How to Block iOS Emulators in iOS Apps

Last updated August 29, 2022 by Appdome

Learn to Prevent iOS Apps from Running on Emulators in iOS apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

What are Emulators?

Emulators are virtualized tools used for running software tests on mobile apps inside flexible, software-defined environments. Using emulators enables simulating, modeling, and mimicking mobile application software & hardware behavior, including how apps interact with the mobile OS and other systems.
Emulators create an operating environment that looks and functions much like the mobile device model, with many of the capabilities of a real iOS device. For example, emulators can mimic incoming phone calls and text messages, location services, various network speeds, device orientation/rotation, and different hardware sensors.
QA teams use emulators for testing new mobile features, as well as app performance, while developers use them as a cheap alternative to obtaining real devices for testing.

Why Prevent iOS Apps from Running on Emulators ?

Emulators are very popular and useful tools for hackers, who use them for running mobile apps within their own controlled environment. By using emulators hackers can mimic, observe, and study how a mobile app functions and behaves, while the app is running, a knowledge that helps them build more effective attacks and attack methods. For example, hackers can observe how an application app reads/writes to the filesystem, thereby learning if weak encryption is used. Furthermore, hackers can use emulators to perform custom modifications to the OS behavior, such as removing security controls. Using emulators also means hackers are not limited by the computational capabilities of the physical device, and can run through their attack vector testing much faster by using multiple instances of the app in parallel.

Preventing iOS Apps from Running on Emulators on iOS apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending iOS Apps that Prevent iOS Apps from Running on Emulators 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. iOS Formats: .ipa
  2. Build the Protection: Prevent Running on Emulators.

    1. Building Prevent Running on Emulators by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

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

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Prevent Running on Emulators 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 Prevent Running on Emulators feature via Appdome Console, to add the Prevent Running on Emulators 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 Prevent Running on Emulators feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Prevent Running on Emulators protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Security Tab > ONEShield™ section . Like all other options in ONEShield™, iOS Apps from Running on Emulators is turned on by default, as shown below: Prevent Running on Emulators option

        Figure 3: Prevent iOS Apps from Running on Emulators 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.

      2. When you select the Prevent Running on Emulators you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains Prevent Running on Emulators

        Fusion Set applied Prevent Running on Emulators

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Prevent Running on Emulators protection

      3. Click Build My App at the bottom of the Build Workflow (shown in Figure 3).
    Congratulations!  The Prevent Running on Emulators protection is now added to the mobile app
  3. Certify the Prevent Running on Emulators feature in iOS Apps.

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

Prerequisites to Using Prevent Running on Emulators:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Prevent iOS Apps from Running on Emulators , you’ll need:

Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Apps by using Prevent Running on Emulators. 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 Prevent Running on Emulators

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 Prevent Running on Emulators

Here are a few related resources:

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!

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