How to Prevent Debuggable Android & iOS Apps in Production

Last updated August 11, 2022 by Appdome

Learn to Block Debugging Tools in Mobile apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

What are Debugging Tools?

Debugging Tools are software tools that will allow malicious users to debug your application. Some of them are very versatile and allow you to communicate with your device and facilitate a variety of device actions including installing and debugging apps, as well as access to shell commands to run a variety of commands on a device.

Appdome’s Anti-Debugging also counters and stunts malicious dynamic reverse-engineering attempts on your application.

With Block Debugging Tools, developers can achieve the following, depending on the platform:

  • iOS: Connecting with a debugger will cause the debugging client (lldb) to:
    • Halt
    • After a sufficient wait time, the debug session will terminate and the debugger with a crash.
  • Android:
    • Attempting to attach to the process with a debugger, tracing tool or code injectors will result in the application misbehaving and eventually terminate.
    • Attempting to debug the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) using JDB (or anything that utilizes the JDWP protocol) will disconnect the debugger.

Why Block Debugging Tools in Mobile Apps ?

A mobile app is a masterpiece. It is the summation of all of your hard work, design, testing, re-testing, customer feedback, and more. You have created the best app you can, and now someone can steal your secret from you. Your algorithms, business logic, and unique data. You can prevent this when you block debugging tools from reading the code of your app. This will add anti-debugging protection to your app.

Blocking Debugging Tools on Mobile apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Mobile Apps that Block Debugging Tools 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. Mobile App Formats: .ipa For iOS device or .apk or .aab
  2. Build the Protection: ONEShield.

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

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

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

      To build the ONEShield 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™, Debugging Tools is turned on by default, as shown below: ONEShield option

        Figure 3: Block Debugging Tools 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 ONEShield you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains ONEShield

        Fusion Set applied ONEShield

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added ONEShield protection

      3. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for ONEShield:
        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 Block Debugging Tools.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects when a debugger is detected 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 ONEShield Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Debugging Tools (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 ONEShield Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

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

Using Threat-Events™ for Debugging Tools Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps

Appdome Threat-Events™ provides consumable in-app mobile app attack intelligence and defense control when Debugging Tools are detected. To consume and use Threat-Events™ for Debugging Tools in Mobile Apps, use AddObserverForName in Notification Center, and the code samples for Threat-Events™ for Debugging Tools shown below.

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Debugging Tools are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Block Debugging Tools Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name ONEShield
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 Blocking Debugging Tools Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME DebuggerThreatDetected
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6919
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
reasonReason for detection

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

The following is a code sample for native Mobile apps, which uses all values in the specification above for ONEShield:

Prerequisites to Using ONEShield:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Block Debugging Tools , you’ll need:

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

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 ONEShield

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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