Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Kevin Benedict, Jose Diaz, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, John Basso

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Mobile IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Feed Post

Android and SSL: What Doesn't Work

Of Certs and Self-Signing

Not so long ago I wrote a blog entry about SSL on Android in regards to some certificates, and mentioned that I would be following up as the work progressed. I have worked through the options and implemented a working solution that I’ll eventually blog about, but this entry is to discuss what doesn’t work, or is a sub-standard solution, what I settled on, and why. It’s light on implementation details, but does offer enough information that interested developers can research a similar solution.

The options I discovered or considered are:

  • Forcing the user to import the requisite certs
  • Ignoring all SSL errors
  • Allowing over-ride of errors globally to the app
  • Using the browser to implement exceptions to SSL security
  • Forcing the user to accept problems every time they use the app
  • Creating a system to securely store exception information and use it every time the app loads

imageMany developers adopt the first solution because they have static sites the app is accessing, and can simply say “do this once and you don’t have to worry about it again” (until the cert expires). In the case of the app I’m developing, it is designed for use with scenarios where the certs are often self-signed, and in a testing environment, often transient. So this option was not one I wished to pursue.

In the previous blog I mentioned ignoring all SSL errors, and that is a dangerous route I would not ask users to bear. Ignoring errors without asking the user opens users up to Man in the Middle (MitM) attacks. So this one was ruled out from day one – though it appears many developers are going this route.

I did briefly consider in the application options giving the user a check-box to silently over-ride SSL errors. Since this is within the control of the user, it was a better solution, but as most of us know, options like this are set once and not looked at again unless there is a problem. And in the case of SSL MitM attacks, it’s too late when you notice a problem. So I ruled this option out also.

In that previous blog, I had alluded to what I hoped might be a simple solution to the problem. It was my hope at the time that one could simply call the browser using the Android Dev system of “intents” and ask it to open the page, thus using the browsers’ good certificate error handling to create the exception. Except the default browser on most Android devices does not store exceptions – so there was no way to utilize that information from a remote application. Thus, I dropped this line of enquiry also.

It is a relatively easy endeavor to make two dialogs and write a little bit of code to ask the user each time you go out to the web application if they accept the issues with the certificate. One dialog would handle “host name mismatch” exceptions, the other would handle “Certificate Not Trusted” errors – both of which can easily occur in the environment the app will target. I did consider going this route, but the application makes many SOAP calls to the same server over the course of its lifetime, so this would become annoying for users. The only thing worse than having no application is having one that no one wants to use because it’s too painful. So this option was dropped also.

This leaves the last option. It is the most involved, requiring both of the dialogs mentioned above, and more code to handle the exceptions. It also requires the exception information be saved… Which then requires that this saved information be encrypted, since it will reside long-term on the device.

The solution has the following elements, just for those who are looking into this type of thing:

  1. Application level username and password.
  2. Java salted encryption of application password.
  3. Dialogs to ask user to approve exceptions.
  4. An SQLite database of exception information.
  5. Java encryption of all information stored in the database.

This leaves only one issue – how to “untrust” a site. Since this is not a common problem, I will likely put out version 1.0 with only the option to delete the application user, which in turn will delete all exception information. This may sound extreme, but it is a rare scenario, and I have to leave something for version 2.0. Out now, improved later, in the vein of all current development methodologies. In version 2.0 I’ll allow deletion of individual exception information. But you never know, I may decide to side-track and implement this functionality in version 1.0, depending upon the other portions of the development effort.

The information stored in the database is in the form FQDN, username, password. From which the app can then rebuild the SOAP URI. While it wasn’t strictly necessary to encrypt the FQDN, as long as the encryption code was there, why leak information about the network?

It added weeks to my development effort to get this up, running, and thoroughly tested, but it was worth it. When a company throws up a test environment and uses a self-signed cert simply because it is easier, the application needs to support that test environment with a minimum of pain. This is a relatively common occurrence in the space the app is in, so it was worth the effort. Your mileage may vary.

Now, back to actually communicating with the server and giving users the information/control they want Smile.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is currently a Senior Solutions Architect at StackIQ, Inc. He is also working with Mesamundi on D20PRO, and is a member of the Stacki Open Source project. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...