Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Shelly Palmer, Elizabeth White, Janakiram MSV, Pat Romanski

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 founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, 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
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
Organizations do not need a Big Data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates Big Data. Most organizations lack a road map for using Big Data to optimize key business processes, deliver a differentiated customer experience, or uncover new business opportunities. They do not understand what’s possible with respect to integrating Big Data into the business model.
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn't require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbui...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...