Best Practices And Techniques For Building Secure Android Apps With Examples

Introduction

Building secure Android apps is essential for protecting private user information and preserving the functionality of the app.

Here are some guidelines and methods for creating safe Android applications, along with some sample Java code.

Best Practices and Techniques for Building Secure Android Apps


1. Use HTTPS for all network communication

It is crucial to use HTTPS for all network interactions to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and guarantee that all data exchanged between the app and the server is secure. The following is an example of how to implement HTTPS with Android Java.

URL url = new URL("https://example.com");
HttpsURLConnection connection = (HttpsURLConnection) url.openConnection();

2. Encrypt sensitive data

It is critical to encrypt this data both when it is kept on the device and when it is transported over the network in order to safeguard sensitive information like user passwords and credit card details. The following example demonstrates how to use the javax.crypto package that Android offers for data encryption.

Cipher cipher = Cipher.getInstance("AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding");
cipher.init(Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE, key);
byte[] encryptedData = cipher.doFinal(data);

3. Use Android Fingerprint Authentication For Security

Android provides several built-in security features that can be used to protect an app, such as the Android Keystore system and the fingerprint authentication API. An example of how to use the fingerprint authentication API is shown below.

FingerprintManager fingerprintManager = (FingerprintManager) getSystemService(FINGERPRINT_SERVICE);
fingerprintManager.authenticate(null, null, 0, new AuthenticationCallback(), null);

4. Use Android's permission model

Apps can ask for access to particular resources or functionalities on a user's device according to Android's permission paradigm. It's critical to implement this approach appropriately, asking for only the rights the app actually needs and explaining to the user why those permissions are required.

For instance, if an app needs access to the camera, it should ask for CAMERA permission in the manifest file, as displayed below.

<uses-permission android:name="android.permission.CAMERA" />

5. Input validation and sanitization

Any user input must be verified and cleaned up before being used in the program. Attacks involving SQL injection and other forms of injection can be avoided in this way. Verifying that a user-provided phone number is in the proper format for a phone number is an example of input validation.

String phoneNumber = "+1234567890";
if (!PhoneNumberUtils.isGlobalPhoneNumber(phoneNumber)) {
    throw new IllegalArgumentException("Invalid phone number format");
}

To avoid cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, user input can be sanitized by eliminating any special characters or HTML tags.

String userInput = "<script>alert('XSS')</script>";
userInput = Html.escapeHtml(userInput);

By validating and sanitizing user input, developers can help protect their apps from injection attacks and other types of security vulnerabilities.

6. Use AndroidX Security Library for encryption

To prevent unauthorized access to user data, the AndroidX Security Library offers a set of APIs for encrypting data, including the SharedPreferences. For instance, the SharedPreferences can be encrypted using the AES256 SIV encryption algorithm by using the EncryptedSharedPreferences.

Security.getProvider();
EncryptedSharedPreferences.create(
    "my_master_key_pref_name",
    "my_encrypted_preferences_file_name",
    context,
    EncryptedSharedPreferences.PrefKeyEncryptionScheme.AES256_SIV,
    EncryptedSharedPreferences.PrefValueEncryptionScheme.AES256_GCM
);

7. Use Android Keystore System for key generation and storage

The Android Keystore System provides a secure way to generate and store cryptographic keys, which can be used to encrypt and decrypt data.

For example, the KeyGenerator can be used to generate a key in the Android Keystore.

KeyGenerator keyGenerator = KeyGenerator.getInstance(KeyProperties.KEY_ALGORITHM_AES, "AndroidKeyStore");
keyGenerator.init(
    new KeyGenParameterSpec.Builder("key_alias", KeyProperties.PURPOSE_ENCRYPT | KeyProperties.PURPOSE_DECRYPT)
    .setBlockModes(KeyProperties.BLOCK_MODE_GCM)
    .setEncryptionPaddings(KeyProperties.ENCRYPTION_PADDING_NONE)
    .build()
);
keyGenerator.generateKey();

8. Use Android Play Protect for scanning app vulnerabilities and malware

The Google Play Store has a security tool called Android Play Protect that checks apps for malware and security flaws.

Users who enable this feature will be protected from installing and utilizing harmful programs.

The isPlayProtectEnabled() method, for instance, can be used to determine whether the program has been verified by Android Play Protect.

private boolean isPlayProtectEnabled() {
    PackageManager packageManager = getPackageManager();
    try {
        PackageInfo packageInfo = packageManager.getPackageInfo(getPackageName(), PackageManager.GET_SIGNATURES);
        for (Signature signature: packageInfo.signatures) {
            MessageDigest md = MessageDigest.getInstance("SHA");
            md.update(signature.toByteArray());
            String currentSignature = Base64.encodeToString(md.digest(), Base64.DEFAULT);
            if (currentSignature.equals(playProtectSignature)) {
                return true;
            }
        }
    } catch (PackageManager.NameNotFoundException e) {
        // error
    } catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException e) {
        // error
    }
    return false;
}

Summary

Building secure Android apps is crucial for protecting private user information and maintaining the app's integrity.

Developers may create secure Android apps that protect sensitive user data and maintain the integrity of the app by using these best practices and strategies.


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