Mobile application developer RIIS has released a code obfuscation tool for locking down the Java source code used for developing Android software that will allegedly prevent reverse-engineers from decompiling applications written for the popular Linux-based mobile platform.
Even if these tools are usually pitched at developers who try to protect their intellectual property from prying eyes, the tool â€“ HoseDex2Jar â€“ aims to minimize malicious applications on the web by preventing cyber-criminals from modifying legit applications and repackaging them with malware.
In the past three years, Android malware has grown more than 3,000% per year. The growth is mostly caused by the fact that Android phones allow users to install applications from alternative markets, where cyber-criminals â€œsprayâ€ full versions of commercial applications (originally downloaded from Google Play) after they have modified their source code to deliver malicious payloads.
Unlike EXE files written for the Windows OS, Android applications written in Java (Android APKs) can be converted into Java (.jar) files using the Dex2Jar utility. The .jar file is decompiled with JD-GUI or JAD into source code â€“ the applicationâ€™s line-by-line enumeration of commands that can be easily read and modified by programmers.
“Developers can take steps such as using tools like ProGuard to obfuscate their code, but up until now, it has been impossible to prevent someone from decompiling an app,” said Godfrey Nolan, RIIS president, quoted by Security Week. “We realized if there was a way to stop Dex2Jar, we would stop all Android decompilation. HoseDex2Jar does just that.Â It stops Dex2Jar by inserting harmless code in an Android APK that confuses and disables Dex2Jar and protects the code from decompilation.”
Preventing decompilation will not only stop cyber-criminals from using other developersâ€™ applications as a lure for infecting unwary users, but will also make it much more difficult for crackers to remove the commercial protection of games and utilities sold on Google Play. By protecting their applications, developers contribute to diminishing the number of malware apps while maximizing the revenue from selling their apps. HoseDex2Jar is available for free as a web service at http://www.decompilingandroid.com/hosedex2jar/.