How to Build Root Detection, Protect Android Apps

Last updated August 11, 2022 by Appdome

Learn to Prevent rooting in Android apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

What is rooting?

Rooting is the process of unlocking the Android OS to gain administrative control (aka: root privileges) over the entire device, OS and file system. Rooting is a form of privilege escalation. Hackers use Rooting to attain privileged control (known as root access) over various Android subsystems. As Android uses the Linux kernel, rooting an Android device gives similar access to administrative (superuser) permissions as on Linux or any other UNIX-like operating system.

Why prevent rooting ?

Rooting is a very powerful operation, which should only be used by developers or pen testers during the development and testing stages. In any other circumstances rooting gives the user capabilities that can put the entire device at risk. For example, users can download apps from any app store, regardless of the store’s security and legal status, damage the entire OS to the point of rendering it unusable, and download malware. At the hands of highly skilled and sophisticated users rooting can help gaining unauthorized access to mobile apps.

Preventing rooting on Android apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Android Apps that Prevent rooting without an SDK or gateway:

  1. Upload the Mobile App to Appdome.

    1. Upload an app to Appdome’s Mobile App Security Build System

    2. Upload Method: Appdome Console or DEV-API
    3. Android Formats: .apk or .aab
  2. Build the Protection: Root Prevention.

    1. Building Root Prevention by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

      1. Create and name the Fusion Set (security template) that will contain the Root Prevention feature as shown below:
      2. fusion set that contains Root Prevention

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Root Prevention feature
        Note: Naming the Fusion Set to correspond to the protection(s) selected is for illustration purposes only (not required).

      3. Follow the steps in Sections 2.2.1-2.2.2 of this article, Building the Root Prevention feature via Appdome Console, to add the Root Prevention feature to this Fusion Set.

      4. Open the Fusion Set Detail Summary by clicking the “...” symbol on the far-right corner of the Fusion Set, as shown in Figure 1 above, and get the Fusion Set ID from the Fusion Set Detail Summary (as shown below): fusion Set Detail Summary image

        Figure 2: Fusion Set Detail Summary
        Note: Annotating the Fusion Set to identify the protection(s) selected is optional only (not mandatory).

      5. Follow the instructions below to use the Fusion Set ID inside any standard mobile DevOps or CI/CD toolkit like Bitrise, App Center, Jenkins, Travis, Team City, Cirlce CI or other system:
        1. Build an API for the app – for instructions, see the tasks under Appdome API Reference Guide
        2. Look for sample APIs in Appdome’s GitHub Repository
    2. Building the Root Prevention feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Root Prevention protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Security Tab > OS Integrity section
      2. How: Toggle (turn ON) Root Prevention, as shown below. Root Prevention option

        Figure 3: Prevent rooting option

      3. When you select the Root Prevention you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains Root Prevention

        Fusion Set applied Root Prevention

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Root Prevention protection

      4. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Root Prevention:
        1. Threat-Events™ OFF > In-App Defense

          If the Threat-Events™ setting is cleared (not selected). Appdome will detect and defend the user and app by enforcing Prevent rooting.

        2. Threat-Events™ ON > In-App Detection

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects application is running on rooted device and passes Appdome’s Threat-Event™ attack intelligence to the app’s business logic for processing, enforcement, and user notification. For more information on consuming and using Appdome Threat-Events™ in the app, see section Using Threat-Events™ for Root Prevention Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

        3. Threat-Events™ ON > In-App Defense

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against rooting (same as Appdome Enforce) and passes Appdome’s Threat-Event™ attack intelligence the app’s business logic for processing. For more information on consuming and using Appdome Threat-Events™ in the app, see section Using Threat-Events™ for Root Prevention Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

      5. Optional Configuration with Root Prevention:
        1. SELinux Enforcement

          Prevent user from running your application on devices with no SELinux enforcement.

      6. Click Build My App at the bottom of the Build Workflow (shown in Figure 3).
    Congratulations!  The Root Prevention protection is now added to the mobile app
  3. Certify the Root Prevention feature in Android Apps.

    After building Root Prevention, Appdome generates a Certified Secure™ certificate to guarantee that the Root Prevention protection has been added and is protecting the app. To verify that the Root Prevention protection has been added to the mobile app, locate the protection in the Certified Secure™ certificate as shown below: Root Prevention shown in Certificate secure

    Figure 5: Certified Secure™ certificate

    Each Certified Secure™ certificate provides DevOps and DevSecOps organizations the entire workflow summary, audit trail of each build, and proof of protection that Root Prevention has been added to each Android app. Certified Secure provides instant and in-line DevSecOps compliance certification that Root Prevention and other mobile app security features are in each build of the mobile app

Using Threat-Events™ for rooting Intelligence and Control in Android Apps

Appdome Threat-Events™ provides consumable in-app mobile app attack intelligence and defense control when rooting is detected. To consume and use Threat-Events™ for rooting in Android Apps, use registerReceiver in the Application OnCreate, and the code samples for Threat-Events™ for rooting shown below.

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for rooting are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Prevent rooting Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Root Prevention
Threat-Event Mode
OFF, IN-APP DEFENSE Appdome detects, defends and notifies user (standard OS dialog) using customizable messaging.
ON, IN-APP DETECTON Appdome detects the attack or threat and passes the event in a standard format to the app for processing (app chooses how and when to enforce).
ON, IN-APP DEFENSE Uses Appdome Enforce mode for any attack or threat and passes the event in a standard format to the app for processing (gather intel on attacks and threats without losing any protection).
Certified Secure™ Threat Event Check
Visible in ThreatScope™
Developer Parameters for Preventing rooting Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME RootedDevice
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6901
Threat-Event SCORE
currentThreatEventScore Current Threat-Event score
threatEventsScore Total Threat-events score
Threat-Event Context Keys
messageMessage displayed for the user on event
externalIDThe external ID of the event which can be listened via Threat Events
osVersionOS version of the current device
deviceModelCurrent device model
deviceManufacturerThe manufacturer of the current device
fusedAppTokenThe task ID of the Appdome fusion of the currently running app
kernelInfoInfo about the kernel: system name, node name, release, version and machine.
carrierPlmnPLMN of the device
deviceIDCurrent device ID
reasonCodeReason code of the occured event
buildDateAppdome fusion date of the current application
devicePlatformOS name of the current device
carrierNameCarrier name of the current device
updatedOSVersionIs the OS version up to date
deviceBrandBrand of the device
deviceBoardBoard of the device
buildUserBuild user
buildHostBuild host
sdkVersionSdk version
timeZoneTime zone
deviceFaceDownIs the device face down
locationLongLocation long
locationLatLocation lat
locationStateLocation state
wifiSsidWifi SSID
wifiSsidPermissionStatusWifi SSID permission status
internalErrorInternal error code as hex
extendedMessageTextInternal error code
rInternalErrorCodeInternal error code
reasonReason for the root detection

With Threat-Events™ enabled (turned ON), Android developers can get detailed attack intelligence and granular defense control in Android applications and create amazing user experiences for all mobile end users when rooting is detected.

The following is a code sample for native Android apps, which uses all values in the specification above for Root Prevention:

Prerequisites to Using Root Prevention:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Prevent rooting , you’ll need:

Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Apps by using Root Prevention. There is no SDK and no library to code or implement in the app and no gateway to deploy in your network. All protections are built into each app and the resulting app is self-defending and self-protecting.

Releasing and Publishing Mobile Apps with Root Prevention

After successfully securing your app by using Appdome, there are several available options to complete your project, depending on your app lifecycle or workflow. These include:

All apps protected by Appdome are fully compatible with any public app store, including Apple App Store, Google Play, Huawei App Gallery and more.

Protections Similar to Root Prevention

Here are a few related resources:

Check out the related KB on Jailbreak Prevention iOS

Check out the full menu of features in the Appdome Mobile Security Suite

If you have any questions, please send them our way at support.appdome.com or via the chat window on the Appdome platform.

Thank you!

Thanks for visiting Appdome! Our mission is to secure every app on the planet by making mobile app security easy. We hope we’re living up to the mission with your project.

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