Exploiting a debuggeable application

Exploiting a debuggeable application

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Bypassing root and debuggeable checks

This section of the post is a summary from the post https://medium.com/@shubhamsonani/hacking-with-precision-bypass-techniques-via-debugger-in-android-apps-27fd562b2cc0

Steps to Make an Android App Debuggable and Bypass Checks

Making the App Debuggable

Content based on https://medium.com/@shubhamsonani/hacking-with-precision-bypass-techniques-via-debugger-in-android-apps-27fd562b2cc0

  1. Decompile the APK:

    • Utilize the APK-GUI tool for decompiling the APK.

    • In the android-manifest file, insert android:debuggable=true to enable debugging mode.

    • Recompile, sign, and zipalign the modified application.

  2. Install the Modified Application:

    • Use the command: adb install <application_name>.

  3. Retrieve the Package Name:

    • Execute adb shell pm list packages –3 to list third-party applications and find the package name.

  4. Set the App to Await Debugger Connection:

    • Command: adb shell am setup-debug-app –w <package_name>.

    • Note: This command must be run each time before starting the application to ensure it waits for the debugger.

    • For persistence, use adb shell am setup-debug-app –w -–persistent <package_name>.

    • To remove all flags, use adb shell am clear-debug-app <package_name>.

  5. Prepare for Debugging in Android Studio:

    • Navigate in Android Studio to File -> Open Profile or APK.

    • Open the recompiled APK.

  6. Set Breakpoints in Key Java Files:

    • Place breakpoints in MainActivity.java (specifically in the onCreate method), b.java, and ContextWrapper.java.

Bypassing Checks

The application, at certain points, will verify if it is debuggable and will also check for binaries indicating a rooted device. The debugger can be used to modify app info, unset the debuggable bit, and alter the names of searched binaries to bypass these checks.

For the debuggable check:

  1. Modify Flag Settings:

    • In the debugger console's variable section, navigate to: this mLoadedAPK -> mApplicationInfo -> flags = 814267974.

    • Note: The binary representation of flags = 814267974 is 11000011100111011110, indicating that the "Flag_debuggable" is active.


These steps collectively ensure that the application can be debugged and that certain security checks can be bypassed using the debugger, facilitating a more in-depth analysis or modification of the application's behavior.

Step 2 involves changing a flag value to 814267972, which is represented in binary as 110000101101000000100010100.

Exploiting a Vulnerability

A demonstration was provided using a vulnerable application containing a button and a textview. Initially, the application displays "Crack Me". The aim is to alter the message from "Try Again" to "Hacked" at runtime, without modifying the source code.

Checking for Vulnerability

  • The application was decompiled using apktool to access the AndroidManifest.xml file.

  • The presence of android_debuggable="true" in the AndroidManifest.xml indicates the application is debuggable and susceptible to exploitation.

  • It's worth noting that apktool is employed solely to check the debuggable status without altering any code.

Preparing the Setup

  • The process involved initiating an emulator, installing the vulnerable application, and using adb jdwp to identify Dalvik VM ports that are listening.

  • The JDWP (Java Debug Wire Protocol) allows debugging of an application running in a VM by exposing a unique port.

  • Port forwarding was necessary for remote debugging, followed by attaching JDB to the target application.

Injecting Code at Runtime

  • The exploitation was carried out by setting breakpoints and controlling the application flow.

  • Commands like classes and methods <class_name> were used to uncover the application’s structure.

  • A breakpoint was set at the onClick method, and its execution was controlled.

  • The locals, next, and set commands were utilized to inspect and modify local variables, particularly changing the "Try Again" message to "Hacked".

  • The modified code was executed using the run command, successfully altering the application’s output in real-time.

This example demonstrated how the behavior of a debuggable application can be manipulated, highlighting the potential for more complex exploits like gaining shell access on the device in the application's context.


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