First Android Hacking Event @SSE – A short summary

On 17th of march, we organized our first Android Hacking event. Our participants (a mix of students, security researchers, PhD-students and Post-Docs) had to solve various Android-based challenges on different levels of complexity. Each challenge involved reverse-engineering a specific application without access to the app’s source code – similar to what malware analysts need to accomplish in their daily jobs. Inside these apps, passwords needed to be found, key checking algorithms needed to be understood, and hidden functionality had to be discovered. To accomplish this task, the participants were using different analysis techniques including debugging, decompilation, and fuzzing.

The event was not only great fun for  both the participants and the organizers, but also allowed us to provide free CodeInspect licenses for the day, to be used and tested on the challenges. We were very satisfied with the feedback we got on the tool – we’re making rapid progress towards a stable product. Stay tuned for commercial CodeInspect offerings. In the meantime, our free beta program is still running.

At almost midnight, the winners of the challenges were finally found: Andreas Wittmann, Max Weller and Daniel Magin scored best. Congratulations from the Android team @ SSE.

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New paper on risk estimation factors

The Computers & Security journal, Elsevier, published online, recently, our paper “Incorporating Attacker Capabilities in Risk Estimation and Mitigation“. We propose in this paper the use of attacker capabilities in estimating the risk of threats. Attacker capabilities are the abilities to access system resources that allow to attack the system. We argue that the proposed factor allows the experts to have close risk estimates, which would increase the confidence in risk assessment.

Lambda Expressions Coming to Android?

In Java 8, Oracle added support for Lambda expressions to the Java programming language and the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Though Android apps are also written in Java, this however doesn’t automatically make them available to app developers. In fact, it takes some time until Android catches up with newer Java developments.

The build chain for Android is (at least at the moment) built on top of the Java build chain: The normal Java compiler takes Java source files and creates Java class files. These files then serve as inputs to Android’s “dx” tool which finally emits the Dalvik bytecode that can be run on an Android device or emulator. In version 19 of the Android build tools, support for Java 1.7 class files was added – with the usual delay (Java 1.7 came out in July 2011, Android build tools v19 came out in April 2012). Up to now, that was the end of the line. But now, Java 1.8 support might be around the corner.

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