" section.

Interception Proxy for a Physical Device

The available network setup options must be evaluated first. The mobile device used for testing and the machine running the interception proxy must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Use either an (existing) access point or create an ad-hoc wireless network.

Once you've configured the network and established a connection between the testing machine and the mobile device, several steps remain.

  • The [interception proxy's CA certificate must be added to the trusted certificates in the Android device's certificate storage]( "Installing Burp's CA Certificate in an Android Device"). The location of the menu used to store CA certificates may depend on the Android version and Android OEM modifications of the settings menu.

  • Some application (e.g. the Chrome browser) may show NET::ERR_CERT_VALIDITY_TOO_LONG errors, if the leaf certificate happens to have a validity extending a certain time (39 months in case of Chrome). This happens if the default Burp CA certificate is used, since the Burp Suite issues leaf certificates with the same validity as its CA certificate. You can circumvent this by creating your own CA certificate and import it to the Burp Suite, as explained in a blog post on

After completing these steps and starting the app, the requests should show up in the interception proxy.

A video of setting up OWASP ZAP with an Android device can be found on

A few other differences: from Android 8 onward, the network behavior of the app changes when HTTPS traffic is tunneled through another connection. And from Android 9 onward, the SSLSocket and SSLEngine will behave a little bit different in terms of erroring when something goes wrong during the handshakes.

As mentioned before, starting with Android 7, the Android OS will no longer trust user CA certificates by default, unless specified in the application. In the following section, we explain two methods to bypass this Android security control.

Bypassing the Network Security Configuration

From Android 7 onwards, the network security configuration allows apps to customize their network security settings, by defining which CA certificates the app will be trusting.

In order to implement the network security configuration for an app, you would need to create a new xml resource file with the name network_security_config.xml. This is explained in detail in one of the Google Android Codelabs.

After the creation, the apps must also include an entry in the manifest file to point to the new network security configuration file.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<manifest ... >
<application android:networkSecurityConfig="@xml/network_security_config"
... >

The network security configuration uses an XML file where the app specifies which CA certificates will be trusted. There are various ways to bypass the Network Security Configuration, which will be described below. Please also see the Security Analyst’s Guide to Network Security Configuration in Android P for further information.

# Adding the User Certificates to the Network Security Configuration

There are different configurations available for the Network Security Configuration to add non-system Certificate Authorities via the src attribute:

<certificates src=["system" | "user" | "raw resource"]
overridePins=["true" | "false"] />
Each certificate can be one of the following:
- a "raw resource" ID pointing to a file containing X.509 certificates
- "system" for the pre-installed system CA certificates
- "user" for user-added CA certificates
The CA certificates trusted by the app can be a system trusted CA as well as a user CA. Usually you will have added the certificate of your interception proxy already as additional CA in Android. Therefore we will focus on the "user" setting, which allows you to force the Android app to trust this certificate with the following Network Security Configuration configuration below:
<certificates src="system" />
<certificates src="user" />

To implement this new setting you must follow the steps below:

  • Decompile the app using a decompilation tool like apktool:

    $ apktool d <filename>.apk
  • Make the application trust user certificates by creating a network security configuration that includes <certificates src="user" /> as explained above

  • Go into the directory created by apktool when decompiling the app and rebuild the app using apktool. The new apk will be in the dist directory.

    $ apktool b
  • You need to repackage the app, as explained in the repackaging chapter. For more details on the repackaging process you can also consult the Android developer documentation, that explains the process as a whole.

Note that even if this method is quite simple its major drawback is that you have to apply this operation for each application you want to evaluate which is additional overhead for testing.

Bear in mind that if the app you are testing has additional hardening measures, like verification of the app signature you might not be able to start the app anymore. As part of the repackaging you will sign the app with your own key and therefore the signature changes will result in triggering such checks that might lead to immediate termination of the app. You would need to identify and disable such checks either by patching them during repackaging of the app or dynamic instrumentation through Frida.

There is a python script available that automates the steps described above called Android-CertKiller. This Python script can extract the APK from an installed Android app, decompile it, make it debuggable, add a new network security config that allows user certificates, builds and signs the new APK and installs the new APK with the SSL Bypass. The last step, installing the app might fail, due to a bug at the moment.

python -w
Android CertKiller (v0.1)
CertKiller Wizard Mode
List of devices attached
4200dc72f27bc44d device
Enter Application Package Name:
Package: /data/app/
I. Initiating APK extraction from device
I. Decompiling
I. Applying SSL bypass
I. Building New APK
I. Signing APK
Would you like to install the APK on your device(y/N): y
Installing Unpinned APK

# Adding the Proxy's certificate among system trusted CAs using Magisk

In order to avoid the obligation of configuring the Network Security Configuration for each application, we must force the device to accept the proxy's certificate as one of the systems trusted certificates.

There is a Magisk module that will automatically add all user-installed CA certificates to the list of system trusted CAs.

Download the latest version of the module here, push the downloaded file over to the device and import it in the Magisk Manager's "Module" view by clicking on the + button. Finally, a restart is required by Magisk Manager to let changes take effect.

From now on, any CA certificate that is installed by the user via "Settings", "Security & location", "Encryption & credentials", "Install from storage" (location may differ) is automatically pushed into the system's trust store by this Magisk module. Reboot and verify that the CA certificate is listed in "Settings", "Security & location", "Encryption & credentials", "Trusted credentials" (location may differ).

# Manually adding the Proxy's certificate among system trusted CAs

Alternatively, you can follow the following steps manually in order to achieve the same result:

  • Make the /system partition writable, which is only possible on a rooted device. Run the 'mount' command to make sure the /system is writable: mount -o rw,remount /system. If this command fails, try running the following command 'mount -o rw,remount -t ext4 /system'

  • Prepare the proxy's CA certificates to match system certificates format. Export the proxy's certificates in der format (this is the default format in Burp Suite) then run the following commands:

    $ openssl x509 -inform DER -in cacert.der -out cacert.pem
    $ openssl x509 -inform PEM -subject_hash_old -in cacert.pem | head -1
    mv cacert.pem <hash>.0
  • Finally, copy the <hash>.0 file into the directory /system/etc/security/cacerts and then run the following command:

    chmod 644 <hash>.0

By following the steps described above you allow any application to trust the proxy's certificate, which allows you to intercept its traffic, unless of course the application uses SSL pinning.

Potential Obstacles

Applications often implement security controls that make it more difficult to perform a security review of the application, such as root detection and certificate pinning. Ideally, you would acquire both a version of the application that has these controls enabled, and one where the controls are disabled. This allows you to analyze the proper implementation of the controls, after which you can continue with the less-secure version for further tests.

Of course, this is not always possible, and you may need to perform a black-box assessment on an application where all security controls are enabled. The section below shows you how you can circumvent certificate pinning for different applications.

Client Isolation in Wireless Networks

Once you have setup an interception proxy and have a MITM position you might still not be able to see anything. This might be due to restrictions in the app (see next section) but can also be due to so called client isolation in the Wi-Fi that you are connected to.

Wireless Client Isolation is a security feature that prevents wireless clients from communicating with one another. This feature is useful for guest and BYOD SSIDs adding a level of security to limit attacks and threats between devices connected to the wireless networks.

What to do if the Wi-Fi we need for testing has client isolation?

You can configure the proxy on your Android device to point to, connect your phone via USB to your laptop and use adb to make a reverse port forwarding:

$ adb reverse tcp:8080 tcp:8080

Once you have done this all proxy traffic on your Android phone will be going to port 8080 on and it will be redirected via adb to on your laptop and you will see now the traffic in your Burp. With this trick you are able to test and intercept traffic also in Wi-Fis that have client isolation.

Non-Proxy Aware Apps

Once you have setup an interception proxy and have a MITM position you might still not be able to see anything. This is mainly due to the following reasons:

  • The app is using a framework like Xamarin that simply is not using the proxy settings of the Android OS or

  • The app you are testing is verifying if a proxy is set and is not allowing now any communication.

In both scenarios you would need additional steps to finally being able to see the traffic. In the sections below we are describing two different solutions, bettercap and iptables.

You could also use an access point that is under your control to redirect the traffic, but this would require additional hardware and we focus for now on software solutions.

For both solutions you need to activate "Support invisible proxying" in Burp, in Proxy Tab/Options/Edit Interface.


You can use iptables on the Android device to redirect all traffic to your interception proxy. The following command would redirect port 80 to your proxy running on port 8080

$ iptables -t nat -A OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -j DNAT --to-destination <Your-Proxy-IP>:8080

Verify the iptables settings and check the IP and port.

$ iptables -t nat -L
target prot opt source destination
Chain INPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target prot opt source destination
Chain OUTPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target prot opt source destination
DNAT tcp -- anywhere anywhere tcp dpt:5288 to:<Your-Proxy-IP>:8080
target prot opt source destination
Chain natctrl_nat_POSTROUTING (0 references)
target prot opt source destination
Chain oem_nat_pre (0 references)
target prot opt source destination

In case you want to reset the iptables configuration you can flush the rules:

$ iptables -t nat -F


Read the chapter "Testing Network Communication" and the test case "Simulating a Man-in-the-Middle Attack" for further preparation and instructions for running bettercap.

The machine where you run your proxy and the Android device must be connected to the same wireless network. Start bettercap with the following command, replacing the IP address below (X.X.X.X) with the IP address of your Android device.

$ sudo bettercap -eval "set arp.spoof.targets X.X.X.X; arp.spoof on; set arp.spoof.internal true; set arp.spoof.fullduplex true;"
bettercap v2.22 (built for darwin amd64 with go1.12.1) [type 'help' for a list of commands]
[19:21:39] [sys.log] [inf] arp.spoof enabling forwarding
[19:21:39] [sys.log] [inf] arp.spoof arp spoofer started, probing 1 targets.

Proxy Detection

Some mobile apps are trying to detect if a proxy is set. If that's the case they will assume that this is malicious and will not work properly.

In order to bypass such a protection mechanism you could either setup bettercap or configure iptables that don't need a proxy setup on your Android phone. A third option we didn't mention before and that is applicable in this scenario is using Frida. It is possible on Android to detect if a system proxy is set by querying the ProxyInfo class and check the getHost() and getPort() methods. There might be various other methods to achieve the same task and you would need to decompile the APK in order to identify the actual class and method name.

Below you can find boiler plate source code for a Frida script that will help you to overload the method (in this case called isProxySet) that is verifying if a proxy is set and will always return false. Even if a proxy is now configured the app will now think that none is set as the function returns false.

Java.perform(function (){
console.log("[*] Script loaded")
var Proxy = Java.use("<package-name>.<class-name>")
Proxy.isProxySet.overload().implementation = function() {
console.log("[*] isProxySet function invoked")
return false

Certificate Pinning

Some applications will implement SSL Pinning, which prevents the application from accepting your intercepting certificate as a valid certificate. This means that you will not be able to monitor the traffic between the application and the server.

For information on disabling SSL Pinning both statically and dynamically, refer to "Bypassing SSL Pinning" in the "Testing Network Communication" chapter.