Obfuscation is the process of making something difficult or unclear to understand. Specifically, in programming, it relates to changing your code so that it is made impossible for anyone to understand it while leaving the code’s execution and output unchanged. Programmers may purposefully obfuscate code to hide its function or logic to guard against tampering with their applications. They do this with the help of advanced technology. Either manually changing the code or utilizing an automated tool can accomplish this.
Data security and privacy have become top priorities for all mobile users. This has made the iOS app obfuscation a market trend among the developers of mobile applications.
In today’s mobile-first environment, both iOS and android applications are the most frequent targets for hackers and reverse engineers. However, there is a misconception that iOS apps are less susceptible to hacking than other apps. The most common language used worldwide to create iOS applications are Objective- C and Swift. The languages being compiled to machine codes, makes it challenging to convert the app code back to the source. Therefore, it is believed that it is tough to reverse engine iOS apps.
Here are some misapprehensions people have about iOS apps:-
- After downloading an application, restricted access to its machine code makes application analysis very difficult.
- It is tough to reverse engineer machine codes
- The code encryption of Apple is sufficient to protect from reverse engineer
As an outcome of these, the iOS app developers overlook security and focus mainly on UX and UI before publishing their applications. This may have serious repercussions. Obfuscation comes into the picture when such problems have to be tackled. A developer should always be aware of the risks and take necessary actions to avoid them.
Today felons can easily decipher and reverse-engineer your coding. How? Because of the evolved and constantly evolving technology, there is more sophisticated equipment to reverse engineer machine codes. Also, a large amount of metadata gets stored in the binary when Objective-C and Swift are compiled to machine code that is necessary for these languages. All these simplify the process of reverse engineering.
To stop the perpetrator from executing and reverse engineering the codes, iOS engineers should routinely obfuscate their code. This will muddle the application’s code in numerous ways and thus, making it challenging to understand and evaluate.
Now is the discussion of the need for iOS app obfuscation. Due to their design, iOS applications are extremely vulnerable to reverse engineering attacks. The classes and protocols for the application are kept in the object file itself, giving an attacker access to the design of the application.
The majority of attacks on iOS will be caused by the Objective-C runtime’s flaws:
The reflection mechanism in Objective-C makes it simple for attackers to change the application state. The application design is stored in the binary, making it possible for an attacker to reconstruct the app architecture. As a result, messages are simple to trace and manipulate.
With the help of an application’s runtime, it is simple to modify Objective-messaging C’s framework and alter the main code. Even simple attacks are enough to manipulate the Objective-C runtime to bypass authentication and policy checks.
You should consider implementing anti-debugging techniques for apps that contain highly sensitive data such as B. In your finance or banking app. These techniques can complicate the reverse engineering of your code.
One such technique is used in C/C++ to limit what an attacker can do at runtime. As a best practice, write significant parts of your iOS app code in low-level C to avoid exposure to the Objective-C runtime or Objective-C reverse engineering tools (class-dump-z, Cycript, Frida, etc.).
Let’s rapidly highlight the coordinate points of interest of obfuscation:
- Protect the machine code from being replicated and modified without permission.
- Make your app’s rationale and calculations less uncovered.
- Make it greatly troublesome for programmers to distinguish vulnerabilities in your code. Apart from the self-evident benefits of improved security and decreased dangers, robotized code obscurity offers a one-of-a-kind advantage. It makes a difference secure the software’s IP (mental property) by making reverse-engineering a program troublesome and financially unfeasible.
Other points of interest in mechanized obscurity include:
- Protecting authorizing instruments
- Avoiding unauthorized access
- Efficient contracting of the measure of the source code iOS App Obscurity Disadvantages While the muddling handle can make perusing, composing, and reverse-engineering a code complicated and time-consuming, it’ll not fundamentally make it impossible.
Whereas the confusion preparation can make perusing, composing, and reverse-engineering a code complicated and time-consuming, it’ll not fundamentally make it impossible. Another problem may well be that most antivirus instruments, such as the AVG AntiVirus, will alert their clients when they browse a page with physically jumbled code. This is because obscurity can moreover be utilized to stow away malevolent code, which can be negative to a user’s framework. This makes it a ruddy hail for antivirus tools. Many engineers may utilize code muddling fair to diminish record estimates. So actually, when a user gets an alarm from their antivirus computer program almost a jumbled code (which may be safe for the client), it may discourage them from utilizing the computer program altogether.
There are various methods used for app obfuscation. Here are some commonly used ones:-
- CONTROL FLOW OBFUSCATION
- RENAME OBFUSCATION
- LAYOUT AND DATA OBFUSCATION
- AGGREGATION OBFUSCATION
- STORAGE OBFUSCATION
- ORDERING OBFUSCATION
- STRING ENCRYPTION
These are some of the most commonly used methods of obfuscation that can be used to prevent iOS applications from hacking and reverse engineering.
But is obfuscation enough alone to be 100 percent secured? Whereas this confusion can be a profoundly compelling and fool-proof security degree to ensure applications against switch building and mental property burglary, it isn’t sufficient to completely ensure your apps from real-world assault scenarios. Therefore, 360-degree code assurance is required. This would incorporate comprehensive runtime security alongside muddling to completely secure your iOS apps.