Android Cryptographic APIs

In the chapter "Cryptography for Mobile Apps", we introduced general cryptography best practices and described typical flaws that can occur when cryptography is used incorrectly in mobile apps. In this chapter, we'll go into more detail on Android's cryptography APIs. We'll show how to identify uses of those APIs in the source code and how to interpret the configuration. When reviewing code, make sure to compare the cryptographic parameters used with the current best practices linked from this guide.

Testing the Configuration of Cryptographic Standard Algorithms (MSTG-CRYPTO-2, MSTG-CRYPTO-3 and MSTG-CRYPTO-4)


Android cryptography APIs are based on the Java Cryptography Architecture (JCA). JCA separates the interfaces and implementation, making it possible to include several security providers that can implement sets of cryptographic algorithms. Most of the JCA interfaces and classes are defined in the* and javax.crypto.* packages. In addition, there are Android specific packages* and*.

The list of providers included in Android varies between versions of Android and the OEM-specific builds. Some provider implementations in older versions are now known to be less secure or vulnerable. Thus, Android applications should not only choose the correct algorithms and provide good configuration, in some cases they should also pay attention to the strength of the implementations in the legacy providers.

You can list the set of existing providers as follows:

StringBuilder builder = new StringBuilder();
for (Provider provider : Security.getProviders()) {
builder.append("provider: ")
.append(" ")
String providers = builder.toString();
//now display the string on the screen or in the logs for debugging.

Below you can find the output of a running Android 4.4 (API level 19) in an emulator with Google Play APIs, after the security provider has been patched:

provider: GmsCore_OpenSSL1.0 (Android's OpenSSL-backed security provider)
provider: AndroidOpenSSL1.0 (Android's OpenSSL-backed security provider)
provider: DRLCertFactory1.0 (ASN.1, DER, PkiPath, PKCS7)
provider: BC1.49 (BouncyCastle Security Provider v1.49)
provider: Crypto1.0 (HARMONY (SHA1 digest; SecureRandom; SHA1withDSA signature))
provider: HarmonyJSSE1.0 (Harmony JSSE Provider)
provider: AndroidKeyStore1.0 (Android AndroidKeyStore security provider)

For some applications that support older versions of Android (e.g.: only used versions lower than Android 7.0 (API level 24)), bundling an up-to-date library may be the only option. Spongy Castle (a repackaged version of Bouncy Castle) is a common choice in these situations. Repackaging is necessary because Bouncy Castle is included in the Android SDK. The latest version of Spongy Castle likely fixes issues encountered in the earlier versions of Bouncy Castle that were included in Android. Note that the Bouncy Castle libraries packed with Android are often not as complete as their counterparts from the legion of the Bouncy Castle. Lastly: bear in mind that packing large libraries such as Spongy Castle will often lead to a multidexed Android application.

Apps that target modern API levels, went through the following changes:

  • For Android 7.0 (API level 24) and above the Android Developer blog shows that:

    • It is recommended to stop specifying a security provider. Instead, always use a patched security provider.

    • The support for the Crypto provider has dropped and the provider is deprecated.

    • There is no longer support for SHA1PRNG for secure random, but instead the runtime provides an instance of OpenSSLRandom.

  • For Android 8.1 (API level 27) and above the Developer Documentation shows that:

    • Conscrypt, known as AndroidOpenSSL, is preferred above using Bouncy Castle and it has new implementations: AlgorithmParameters:GCM , KeyGenerator:AES, KeyGenerator:DESEDE, KeyGenerator:HMACMD5, KeyGenerator:HMACSHA1, KeyGenerator:HMACSHA224, KeyGenerator:HMACSHA256, KeyGenerator:HMACSHA384, KeyGenerator:HMACSHA512, SecretKeyFactory:DESEDE, and Signature:NONEWITHECDSA.

    • You should not use the IvParameterSpec.class anymore for GCM, but use the GCMParameterSpec.class instead.

    • Sockets have changed from OpenSSLSocketImpl to ConscryptFileDescriptorSocket, and ConscryptEngineSocket.

    • SSLSession with null parameters give an NullPointerException.

    • You need to have large enough arrays as input bytes for generating a key otherwise, an InvalidKeySpecException is thrown.

    • If a Socket read is interrupted, you get an SocketException.

  • For Android 9 (API level 28) and above the Android Developer Blog shows even more aggressive changes:

    • You get a warning if you still specify a provider using the getInstance method and you target any API below 28. If you target Android 9 (API level 28) or above, you get an error.

    • The Crypto provider is now removed. Calling it will result in a NoSuchProviderException.

  • For Android 10 (API level 29) the Developer Documentation list all network security changes.

Android SDK provides mechanisms for specifying secure key generation and use. Android 6.0 (API level 23) introduced the KeyGenParameterSpec class that can be used to ensure the correct key usage in the application.

Here's an example of using AES/CBC/PKCS7Padding on API 23+:

String keyAlias = "MySecretKey";
KeyGenParameterSpec keyGenParameterSpec = new KeyGenParameterSpec.Builder(keyAlias,
KeyGenerator keyGenerator = KeyGenerator.getInstance(KeyProperties.KEY_ALGORITHM_AES,
SecretKey secretKey = keyGenerator.generateKey();

The KeyGenParameterSpec indicates that the key can be used for encryption and decryption, but not for other purposes, such as signing or verifying. It further specifies the block mode (CBC), padding (PKCS #7), and explicitly specifies that randomized encryption is required (this is the default). "AndroidKeyStore" is the name of the cryptographic service provider used in this example. This will automatically ensure that the keys are stored in the AndroidKeyStore which is beneficiary for the protection of the key.

GCM is another AES block mode that provides additional security benefits over other, older modes. In addition to being cryptographically more secure, it also provides authentication. When using CBC (and other modes), authentication would need to be performed separately, using HMACs (see the "Tampering and Reverse Engineering on Android" chapter). Note that GCM is the only mode of AES that does not support paddings.

Attempting to use the generated key in violation of the above spec would result in a security exception.

Here's an example of using that key to encrypt:

+ "/" + KeyProperties.BLOCK_MODE_CBC
+ "/" + KeyProperties.ENCRYPTION_PADDING_PKCS7;
KeyStore AndroidKeyStore = AndroidKeyStore.getInstance("AndroidKeyStore");
// byte[] input
Key key = AndroidKeyStore.getKey(keyAlias, null);
Cipher cipher = Cipher.getInstance(AES_MODE);
cipher.init(Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE, key);
byte[] encryptedBytes = cipher.doFinal(input);
byte[] iv = cipher.getIV();
// save both the IV and the encryptedBytes

Both the IV (initialization vector) and the encrypted bytes need to be stored; otherwise decryption is not possible.

Here's how that cipher text would be decrypted. The input is the encrypted byte array and iv is the initialization vector from the encryption step:

// byte[] input
// byte[] iv
Key key = AndroidKeyStore.getKey(AES_KEY_ALIAS, null);
Cipher cipher = Cipher.getInstance(AES_MODE);
IvParameterSpec params = new IvParameterSpec(iv);
cipher.init(Cipher.DECRYPT_MODE, key, params);
byte[] result = cipher.doFinal(input);

Since the IV is randomly generated each time, it should be saved along with the cipher text (encryptedBytes) in order to decrypt it later.

Prior to Android 6.0 (API level 23), AES key generation was not supported. As a result, many implementations chose to use RSA and generated a public-private key pair for asymmetric encryption using KeyPairGeneratorSpec or used SecureRandom to generate AES keys.

Here's an example of KeyPairGenerator and KeyPairGeneratorSpec used to create the RSA key pair:

Date startDate = Calendar.getInstance().getTime();
Calendar endCalendar = Calendar.getInstance();
endCalendar.add(Calendar.YEAR, 1);
Date endDate = endCalendar.getTime();
KeyPairGeneratorSpec keyPairGeneratorSpec = new KeyPairGeneratorSpec.Builder(context)
.setSubject(new X500Principal("CN=" + RSA_KEY_ALIAS))
KeyPairGenerator keyPairGenerator = KeyPairGenerator.getInstance("RSA",
KeyPair keyPair = keyPairGenerator.generateKeyPair();

This sample creates the RSA key pair with a key size of 4096-bit (i.e. modulus size).

Note: there is a widespread false believe that the NDK should be used to hide cryptographic operations and hardcoded keys. However, using this mechanisms is not effective. Attackers can still use tools to find the mechanism used and make dumps of the key in memory. Next, the control flow can be analyzed with e.g. radare2 and the keys extracted with the help of Frida or the combination of both: r2frida (see sections "Disassembling Native Code", "Memory Dump" and "In-Memory Search" in the chapter "Tampering and Reverse Engineering on Android" for more details). From Android 7.0 (API level 24) onward, it is not allowed to use private APIs, instead: public APIs need to be called, which further impacts the effectiveness of hiding it away as described in the Android Developers Blog

Static Analysis

Locate uses of the cryptographic primitives in code. Some of the most frequently used classes and interfaces:

  • Cipher

  • Mac

  • MessageDigest

  • Signature

  • Key, PrivateKey, PublicKey, SecretKey

  • And a few others in the* and javax.crypto.* packages.

Ensure that the best practices outlined in the "Cryptography for Mobile Apps" chapter are followed. Verify that the configuration of cryptographic algorithms used are aligned with best practices from NIST and BSI and are considered as strong. Make sure that SHA1PRNG is no longer used as it is not cryptographically secure. Lastly, make sure that keys are not hardcoded in native code and that no insecure mechanisms are used at this level.

Testing Random Number Generation (MSTG-CRYPTO-6)


Cryptography requires secure pseudo random number generation (PRNG). Standard Java classes do not provide sufficient randomness and in fact may make it possible for an attacker to guess the next value that will be generated, and use this guess to impersonate another user or access sensitive information.

In general, SecureRandom should be used. However, if the Android versions below Android 4.4 (API level 19) are supported, additional care needs to be taken in order to work around the bug in Android 4.1-4.3 (API level 16-18) versions that failed to properly initialize the PRNG.

Most developers should instantiate SecureRandom via the default constructor without any arguments. Other constructors are for more advanced uses and, if used incorrectly, can lead to decreased randomness and security. The PRNG provider backing SecureRandom uses the /dev/urandom device file as the source of randomness by default [#nelenkov].

Static Analysis

Identify all the instances of random number generators and look for either custom or known insecure java.util.Random class. This class produces an identical sequence of numbers for each given seed value; consequently, the sequence of numbers is predictable.

The following sample source code shows weak random number generation:

import java.util.Random;
// ...
Random number = new Random(123L);
for (int i = 0; i < 20; i++) {
// Generate another random integer in the range [0, 20]
int n = number.nextInt(21);

Instead a well-vetted algorithm should be used that is currently considered to be strong by experts in the field, and select well-tested implementations with adequate length seeds.

Identify all instances of SecureRandom that are not created using the default constructor. Specifying the seed value may reduce randomness. Prefer the no-argument constructor of SecureRandom that uses the system-specified seed value to generate a 128-byte-long random number.

In general, if a PRNG is not advertised as being cryptographically secure (e.g. java.util.Random), then it is probably a statistical PRNG and should not be used in security-sensitive contexts. Pseudo-random number generators can produce predictable numbers if the generator is known and the seed can be guessed. A 128-bit seed is a good starting point for producing a "random enough" number.

The following sample source code shows the generation of a secure random number:

// ...
public static void main (String args[]) {
SecureRandom number = new SecureRandom();
// Generate 20 integers 0..20
for (int i = 0; i < 20; i++) {

Dynamic Analysis

Once an attacker is knowing what type of weak pseudo-random number generator (PRNG) is used, it can be trivial to write proof-of-concept to generate the next random value based on previously observed ones, as it was done for Java Random. In case of very weak custom random generators it may be possible to observe the pattern statistically. Although the recommended approach would anyway be to decompile the APK and inspect the algorithm (see Static Analysis).

If you want to test for randomness, you can try to capture a large set of numbers and check with the Burp's sequencer to see how good the quality of the randomness is.

Testing Key Management (MSTG-STORAGE-1, MSTG-CRYPTO-1 and MSTG-CRYPTO-5)


In this section we will discuss different ways to store cryptographic keys and how to test for them. We discuss the most secure way, down to the less secure way of generating and storing key material.

The most secure way of handling key material, is simply never storing it on the device. This means that the user should be prompted to input a passphrase every time the application needs to perform a cryptographic operation. Although this is not the ideal implementation from a user experience point of view, it is however the most secure way of handling key material. The reason is because key material will only be available in an array in memory while it is being used. Once the key is not needed anymore, the array can be zeroed out. This minimizes the attack window as good as possible. No key material touches the filesystem and no passphrase is stored. However, note that some ciphers do not properly clean up their byte-arrays. For instance, the AES Cipher in BouncyCastle does not always clean up its latest working key. Next, BigInteger based keys (e.g. private keys) cannot be removed from the heap nor zeroed out just like that. Last, take care when trying to zero out the key. See the chapter "Data Storage on Android" on how to make sure that the contents of the key indeed are zeroed out.

A symmetric encryption key can be generated from the passphrase by using the Password Based Key Derivation Function version 2 (PBKDF2). This cryptographic protocol is designed to generate secure and non brute-forceable keys. The code listing below illustrates how to generate a strong encryption key based on a password.

public static SecretKey generateStrongAESKey(char[] password, int keyLength)
//Initiliaze objects and variables for later use
int iterationCount = 10000;
int saltLength = keyLength / 8;
SecureRandom random = new SecureRandom();
//Generate the salt
byte[] salt = new byte[saltLength];
KeySpec keySpec = new PBEKeySpec(password.toCharArray(), salt, iterationCount, keyLength);
SecretKeyFactory keyFactory = SecretKeyFactory.getInstance("PBKDF2WithHmacSHA1");
byte[] keyBytes = keyFactory.generateSecret(keySpec).getEncoded();
return new SecretKeySpec(keyBytes, "AES");

The above method requires a character array containing the password and the needed key length in bits, for instance a 128 or 256-bit AES key. We define an iteration count of 10000 rounds which will be used by the PBKDF2 algorithm. This significantly increases the workload for a brute-force attack. We define the salt size equal to the key length, we divide by 8 to take care of the bit to byte conversion. We use the SecureRandom class to randomly generate a salt. Obviously, the salt is something you want to keep constant to ensure the same encryption key is generated time after time for the same supplied password. Note that you can store the salt privately in SharedPreferences. It is recommended to exclude the salt from the Android backup mechanism to prevent synchronization in case of higher risk data. See the "Data Storage on Android" chapter for more details. Note that if you take a rooted device, or unpatched device, or a patched (e.g. repackaged) application into account as a threat to the data, it might be better to encrypt the salt with a key in the AndroidKeystore. Afterwards the Password-based Encryption (PBE) key is generated using the recommended PBKDF2WithHmacSHA1 algorithm till Android 8.0 (API level 26). From there on, it is best to use PBKDF2withHmacSHA256, which will end up with a different key size.

Now, it is clear that regularly prompting the user for its passphrase is not something that works for every application. In that case make sure you use the Android KeyStore API. This API has been specifically developed to provide a secure storage for key material. Only your application has access to the keys that it generates. Starting from Android 6.0 (API level 23) it is also enforced that the AndroidKeyStore is hardware-backed in case a fingerprint sensor is present. This means a dedicated cryptography chip or trusted platform module (TPM) is being used to secure the key material.

However, be aware that the AndroidKeyStore API has been changed significantly throughout various versions of Android. In earlier versions, the AndroidKeyStore API only supported storing public/private key pairs (e.g., RSA). Symmetric key support has only been added since Android 6.0 (API level 23). As a result, a developer needs to handle the different Android API levels to securely store symmetric keys.

In order to securely store symmetric keys on devices running on Android 5.1 (API level 22) or lower, we need to generate a public/private key pair. We encrypt the symmetric key using the public key and store the private key in the AndroidKeyStore. The encrypted symmetric key can now be safely stored in the SharedPreferences. Whenever we need the symmetric key, the application retrieves the private key from the AndroidKeyStore and decrypts the symmetric key.

When keys are generated and used within the AndroidKeyStore and the KeyInfo.isinsideSecureHardware returns true, then we know that we cannot just dump the keys nor monitor its cryptographic operations. It becomes debatable what will be eventually more safe: using PBKDF2withHmacSHA256 to generate a key that is still in reachable dumpable memory, or using the AndroidKeyStore for which the keys might never get into memory. With Android 9 (API level 28) we see that additional security enhancements have been implemented in order to separate the TEE from the AndroidKeyStore which make it favorable over using PBKDF2withHmacSHA256. However, more testing and investigating will take place on that subject in the near future.

Secure Key Import into Keystore

Android 9 (API level 28) adds the ability to import keys securely into the AndroidKeystore. First AndroidKeystore generates a key pair using PURPOSE_WRAP_KEY which should also be protected with an attestation certificate, this pair aims to protect the Keys being imported to AndroidKeystore. The encrypted keys are generated as ASN.1-encoded message in the SecureKeyWrapper format which also contains a description of the ways the imported key is allowed to be used. The keys are then decrypted inside the AndroidKeystore hardware belonging to the specific device that generated the wrapping key so they never appear as plaintext in the device's host memory.

Secure key import into Keystore
KeyDescription ::= SEQUENCE {
keyFormat INTEGER,
authorizationList AuthorizationList
SecureKeyWrapper ::= SEQUENCE {
wrapperFormatVersion INTEGER,
encryptedTransportKey OCTET_STRING,
initializationVector OCTET_STRING,
keyDescription KeyDescription,

The code above present the different parameters to be set when generating the encrypted keys in the SecureKeyWrapper format. Check the Android documentation on WrappedKeyEntry for more details.

When defining the KeyDescription AuthorizationList, the following parameters will affect the encrypted keys security:

  • The algorithm parameter Specifies the cryptographic algorithm with which the key is used

  • The keySize parameter Specifies the size, in bits, of the key, measuring in the normal way for the key's algorithm

  • The digest parameter Specifies the digest algorithms that may be used with the key to perform signing and verification operations

Key Attestation

For the applications which heavily rely on Android Keystore for business-critical operations such as multi-factor authentication through cryptographic primitives, secure storage of sensitive data at the client-side, etc. Android provides the feature of Key Attestation which helps to analyze the security of cryptographic material managed through Android Keystore. From Android 8.0 (API level 26), the key attestation was made mandatory for all new(Android 7.0 or higher) devices that need to have device certification for Google suite of apps, such devices use attestation keys signed by the Google hardware attestation root certificate and the same can be verified while key attestation process.

During key attestation, we can specify the alias of a key pair and in return, get a certificate chain, which we can use to verify the properties of that key pair. If the root certificate of the chain is Google Hardware Attestation Root certificate and the checks related to key pair storage in hardware are made it gives an assurance that the device supports hardware-level key attestation and the key is in hardware-backed keystore that Google believes to be secure. Alternatively, if the attestation chain has any other root certificate, then Google does not make any claims about the security of the hardware.

Although the key attestation process can be implemented within the application directly but it is recommended that it should be implemented at the server-side for security reasons. The following are the high-level guidelines for the secure implementation of Key Attestation:

  • The server should initiate the key attestation process by creating a random number securely using CSPRNG(Cryptographically Secure Random Number Generator) and the same should be sent to the user as a challenge.

  • The client should call the setAttestationChallenge API with the challenge received from the server and should then retrieve the attestation certificate chain using the KeyStore.getCertificateChain method.

  • The attestation response should be sent to the server for the verification and following checks should be performed for the verification of the key attestation response:

    • Verify the certificate chain, up to the root and perform certificate sanity checks such as validity, integrity and trustworthiness.

    • Check if the root certificate is signed with the Google attestation root key which makes the attestation process trustworthy.

    • Extract the attestation certificate extension data, which appears within the first element of the certificate chain and perform the following checks:

      • Verify that the attestation challenge is having the same value which was generated at the server while initiating the attestation process.

      • Verify the signature in the key attestation response.

      • Now check the security level of the Keymaster to determine if the device has secure key storage mechanism. Keymaster is a piece of software that runs in the security context and provides all the secure keystore operations. The security level will be one of Software, TrustedEnvironment or StrongBox.

      • Additionally, you can check the attestation security level which will be one of Software, TrustedEnvironment or StrongBox to check how the attestation certificate was generated. Also, some other checks pertaining to keys can be made such as purpose, access time, authentication requirement, etc. to verify the key attributes.

The typical example of Android Keystore attestation response looks like this:

"fmt": "android-key",
"authData": "9569088f1ecee3232954035dbd10d7cae391305a2751b559bb8fd7cbb229bd...",
"attStmt": {
"alg": -7,
"sig": "304402202ca7a8cfb6299c4a073e7e022c57082a46c657e9e53...",
"x5c": [

In the above JSON snippet, the keys have the following meaning: fmt: Attestation statement format identifier authData: It denotes the authenticator data for the attestation alg: The algorithm that is used for the Signature sig: Signature x5c: Attestation certificate chain

Note: The sig is generated by concatenating authData and clientDataHash (challenge sent by the server) and signing through the credential private key using the alg signing algorithm and the same is verified at the server-side by using the public key in the first certificate.

For more understanding on the implementation guidelines, Google Sample Code can be referred.

For the security analysis perspective the analysts may perform the following checks for the secure implementation of Key Attestation:

  • Check if the key attestation is totally implemented at the client-side. In such scenario, the same can be easily bypassed by tampering the application, method hooking, etc.

  • Check if the server uses random challenge while initiating the key attestation. As failing to do that would lead to insecure implementation thus making it vulnerable to replay attacks. Also, checks pertaining to the randomness of the challenge should be performed.

  • Check if the server verifies the integrity of key attestation response.

  • Check if the server performs basic checks such as integrity verification, trust verification, validity, etc. on the certificates in the chain.

Decryption only on Unlocked Devices

For more security Android 9 (API level 28) introduces the unlockedDeviceRequied flag. By passing true to the setUnlockedDeviceRequired method the app prevents its keys stored in AndroidKeystore from being decrypted when the device is locked, and it requires the screen to be unlocked before allowing decryption.

StrongBox Hardware Security Module

Devices running Android 9 (API level 28) and higher can have a StrongBox Keymaster, an implementation of the Keymaster HAL that resides in a hardware security module which has its own CPU, Secure storage, a true random number generator and a mechanism to resist package tampering. To use this feature, true must be passed to the setIsStrongBoxBacked method in either the KeyGenParameterSpec.Builder class or the KeyProtection.Builder class when generating or importing keys using AndroidKeystore. To make sure that StrongBox is used during runtime check that isInsideSecureHardware returns true and that the system does not throw StrongBoxUnavailableException which get thrown if the StrongBox Keymaster isn't available for the given algorithm and key size associated with a key.

Key Use Authorizations

To mitigate unauthorized use of keys on the Android device, Android KeyStore lets apps specify authorized uses of their keys when generating or importing the keys. Once made, authorizations cannot be changed.

Another API offered by Android is the KeyChain, which provides access to private keys and their corresponding certificate chains in credential storage, which is often not used due to the interaction necessary and the shared nature of the Keychain. See the Developer Documentation for more details.

A slightly less secure way of storing encryption keys, is in the SharedPreferences of Android. When SharedPreferences are initialized in MODE_PRIVATE, the file is only readable by the application that created it. However, on rooted devices any other application with root access can simply read the SharedPreference file of other apps, it does not matter whether MODE_PRIVATE has been used or not. This is not the case for the AndroidKeyStore. Since AndroidKeyStore access is managed on kernel level, which needs considerably more work and skill to bypass without the AndroidKeyStore clearing or destroying the keys.

The last three options are to use hardcoded encryption keys in the source code, having a predictable key derivation function based on stable attributes, and storing generated keys in public places like /sdcard/. Obviously, hardcoded encryption keys are not the way to go. This means every instance of the application uses the same encryption key. An attacker needs only to do the work once, to extract the key from the source code - whether stored natively or in Java/Kotlin. Consequently, an attacker can decrypt any other data which was encrypted by the application. Next, when you have a predictable key derivation function based on identifiers which are accessible to other applications, the attacker only needs to find the KDF and apply it to the device in order to find the key. Lastly, storing encryption keys publicly also is highly discouraged as other applications can have permission to read the public partition and steal the keys.

Static Analysis

Locate uses of the cryptographic primitives in the code. Some of the most frequently used classes and interfaces:

  • Cipher

  • Mac

  • MessageDigest

  • Signature

  • AndroidKeyStore

  • Key, PrivateKey, PublicKey, SecretKeySpec, KeyInfo

  • And a few others in the* and javax.crypto.* packages.

As an example we illustrate how to locate the use of a hardcoded encryption key. First disassemble the DEX bytecode to a collection of Smali bytecode files using Baksmali.

$ baksmali d file.apk -o smali_output/

Now that we have a collection of Smali bytecode files, we can search the files for the usage of the SecretKeySpec class. We do this by simply recursively grepping on the Smali source code we just obtained. Please note that class descriptors in Smali start with L and end with ;:

$ grep -r "Ljavax\crypto\spec\SecretKeySpec;"

This will highlight all the classes that use the SecretKeySpec class, we now examine all the highlighted files and trace which bytes are used to pass the key material. The figure below shows the result of performing this assessment on a production ready application. For sake of readability we have reverse engineered the DEX bytecode to Java code. We can clearly locate the use of a static encryption key that is hardcoded and initialized in the static byte array Encrypt.keyBytes.

When you have access to the source code, check at least for the following:

  • Check which mechanism is used to store a key: prefer the AndroidKeyStore over all other solutions.

  • Check if defense in depth mechanisms are used to ensure usage of a TEE. For instance: is temporal validity enforced? Is hardware security usage evaluated by the code? See the KeyInfo documentation for more details.

  • In case of whitebox cryptography solutions: study their effectiveness or consult a specialist in that area.

  • Take special care on verifying the purposes of the keys, for instance:

    • make sure that for asymmetric keys, the private key is exclusively used for signing and the public key is only used for encryption.

    • make sure that symmetric keys are not reused for multiple purposes. A new symmetric key should be generated if it's used in a different context.

Dynamic Analysis

Hook cryptographic methods and analyze the keys that are being used. Monitor file system access while cryptographic operations are being performed to assess where key material is written to or read from.


  • [#nelenkov] - N. Elenkov, Android Security Internals, No Starch Press, 2014, Chapter 5.

Cryptography references

SecureRandom references

Testing Key Management references

Key Attestation References


  • MSTG-STORAGE-1: "System credential storage facilities are used appropriately to store sensitive data, such as user credentials or cryptographic keys."

  • MSTG-CRYPTO-1: "The app does not rely on symmetric cryptography with hardcoded keys as a sole method of encryption."

  • MSTG-CRYPTO-2: "The app uses proven implementations of cryptographic primitives."

  • MSTG-CRYPTO-3: "The app uses cryptographic primitives that are appropriate for the particular use-case, configured with parameters that adhere to industry best practices."

  • MSTG-CRYPTO-4: "The app does not use cryptographic protocols or algorithms that are widely considered depreciated for security purposes."

  • MSTG-CRYPTO-5: "The app doesn't reuse the same cryptographic key for multiple purposes."

  • MSTG-CRYPTO-6: "All random values are generated using a sufficiently secure random number generator."