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APKinspector: A GUI Tool for Static Analysis of Android Malware



APKinspector: Static Analyser of Android Malware




Android applications are widely used and popular, but they also pose a security risk for users and devices. Malicious apps can steal personal data, display unwanted ads, or even take over the device. To protect yourself from Android malware, you need to be careful about what apps you download and install, and also use tools that can help you analyze and inspect the apps for potential threats.




APKinspector: Static Analyser of Android Malware


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One such tool is APKinspector, a powerful GUI tool for analysts to analyze the Android applications. In this article, we will introduce APKinspector, explain what it does and how it works, and compare it with other static analysis tools for Android applications. We will also discuss what Android malware is, how it works, and how to detect and avoid it. Finally, we will answer some frequently asked questions about APKinspector and Android malware.


What is APKinspector?




APKinspector is a static analysis platform for Android applications. It is developed by the Honeynet Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the security of the internet by providing research and education on cyber threats. APKinspector is an open-source project that can be downloaded from GitHub.


Features and benefits of APKinspector




APKinspector provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows analysts to easily examine the source code, structure, behavior, and permissions of Android applications. It can also generate various graphs and reports that can help identify potential vulnerabilities or malicious activities in the apps. Some of the features and benefits of APKinspector are:


  • It supports multiple formats of Android applications, such as APK, DEX, ODEX, etc.



  • It can decompile the bytecode into readable Java code using tools like JAD or DED.



  • It can analyze the control flow, data flow, call graph, class hierarchy, etc. of the apps using tools like Androguard or DEX2JAR.



  • It can display the app information, such as package name, version, activities, services, receivers, providers, etc.



  • It can show the app permissions and their risks, such as accessing sensitive data or system resources.



  • It can detect common vulnerabilities or malicious patterns in the apps, such as SQL injection, command injection, file manipulation, etc.



  • It can export the analysis results in various formats, such as XML, DOT, PNG, etc.



How to install and use APKinspector




To install and use APKinspector, you need to have a Linux system with Python 2.7 installed. You also need to install some dependencies, such as Qt SDK, SIP, PyQt4, pydot, Graphviz, apktool, etc. You can follow the instructions on the README file on GitHub to install them properly.


To use APKinspector, you need to run the startQT.py script in the UI folder. Then you can open an Android application file (APK or DEX) from the File menu. You will see a window with several tabs that show different aspects of the app analysis. You can switch between tabs to view different information or graphs. You can also use the Tools menu to access some functions or settings.


What is Android malware?




Android malware is malicious software that specifically targets Android devices. As with any type of malware, the intention is to harm the user's device and steal their data. Compared to Apple's App Store, Google's Play Store has less rigid security measures in place. In addition, Android users can download apps from various sources on the internet. This creates an environment in which cyber Continuing the article: criminals can easily distribute malicious apps to unsuspecting users. According to a report by AV-TEST, an independent security institute, there were over 20 million Android malware samples detected in 2020.


Types and examples of Android malware




There are various types and examples of Android malware, each with different capabilities and objectives. Some of the common types and examples are:


  • Trojans: These are apps that disguise themselves as legitimate or useful apps, but secretly perform malicious actions in the background. For example, Anubis is a banking Trojan that can steal login credentials, credit card information, and other sensitive data from users.



  • Ransomware: These are apps that encrypt or lock the user's device or data, and demand a ransom to restore them. For example, Simplocker is a ransomware that can encrypt the user's files and display a message demanding payment in bitcoins.



  • Adware: These are apps that display unwanted or intrusive ads on the user's device, often without their consent or knowledge. For example, Joker is an adware that can subscribe users to premium services without their permission, and generate revenue for the attackers.



  • Spyware: These are apps that monitor and collect the user's personal information, such as location, contacts, messages, calls, etc. For example, Skygofree is a spyware that can record audio, take pictures, track GPS, and access encrypted messages from apps like WhatsApp.



  • Rootkits: These are apps that gain root access to the user's device, and hide themselves from detection or removal. For example, DroidDream is a rootkit that can download and install other malicious apps on the user's device without their knowledge.



How Android malware works




The way Android malware works depends on the type and purpose of the malware. However, there are some common steps that most Android malware follow to infect and harm the user's device. These steps are:


  • Distribution: The malware is distributed through various channels, such as malicious websites, phishing emails, fake app stores, or even legitimate app stores with compromised apps.



  • Installation: The malware is installed on the user's device, either by tricking the user into downloading and running it, or by exploiting a vulnerability in the system or another app.



  • Activation: The malware is activated by a certain trigger, such as a specific date, time, event, or command from the attacker.



  • Execution: The malware executes its malicious payload, such as stealing data, displaying ads, encrypting files, etc.



  • Persistence: The malware tries to persist on the user's device by hiding itself from detection or removal, or by updating itself with new features or capabilities.



  • Communication: The malware communicates with a remote server or controller to send or receive data, commands, or updates.



What is static analysis?




Static analysis is a method of analyzing software without executing it. It involves examining the source code, structure, behavior, and properties of software to identify potential errors, vulnerabilities, or malicious activities. Static analysis can be performed manually by human experts, or automatically by tools such as APKinspector.


Static analysis vs dynamic analysis




Static analysis is different from dynamic analysis, which is another method of analyzing software by executing it. Dynamic analysis involves running the software in a controlled environment and observing its behavior and output. Dynamic analysis can reveal runtime errors, performance issues, or malicious activities that static analysis may miss.


However, dynamic analysis also has some limitations compared to static analysis. Dynamic analysis can only analyze the software for a specific input or scenario. It may not cover all possible paths or outcomes of the software. Dynamic analysis also requires more time and resources to run the software and monitor its behavior. Dynamic analysis may also alter the state of the software or trigger unwanted actions by the software.


Therefore, static analysis and dynamic analysis are complementary methods that can be used together to achieve a more comprehensive and accurate analysis of software.


Benefits and limitations of static analysis




Static analysis has some benefits and limitations for analyzing software. Some of the benefits are:


  • It can analyze the software before it is executed or deployed.



  • It can cover all possible paths and outcomes of the software.



  • Continuing the article: It can detect common errors, vulnerabilities, or malicious patterns in the software.



  • It can generate various graphs and reports that can help visualize and understand the software.



Some of the limitations are:


  • It may produce false positives or false negatives, meaning it may report errors or vulnerabilities that do not exist, or miss errors or vulnerabilities that do exist.



  • It may not be able to handle complex or obfuscated code, such as code that uses encryption, compression, reflection, etc.



  • It may not be able to analyze the runtime behavior or output of the software, which may depend on external factors such as user input, network connection, device configuration, etc.



Static analysis tools for Android applications




There are various tools that can perform static analysis for Android applications. Some of them are:


ToolDescription


APKinspectorA GUI tool that can decompile, analyze, and visualize Android applications.


AndroguardA Python library that can disassemble, decompile, and analyze Android applications.


APKtoolA command-line tool that can decode and rebuild Android applications.


JADXA command-line and GUI tool that can decompile Android applications to Java source code.


DroidBoxA tool that can perform both static and dynamic analysis of Android applications.


Conclusion




In this article, we have introduced APKinspector, a static analysis platform for Android applications. We have explained what it does and how it works, and compared it with other static analysis tools for Android applications. We have also discussed what Android malware is, how it works, and how to detect and avoid it. We hope this article has been informative and helpful for you.


FAQs




What is the difference between APK and DEX files?




An APK file is an Android application package file that contains all the files and resources needed to install and run an Android application. A DEX file is a Dalvik executable file that contains the compiled bytecode of an Android application. APK files usually contain one or more DEX files inside them.


How can I protect myself from Android malware?




Some of the best practices to protect yourself from Android malware are:


  • Only download apps from trusted sources, such as Google Play Store or official websites.



  • Check the app ratings, reviews, permissions, and developer information before installing an app.



  • Use a reputable antivirus or security app on your device.



  • Keep your device and apps updated with the latest security patches.



  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments in emails or messages.



  • Backup your data regularly in case of a ransomware attack.



How can I remove Android malware from my device?




If you suspect that your device is infected with Android malware, you can try the following steps to remove it:


  • Boot your device into safe mode by holding down the power button and selecting the safe mode option. This will prevent any third-party apps from running.



  • Go to Settings > Apps and look for any suspicious or unfamiliar apps. Uninstall them if you find any.



  • Go to Settings > Security > Device Administrators and look for any suspicious or unfamiliar apps. Deactivate them if you find any.



  • Run a scan with your antivirus or security app and remove any detected threats.



  • Restart your device normally and check if the problem is resolved.



What are some of the advantages of APKinspector over other static analysis tools?




Some of the advantages of APKinspector over other static analysis tools are:


  • It provides a graphical user interface (GUI) that makes it easy to use and understand.



  • It supports multiple formats of Android applications, such as APK, DEX, ODEX, etc.



  • It integrates various tools and libraries to perform different types of analysis and visualization.



  • It can export the analysis results in various formats, such as XML, DOT, PNG, etc.



What are some of the challenges or limitations of APKinspector?




Some of the challenges or limitations of APKinspector are:


  • Continuing the article: It requires a Linux system with Python 2.7 and several dependencies to install and run.



  • It may not be able to handle complex or obfuscated code, such as code that uses encryption, compression, reflection, etc.



  • It may produce false positives or false negatives, meaning it may report errors or vulnerabilities that do not exist, or miss errors or vulnerabilities that do exist.



  • It may not be able to analyze the runtime behavior or output of the software, which may depend on external factors such as user input, network connection, device configuration, etc.



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