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What Are Emulators?
Emulators are virtualized tools that are used to run software tests on mobile apps inside flexible, software-defined environments. They allow someone to simulate, model, and mimic mobile application software & hardware behavior, including how apps interact with the mobile operating system 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 Android device. For example, emulators can mimic incoming phone calls and text messages, location services, various network speeds, device orientation/rotation, and different hardware sensors. Like most mobile dev tools, there are good uses and bad uses for emulators. For example, QA teams use these tools for testing new mobile features, as well as app performance. Developers use emulators because it may be impractical and very expensive to obtain real devices for testing (especially given the hundreds of types of mobile phones on the market today across Android and iOS).
Hackers also use emulators for malicious purposes as part of dynamic analysis efforts, where they run mobile apps in their own controlled environment to learn how the app behaves and interacts with other components or systems while it’s running.
Why Should Developers Prevent Apps from Running on Emulators?
Hackers use emulators to run mobile apps within their own controlled environment so they can mimic, observe, and study how a mobile app functions and behaves while the app is running. Why? Because knowing how a mobile app behaves helps hackers build more effective attacks and attack methods.
For example, using emulators, hackers can observe how an app interacts with the mobile operating system, or study the methods and sequence by which the app connects to and authenticates with its backend. Emulators can also be used to observe how an application app reads/writes to the filesystem (for instance to learn if weak encryption is used, or no encryption at all).
And not all actions are passive. Hackers use emulators to perform custom modifications to the OS behavior, like modifying OS system calls or libraries, sending fake signals from the app, removing security controls, and more. For example, hackers use emulators to steal in-app purchases via ROM-hacking (where they modify the Read-Only-Memory of a mobile game). Fraudsters also use them to spoof device identities to trick fraud detection systems, among many more use cases. And these are just a few of the many ways hackers use emulators in their attack efforts.
One of the many advantages of using emulators is that the hacker is not limited by the computational capabilities of the physical device, so they can scale quickly. This enables the attacker to run through their attack vector testing much faster by using multiple instances of the app in parallel, rather than running one app at a time on a physical device.
3 Easy Steps to Block Emulators in Hacking Android & iOS Apps
Please follow these 3 easy steps to block emulators in hacking Android & iOS apps
- Upload an Android or iOS App to Appdome’s no code security platform (.apk, .aab, or .ipa)
- In the Build Tab, under Security, Select ONEShield> (shown below)
- Click Build My App
Block Emulators is included automatically every time you build an app using Appdome, as part of ONEShield (Appdome’s App Shielding/ App Hardening solution).
ONEShield™ is Appdome’s advanced mobile app shielding/app hardening solution that prevents mobile app alterations, re-signing, fakes and mods, and more – all without any coding. In addition to simulator and emulator prevention, ONEShield also includes anti-tampering, anti-debugging, anti-reversing, Checksum validation, and more.
Congratulations! When your build is complete, you will see the notice below.
Prerequisites for Blocking Emulators
Here’s what you need to build secured apps that block emulators
No Coding Dependency
Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured apps that block emulators. There is no SDK and no library to manually code or implement in the app. The Appdome technology adds the relevant standards, frameworks, stores, and logic to the app automatically, with no manual development work at all.
How to Sign & Publish Secured Mobile Apps Built on Appdome
After successfully securing your app using Appdome, there are several available options to complete your project, depending on your app lifecycle or workflow. These include:
Or, see this quick reference Releasing Secured Android & iOS Apps built on Appdome.
What’s the Difference Between Emulators and Simulators?
Emulators and simulators are often described as interchangeable, but there are some notable differences between them.
Both simulators and emulators are used to create a virtual environment that contains all of the software variables and configurations that will exist in an application’s production environment. And both allow modeling and interactive simulations of how the app interacts with the mobile operating system and some hardware components (keyboard, screen, Bluetooth, network interfaces, CPU, etc).
The main difference between simulators and emulators is that simulators do not mimic the actual hardware on which the app will run in a production environment. They can model simulations of interactions with the OS and certain hardware components without actually mimicking or re-creating the virtualized hardware environment.
Emulators, on the other hand, mimic the actual hardware configurations and features of the production environment (in addition to software features).
To learn how to prevent hackers from using simulators to attack apps, you can read the KB article on No-Code Simulator Prevention.
More No-Code Block Emulators Resources
To learn all of the security features included in Appdome ONEShield, visit the OneShield Knowledge Base article.
To zoom out on this topic, visit Appdome for Mobile App Security on our website.
If you have any questions, please send them our way at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the chat window on the Appdome platform.
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