How to Prevent Virtualization to Protect Android Apps

Last updated February 13, 2024 by Appdome

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

What is Android Virtualization?

Android virtualization involves creating a virtual instance of the Android operating system within a different computing environment, utilizing software-based emulators or virtual devices to replicate the behavior of actual Android hardware. This technology is indispensable for developers, offering a platform for testing apps across various devices and OS versions without the need for physical devices. Yet, the convenience of Android virtualization is a double-edged sword, presenting significant security vulnerabilities. It opens avenues for malicious exploitation, such as bypassing app security measures, unauthorized data access, and resource exploitation. Malicious actors can use these virtual environments to run multiple app instances, automate attacks, mine data, or evade app licensing and purchase mechanisms, posing a threat to the security and integrity of mobile applications.

Why Prevent Virtual Devices in Android Apps?

Preventing Android virtualization in mobile apps is essential to safeguard against the multitude of risks it presents, particularly in the realms of mobile banking, finance, and gaming. Virtual environments, like those created by Parallel Spaces, DualSpaces, and VMOS, offer fertile ground for fraudulent activities, enabling cheaters and fraudsters to manipulate app functionalities. These virtualized platforms facilitate the manipulation of RAM, networking elements, and other critical game properties, allowing users to gain unfair advantages, bypass licensing checks, access premium game features without payment, and conceal their activities for extended periods.

The underlying issue with Android virtual machines lies in their ability to emulate real device interactions and sensor data, creating opportunities for misuse:

  • Emulated Touchscreen Interface: By providing a simulated touchscreen interface, virtual machines enable attackers to use a mouse or keyboard to interact with apps. This allows for the simulation of taps, swipes, and gestures, enabling actions within apps that mimic those of a genuine user on a physical device.
  • Emulated Keyboard Input: The inclusion of a virtual keyboard permits the input of text and the triggering of key events within apps. Attackers can exploit this to navigate through the app, enter data, or perform actions that would typically require physical interaction with a device.
  • Emulated Sensors: Virtual machines can also mimic various sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS, and orientation sensors. This capability allows attackers to spoof sensor data, tricking apps into reacting to false environmental conditions or movements.

To counter these vulnerabilities, Appdome’s Prevent Android Virtualization offers advanced protection. It detects when an app is running within a virtualized environment and takes proactive measures to shut it down when Threat Events-In App Defense is enabled, safeguarding your app against various threats.

Prerequisites for Using Prevent Android Virtualization:

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Prevent Android Virtualization , you’ll need:

Prevent Android Virtualization on Android apps using Appdome

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

    1. Building Prevent Android Virtualization by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

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

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

      To build the Prevent Android Virtualization protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Anti Fraud Tab > Mobile Fraud Detection section.
      2. When you select the Prevent Android Virtualization 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 Android Virtualization

        Fusion Set applied Prevent Android Virtualization

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Prevent Android Virtualization protection

      3. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Prevent Android Virtualization:
        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 Android Virtualization.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects a virtualized environment in use with the mobile app 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 Prevent Android Virtualization Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Android Virtualization (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 Prevent Android Virtualization Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

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

Using Threat-Events™ for Android Virtualization Intelligence and Control in Android Apps

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

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Android Virtualization are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Prevent Android Virtualization Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Prevent Android Virtualization
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 Android Virtualization Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME RunningInVirtualSpace
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
virtualSpaceApp Package name of the virtual space app

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 Android Virtualization is detected.

The following is a code sample for native Android apps, which uses all values in the specification above for Prevent Android Virtualization:


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

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.

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