How to Prevent Distribution of Android apps on Non-approved App Stores

Last updated November 23, 2023 by Appdome

Learn to Prevent Distribution of fake apps in Android apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

What is Google Play Signature Validation?

Appdome Google Play Signature Validation ensures that apps signed for Google Play Store cannot be distributed through any other app stores. Fraudsters and other cyber-criminals often create fake apps by copying or cloning existing popular apps and then repackaging, re-signing, and re-distributing those apps on alternative, malicious, or non-approved app stores.

Why Prevent Distribution of fake apps in Android Apps?

The distribution of Android apps on Non-approved Stores must be prevented because cyber-criminal use this practice for various malicious reasons, such as:

  • Embed malware or trojans inside a well-known app for the purpose of tricking users into downloading malware onto the mobile device.
  • Creating game mods to be used in mobile game cheating.
  • Creating malicious apps that pose as helpful “utility” apps, such as battery-life extenders, QR code generators, calculators, or productivity apps.
  • Creating fakes, clones or pirated copies of apps, and then masquerading these apps as the original app to divert advertising revenue to fraudulent entities, or to generate in-app purchase revenue at the expense of the original app.

Prerequisites for Using Google Play Signature Validation:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Prevent Distribution of fake apps , you’ll need:

Prevent Distribution of fake apps on Android apps using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Android Apps that Prevent Distribution of fake apps 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
    4. Google Play Signature Validation Compatible With: Java, JS, C++, C#, Kotlin, Flutter, React Native, Unity, Xamarin, Cordova and other Android apps
  2. Build the feature: Google Play Signature Validation.

    1. Building Google Play Signature Validation by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

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

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Google Play Signature Validation 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 Google Play Signature Validation feature via Appdome Console, to add the Google Play Signature Validation 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 Google Play Signature Validation feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Google Play Signature Validation protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Anti Fraud Tab > Mobile Cheat Prevention section.
      2. When you select the Google Play Signature Validation you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains Google Play Signature Validation

        Fusion Set applied Google Play Signature Validation

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Google Play Signature Validation protection

      3. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Google Play Signature Validation:
        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 Prevent Distribution of fake apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects if apps originally signed for Google Play have been re-signed or re-packaged 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 Google Play Signature Validation Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Distribution of fake apps (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 Google Play Signature Validation Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

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

Using Threat-Events™ for Distribution of fake apps Intelligence and Control in Android Apps

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

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Distribution of fake apps are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Prevent Distribution of fake apps Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Google Play Signature Validation
Threat-Event Mode
OFF, IN-APP DEFENSE Appdome detects, defends and notifies user (standard OS dialog) using customizable messaging.
ON, IN-APP DETECTION 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 Preventing Distribution of fake apps Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME NotInstalledFromOfficialStore
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6801
Threat-Event SCORE
currentThreatEventScore Current Threat-Event score
threatEventsScore Total Threat-events score
Threat-Event Context Keys
message Message displayed for the user on event
externalID The external ID of the event which can be listened via Threat Events
osVersion OS version of the current device
deviceModel Current device model
deviceManufacturer The manufacturer of the current device
fusedAppToken The task ID of the Appdome fusion of the currently running app
kernelInfo Info about the kernel: system name, node name, release, version and machine.
carrierPlmn PLMN of the device
deviceID Current device ID
reasonCode Reason code of the occured event
buildDate Appdome fusion date of the current application
devicePlatform OS name of the current device
carrierName Carrier name of the current device
updatedOSVersion Is the OS version up to date
deviceBrand Brand of the device
deviceBoard Board of the device
buildUser Build user
buildHost Build host
sdkVersion Sdk version
timeZone Time zone
deviceFaceDown Is the device face down
locationLong Location long
locationLat Location lat
locationState Location state
wifiSsid Wifi SSID
wifiSsidPermissionStatus Wifi 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 Distribution of fake apps are detected.

The following is a code sample for native Android apps, which uses all values in the specification above for Google Play Signature Validation:


Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Android Apps by using Google Play Signature Validation. 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 Google Play Signature Validation

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:

Related Articles:

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.

Want a Demo?

Mobile App Modding Detection

AlanWe're here to help
We'll get back to you in 24 hours to schedule your demo.