How to Detect Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Exploits, Protect Android Apps

Last updated August 31, 2022 by Appdome

Learn to Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) in Android apps, in mobile CI/CD with a Data-Driven DevSecOps™ build system.

What is Android Debug Bridge (ADB)?

Android Debug Bridge (ADB) is a very powerful and versatile command-line tool that is intended for use by legitimate developers in building, debugging, and troubleshooting Android apps. Users of ADB can communicate with Android devices or Android apps, either remotely or via a USB interface, to perform a wide range of actions by running and executing an extensive list of commands installing and debugging apps.ADB is a client-server program that includes three components:
• A client, which sends commands. You can invoke a client from a command-line terminal by issuing an adb command.
• A daemon (adbd), which runs commands on a device. The daemon runs as a background process on each device.
• A server, which manages communication between the client and the daemon. The server runs as a background process.

Why Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) in Android Apps ?

While there are many legitimate uses of ADB during the development and testing process when building Android apps, ADB (like many development tools) can also be used for malicious purposes. For example, ADB can be used for extracting or installing apps on devices, reading and modifying data while the app is running, performing function or method hooking, and changing the application’s logic or control flows as it executes operations.

As a result, it is important to build protections into mobile apps to prevent malicious use of ADB by anyone other than the developers of the app or other parties authorized by the app owner).

Blocking Android Debug Bridge (ADB) on Android apps by Using Appdome

On Appdome, follow these 3 simple steps to create self-defending Android Apps that Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) 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
  2. Build the Protection: Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB).

    1. Building Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) by using Appdome’s DEV-API:

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

        Figure 1: Fusion Set that will contain the Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) 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 Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) feature via Appdome Console, to add the Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) 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 Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) feature via Appdome Console

      To build the Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) protection by using Appdome Console, follow the instructions below.

      1. Where: Inside the Appdome Console, go to Build > Anti Fraud Tab > Mobile Fraud Prevention section
      2. How: Toggle (turn ON) Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB), as shown belowAndroid Debug Bridge (ADB), If needed, Customize the Threat Notification to be displayed to the mobile end-user in a standard OS dialog notification when Appdome Blocks . Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) option

        Figure 3: Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) 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.

      3. When you select the Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) you'll notice that your Fusion Set you created in step 2.1.1 now bears the icon of the protection category that contains Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

        Fusion Set applied Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

        Figure 4: Fusion Set that displays the newly added Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) protection

      4. Select the Threat-Event™ in-app mobile Threat Defense and Intelligence policy for Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB):
        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 Android Debug Bridge (ADB).

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects Android Debug Bridge (ADB) 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 Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

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

          When this setting is used, Appdome detects and defends against Android Debug Bridge (ADB) (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 Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Intelligence and Control in Mobile Apps.

      5. Optional Configuration with Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB):
        1. Block Rooted ADB

          Detects if ADB was set to run as root which can be used to run malicious tools as root without rooting the device.

        2. Block USB Debugging

          Block USB debugging port used via ADB.

      6. Click Build My App at the bottom of the Build Workflow (shown in Figure 3).
    Congratulations!  The Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) protection is now added to the mobile app
  3. Certify the Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) feature in Android Apps.

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

Using Threat-Events™ for Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Intelligence and Control in Android Apps

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

The specifications and options for Threat-Events™ for Android Debug Bridge (ADB) are:

Threat-Event™ Elements Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Method Detail
Appdome Feature Name Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB)
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 Android Debug Bridge (ADB) Threat-Event™
Threat-Event NAME ActiveADBDetected
Threat-Event DATA reasonData
Threat-Event CODE reasonCode
Threat-Event REF 6906
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
adbDetectionMethodDetection method

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 Debug Bridge (ADB) is detected.

The following is a code sample for native Android apps, which uses all values in the specification above for Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB):

Prerequisites to Using Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB):

To use Appdome’s mobile app security build system to Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB) , you’ll need:

Using Appdome, there are no development or coding prerequisites to build secured Apps by using Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB). 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 Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

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 Block Android Debug Bridge (ADB)

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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