Android Internals: Package Verifiers

Inspired by Nikolay Elenkov’s detailed technical posts on Android Explorations, I decided to dig into the Android source code myself and document the package verification mechanism in Android.

Package verification was introduced in Android 4.2 to allow for apps to be verified or checked before they are installed. If you have tried to install a malicious app on a production Android device, you might have seen the following screen, displayed by the verifier:

screenshot of malicious app install warning

Android was built in such a way that it tries to be generic for third-parties to implement stuff. Package verification is a feature that is currently only used and implemented by Google, but it is abstracted in such a way that any manufacturer can implement their own. Documentation and examples on how to do this is almost non-existent, although anyone determined enough can read the Android source code and figure it out for themselves.

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Bruteforcing LUKS Volumes Explained

Some weeks back, we were forced to reboot one of our server machines because it stopped responding. When the machine came back up, we were greeted with a password prompt to decrypt the partition. No problem, since we always used a password combination (ok, permutation) that consisted of a few words, something along the lines of “john”, “doe”, “1954”, and the server’s serial number. Except that it didn’t work, and we forgot the permutation rules AND whether we used “john” “doe” or “jack” “daniels”.

All the search results for bruteforcing LUKS are largely the same — “use cryptsetup luksOpen --test-passphrase“. In my case, the physical server is in the server room, and I don’t want to stand in front of the rack trying to figure all this out. My question is, can I do this offline on another machine? None of those blog entries were helpful in this regard.

The LUKS Header

To answer this question, I took a look at the LUKS header. This header is what provides multiple “key slots”, allowing you to specify up to 8 passwords or key files that can decrypt the volume. cryptsetup is the standard userspace tool (and library) to manipulate and mount LUKS volumes. Since LUKS was designed based on TKS1, the TKS1 document referenced by the cryptsetup project was very helpful. After consulting the documentation & code, I came up with the following diagram that describes the LUKS key verification process:

LUKS encryption flowchart

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Encrypt All the Drives

I have always been an advocate on storage security (all types of security, actually). I like how iOS devices keep all files encrypted, even if you do not set a passcode on the device. They do this to facilitate quick erasure of files on the device — to erase all the data, they simply wipe the master key.

Erasing magnetic storage media isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming. For solid state media such as SSDs and flash drives, the wear-leveling makes it difficult to ensure that all flash blocks have been securely overwritten. The answer to this is to encrypt everything.

Encrypt all the drives!! (meme)

Recently I have been busy building a Linux-based NAS and I decided to put this to practice.

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Implementing EAP-SIM at Home

What is EAP-SIM?

EAP-SIM is one of the authentication methods that can be used in an 802.1x or WPA Enterprise network. Specifically, it relies on the user’s SIM card to process a presented challenge. This has been used by some telcos to provide WiFi service without having to maintain a separate set of credentials. However, not all phones support EAP-SIM.

Phone displaying EAP-SIM as a WiFi authentication method

Since I’m already using a RADIUS setup at home, the use of EAP-SIM will eliminate the need to install my CA certs onto each device. But of course, there is still a fair bit of work to do…

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Decoding BCARD Conference Badges

Last month, I had the opportunity to fly halfway around the world to attend RSA Conference 2013. Everyone was given a lanyard and badge which contains your information entered during registration. When you visit booths, they can then scan your badge to collect your information and follow up by sending you spam.

RSA conference pass

The scanner varies across different booths, but mostly it’s an Android device that ran a custom software. Since it had a large NXP logo, let’s try to read it with the NFC TagInfo app. Looks like the tag identifies itself as a NDEF message but the data is gibberish.

Data in the BCARD as decoded by TagInfo

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