How to Encrypt Java Class Files (.dex) in Android Apps
Learn to Encrypt Dex Files in Android apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.
What is DEX File Encryption?
In Android, compiled Java/Kotlin code resides in
classes.dex files (see structure of Android applications). The common tools to reverse engineer DEX files are disassemblers such as baksmali and dex2jar and decompilers such as jadx and jdgui. Appdome’s DEX File Encryption is a security feature uses Appdome’s APPCode Packer, the industry’s first no-code Android App Packer, to hide and encrypt all Java code of an Android app when the app is built by using Appdome. Using code packing with Appdome APPCode Packer makes the disasembling tools ineffective and even unusable. For details see White Hat Android Packer from Appdome.
Why Encrypt DEX Files (Java Classes) in Android apps?
Appdome encrypts all DEX files not needed for app initialization, making it impossible for disassemblers to find the original code. At run-time, Appdome’s code will decrypt the encrypted DEX files and allow the app to continue working as usual.
This obfuscation technique provides the following benefits:
- Trying to use offline reversing techniques on the application will fail as most classes will not be found in the APK or in the AAB.
- Decryption overhead is only incurred during the app’s first run, and even then has minimal impact.
- Since the DEX files are encrypted, they are protected by Appdome’s Anti-Tampering.
- In addition, any attempt to force this information out of the application using run-time methods will be thwarted by Appdome’s Anti-Debugging and other features in ONEShield.
Prerequisites to Using Dex File Encryption:
To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Encrypt Dex Files , you’ll need:
- Appdome account (create a free Appdome account here)
- A license for Dex File Encryption
- Mobile App (.apk or .aab For Android)
- Signing Credentials (see Signing Secure Android apps and Signing Secure iOS apps)
Encrypt Dex Files on Android apps using Appdome
On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Android Apps that Encrypt Dex Files without an SDK or gateway:
Upload the Mobile App to Appdome.
Upload an app to Appdome’s Mobile App Security Build System
Upload Method: Appdome Console or DEV-API
Android Formats: .apk or .aab
Dex File Encryption Compatible With: Java, JS, C++, C#, Kotlin, Flutter, React Native, Unity, Xamarin, Cordova and other Android apps
Build the feature: Dex File Encryption.
Congratulations! The Dex File Encryption protection is now added to the mobile app
Building Dex File Encryption by using Appdome’s DEV-API:
Create and name the Fusion Set (security template) that will contain the Dex File Encryption feature as shown below:
Follow the steps in Sections 2.2.1-2.2.2 of this article, Building the Dex File Encryption feature via Appdome Console, to add the Dex File Encryption feature to this Fusion Set.
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):
Figure 2: Fusion Set Detail Summary
Note: Annotating the Fusion Set to identify the protection(s) selected is optional only (not mandatory).
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:
Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Dex File Encryption feature
Note: Naming the Fusion Set to correspond to the protection(s) selected is for illustration purposes only (not required).
Building the Dex File Encryption feature via Appdome Console
To build the Dex File Encryption protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.
Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Security Tab > TOTALData™ Encryption section
How: Toggle (turn ON) Dex File Encryption, as shown below.
If needed, Customize the Threat Notification to be displayed to the mobile end-user in a standard OS dialog notification when Appdome Encrypts Dex Files.
Figure 3: Encrypt Dex Files option
Note: The App Compromise Notification contains an easy to follow default remediation path for the mobile app end user. You can customize this message as required to achieve brand specific support, workflow or other messaging.
When you select the Dex File Encryption you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains Dex File Encryption
Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Dex File Encryption protection
- Optional Configuration with Dex File Encryption:
- Favor Loading Time
Automatically detect and optimize obfuscation of publicly available components in order to preserve application loading time.
Click Build My App at the bottom of the Build Workflow (shown in Figure 3).
Certify the Dex File Encryption feature in Android Apps.
After building Dex File Encryption, Appdome generates a Certified Secure™ certificate to guarantee that the Dex File Encryption protection has been added and is protecting the app. To verify that the Dex File Encryption protection has been added to the mobile app, locate the protection in the Certified Secure™ certificate as shown below:
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 Dex File Encryption has been added to each Android app. Certified Secure provides instant and in-line DevSecOps compliance certification that Dex File Encryption and other mobile app security features are in each build of the mobile app
Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Android Apps by using Dex File Encryption. 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 Dex File Encryption
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:
- Customizing, Configuring & Branding Secure Mobile Apps
- Deploying/Publishing Secure mobile apps to Public or Private app stores
- Releasing Secured Android & iOS Apps built on Appdome.
All apps protected by Appdome are fully compatible with any public app store, including Apple App Store, Google Play, Huawei App Gallery and more.
If you have any questions, please send them our way at support.appdome.com or via the chat window on the Appdome platform.
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.