Anti-debugging protection is one of the best defenses to prevent reverse engineering of Android and iOS apps to thwart hacking attempts. Hackers use reverse engineering techniques (such as static and dynamic code analysis) to learn how your app functions and to understand the app’s logic. They use this knowledge later to attack your app and exploit your app’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Prevent Reverse Engineering with No-code Anti-Debugging

Anti-debugging protects mobile apps by preventing the use of debuggers for malicious reverse engineering purposes. As you know, mobile app debuggers are valid and necessary tools used in the mobile app development process. However, mobile app debuggers are also widely used by hackers for nefarious reasons – namely to study your app’s runtime behavior (otherwise known as reverse engineering or dynamic code analysis).

Mobile app debuggers for malicious purposes

I wrote a couple of blogs related to this topic on obfuscation and anti-tampering but debuggers warrant a dedicated post. Debuggers are a relatively common tool for analyzing a mobile application for legitimate reasons. But debuggers can be used for evil purposes too.

Like other reversing techniques, debuggers give an attacker greater visibility into the internals of your application. This knowledge allows the mobile application attacker to do a number of nefarious things. Debuggers can assist an attacker with building a masquerading app, making logic modifications, and introducing malicious code. For more general information on debuggers, Stack Overflow has a useful thread describing how debuggers work.

Anti-debugging Mobile App Security

If you decide to build your mobile app with Appdome’s security features, your Appdome-built app will be able to detect the presence of a debugger. If your app is connected to a debugger, various expected app variables will be different compared to an app not connected to a debugger. This will let the protected app know that it’s connected to a debugger, and the app will inject “garbage data” into the communication channels to confuse the debugger. So where the debugger would expect to see the application type or process name it will see the garbage data and the debugger will disconnect. It’s a super fast and easy way to add anti-debugging protections to any Android and iOS app.

anti-debugging reverse engineering

But what if I want to debug my app for legitimate reasons? I hear you. If you need to debug your app while testing, you can simply test a version of your app which doesn’t have this feature enabled. Then when you’re ready to test the final build, you can re-build the app on Appdome (with Anti-debugging enabled), test, and then release. Because it takes less than a minute to build an app on Appdome, this particular workflow will fit right into your existing development process without delaying your release cycle. And once you build the app on Appdome, attackers won’t be able to disable anti-debugging.

Thanks for reading! This blog is part of a series focused on the basics of Mobile Security, which is appropriate for readers of any level to increase their overall mobile security knowledge.

Be safe, and keep your mobile apps and users safe too!