How to Detect Android Developer Options, Protect Android Apps

Last updated August 11, 2022 by Appdome

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

What are Developer Options?

Developer options is an Android setting that allows developers to configure system behaviors for administrative and troubleshooting purposes. When this setting is enabled, developers can run their app on an Android Mobile device without proper digital signature.

The Developer options setting is designed to help developers profile app performance and run debugging options. For example, developers can turn on debugging over USB, generate a bug report, enable visual feedback for taps, and render 2D graphics by using GPU. Ideally, developers have this setting enabled during development and testing phase, and disable the setting once they exit to publish the app.

Why Detect Developer Options in Android Apps ?

While the Developer Options setting was designed to help developers, it is often used by hackers, who try to enable and exploit it for malicious purposes. For example, features that are useful during the development phase, such as “Stay awake” (keeps the screen on while the phone is charging), “pointer locations” (draws the track of the most recent user gestures) and “USB debugging” can be exploited by malicious actors to prevent unlocking the screen, track the user’s password or hand gesture, and change the application’s logic or control flows as it executes operations, respectively.
With Appdome’s Detect Developer Options feature, if Appdome’s technology detects that Android Developer Options is enabled on a mobile device, the app will not run. Instead, the app will display a customizable In-app message to the user before it exits.

Detecting Developer Options on Android apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Android Apps that Detect Developer Options 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: Detect Developer Options.

    1. Building Detect Developer Options by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

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

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Detect Developer Options 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 Detect Developer Options feature via Appdome Console, to add the Detect Developer Options 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 Detect Developer Options feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Detect Developer Options 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) Detect Developer Options, as shown below. Detect Developer Options option

        Figure 3: Detect Developer Options option

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

        Fusion Set applied Detect Developer Options

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Detect Developer Options protection

      4. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Detect Developer Options:
        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 Detect Developer Options.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects Android Developer Options is enabled on a mobile 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 Detect Developer Options Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Developer Options (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 Detect Developer Options Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

    After building Detect Developer Options, Appdome generates a Certified Secure™ certificate to guarantee that the Detect Developer Options protection has been added and is protecting the app. To verify that the Detect Developer Options protection has been added to the mobile app, locate the protection in the Certified Secure™ certificate as shown below: Detect Developer Options 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 Detect Developer Options has been added to each Android app. Certified Secure provides instant and in-line DevSecOps compliance certification that Detect Developer Options and other mobile app security features are in each build of the mobile app

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

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

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Developer Options are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Detect Developer Options Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Detect Developer Options
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 Detecting Developer Options Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME DeveloperOptionsEnabled
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6702
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

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 Developer Options are detected.

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

Prerequisites to Using Detect Developer Options:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Detect Developer Options , you’ll need:

Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Apps by using Detect Developer Options. 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 Detect Developer Options

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 Detect Developer Options

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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