Mobile IoT Authors: Ed Featherston, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Rostyslav Demush, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Release Management , Mobile IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo

Release Management : Blog Feed Post

Android Encrypted Databases

Encryption as a security topic is perhaps the weakest link in that community

The Android development community, as might be expected, is a pretty vibrant community with a lot of great contributors helping people out. Since Android is largely based upon Java, there is a lot of skills reusability between the Java client dev community and the Android Dev community.

As I mentioned before, encryption as a security topic is perhaps the weakest link in that community at this time. Perhaps, but since that phone/tablet could end up in someone else’s hands much more easily than your desktop or even laptop, it is something that needs a lot more attention from business developers.

When I set out to write my first complex app for Android, I determined to report back to you from time-to-time about what needed better explanation or intuitive solutions. Much has been done in the realm of “making it easier”, except for security topics, which still rank pretty low on the priority list. So using encrypted SQLite databases is the topic of this post. If you think it’s taking an inordinate amount of time for me to complete this app, consider that I’m doing it outside of work. This blog was written during work hours, but all of the rest of the work is squeezed into two hours a night on the nights I’m able to dedicate time. Which is far from every night.

For those of you who are not developers, here’s the synopsis so you don’t have to paw through code with us: It’s not well documented, but it’s possible, with some caveats. I wouldn’t use this method for large databases that need indexes over them, but for securing critical data it works just fine. At the end I propose a far better solution that is outside the purview of app developers and would pretty much have to be implemented by the SQLite team.

Okay, only developers left? Good.

In my research, there were very few useful suggestions for designing secure databases. They fall into three categories:

  1. Use the NDK to write a variant of SQLite that encrypts at the file level. For most Android developers this isn’t an option, and I’m guessing the SQLite team wouldn’t be thrilled about you mucking about with their database – it serves a lot more apps than yours.
  2. Encrypt the entire SD card through the OS and then store the DB there. This one works, but slows the function of the entire tablet/phone down because you’ve now (again) mucked with resources used by other apps. I will caveat that if you can get your users to do this, it is the currently available solution that allows indices over encrypted data.
  3. Use one of several early-beta DB encryption tools. I was uncomfortable doing this with production systems. You may feel differently, particularly after some of them have matured.

I didn’t like any of these options, so I did what we’ve had to do in the past when a piece of data was so dangerous in the wrong hands it needed encrypting. I wrote an interface to the DB that encrypts and decrypts as data is inserted and removed. In Android the only oddity you won’t find in other Java environments – or you can more easily get around in other Java environments – is filling list boxes from the database. For that I had to write a custom provider that took care of on-the-fly decryption and insertion to the list.

My solution follows. There are a large varieties of ways that you could solve this problem in Java, this one is where I went because

  1. I don’t have a lot of rows for any given table.
  2. The data does not need to be indexed.

If either of these items is untrue for your implementation, you’ll either have to modify this implementation or find an alternate solution.

So first the encryption handler. Note that in this sample, I chose to encode encrypted arrays of bytes as Strings. I do not guarantee this will work for your scenario, and suggest you keep them as arrays of bytes until after decryption. Also note that this sample was built from a working one by obfuscating what the actual source did and making some modifications for simplification of example. It was not tested after the final round of simplification, but should be correct throughout.

package com.company.monitor;

import javax.crypto.Cipher;
import javax.crypto.spec.SecretKeySpec;

import android.util.Base64;

public class DBEncryptor {
private static byte[] key;
private static String cypherType = cypherType;

public DBEncryptor(String localPass) {

// save the encoded key for future use
// - note that this keeps it in memory, and is not strictly safe
key = encode(localPass.getBytes()).getBytes();
String keyCopy = new String(key);
while(keyCopy.length() < 16)
keyCopy = keyCopy + keyCopy;

byte keyA[] = keyCopy.getBytes();
if(keyA.length > 16)
key = System.arraycopy(keyA, 0, key, 0, 16);

public String encode(byte [] s) {

return Base64.encodeToString(s, Base64.URL_SAFE);

public byte[] decode(byte[] s) {
return Base64.decode(s, Base64.URL_SAFE);

public byte[] getKey() {
// return a copy of the key.
return key.clone();

public String encrypt(String toEncrypt) throws Exception {

//Create your Secret Key Spec, which defines the key transformations
SecretKeySpec skeySpec = new SecretKeySpec(key, cypherType);

//Get the cipher
Cipher cipher = Cipher.getInstance(cypherType);

//Initialize the cipher
cipher.init(Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE, skeySpec);

//Encrypt the string into bytes
byte[ ] encryptedBytes = cipher.doFinal(toEncrypt.getBytes());

//Convert the encrypted bytes back into a string
String encrypted = encode(encryptedBytes);

return encrypted;

public String decrypt(String encryptedText) throws Exception {

// Get the secret key spec
SecretKeySpec skeySpec = new SecretKeySpec(key, cypherType);

// create an AES Cipher
Cipher cipher = Cipher.getInstance(cypherType);

// Initialize it for decryption
cipher.init(Cipher.DECRYPT_MODE, skeySpec);

// Get the decoded bytes
byte[] toDecrypt = decode(encryptedText.getBytes());

// And finally, do the decryption.
byte[] clearText = cipher.doFinal(toDecrypt);

return new String(clearText);

So what we are essentially doing is base-64 encoding the string to be encrypted, and then encrypting the base-64 value using standard Java crypto classes. We simply reverse the process to decrypt a string. Note that this class is also useful if you’re storing values in the Properties file and wish them to be encrypted, since it simply operates on strings.

The value you pass in to create the key needs to be something that is unique to the user or tablet. When it comes down to it, this is your password, and should be treated as such (hence why I changed the parameter name to localPass).

For seasoned Java developers, there’s nothing new on Android at this juncture. We’re just encrypting and decrypting data.

Next it does leave the realm of other Java platforms because the database is utilizing SQLite, which is not generally what you’re writing Java to outside of Android. Bear with me while we go over this class.

The SQLite database class follows. Of course this would need heavy modification to work with your database, but the skeleton is here. Note that not all fields have to be encrypted. You can mix and match, no problems at all. That is one of the things I like about this solution, if I need an index for any reason, I can create an unencrypted field of a type other than blob and index on it.

package com.company.monitor;

import android.content.ContentValues;
import android.content.Context;
import android.database.Cursor;
import android.database.sqlite.SQLiteDatabase;
import android.database.sqlite.SQLiteDatabase.CursorFactory;
import android.database.sqlite.SQLiteOpenHelper;

public class DBManagernames extends SQLiteOpenHelper {
public static final String TABLE_NAME = "Map";
public static final String COLUMN_ID = "_id";
public static final String COLUMN_LOCAL = "Local";
public static final String COLUMN_WORLD = "World";

private static int indexId = 0;
private static int indexLocal = 1;
private static int indexWorld = 2;

private static final String DATABASE_NAME = "Mappings.db";
private static final int DATABASE_VERSION = 1;

// SQL statement to create the DB
private static final String DATABASE_CREATE = "create table "
+ " integer primary key autoincrement, " + COLUMN_LOCAL
+ " BLOB not null, " + COLUMN_WORLD +" BLOB not null);";

public DBManagernames(Context context, CursorFactory factory) {
super(context, DATABASE_NAME, factory, DATABASE_VERSION);


public void onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db) {


public void onUpgrade(SQLiteDatabase db, int oldVersion, int newVersion) {
// TODO Auto-generated method stub
// Yeah, this isn't implemented in production yet either. It's low on the list, but definitely "on the list"


// Assumes DBEncryptor was used to convert the fields of name before calling insert
public void insertToDB(DBNameMap name) {
ContentValues cv = new ContentValues();

cv.put(COLUMN_LOCAL, name.getName().getBytes());
cv.put(COLUMN_WORLD, name.getOtherName().getBytes());

getWritableDatabase().insert(TABLE_NAME, null, cv);

// returns the encrypted values to be manipulated with the decryptor.   
public DBNameMap readFromDB(Integer index) {

SQLiteDatabase db = getReadableDatabase();
DBNameMap hnm = new DBNameMap();
Cursor cur = null;
try {
cur = db.query(TABLE_NAME, null, "_id='"+index.toString() +"'", null, null, null, COLUMN_ID);
// cursors connsistently return before the first element. Move to the first.
byte[] name = cur.getBlob(indexLocal);
byte [] othername = cur.getBlob(indexWorld);

hnm = new DBNameMap(new String(name), new String(othername), false);
} catch(Exception e) {
// Do nothing - we want to return the empty host name map.
return hnm;


// NOTE: This routine assumes "String name" is the encrypted version of the string.   
public DBNameMap getFromDBByName(String name) {
SQLiteDatabase db = getReadableDatabase();
Cursor cur = null;
String check = null;
try {
// Note - the production version of this routine actually uses the "where" field to get the correct
// element instead of looping the table. This is here for your debugging use.
cur = db.query(TABLE_NAME, null, null, null, null, null, null);
for(cur.moveToFirst();(!cur.isLast());cur.moveToNext()) {
check = new String(cur.getBlob(indexLocal));
return new DBNameMap(check, new String(cur.getBlob(indexWorld)), false);

return new DBNameMap();

return new DBNameMap(cur.getString(indexLocal), cur.getString(indexWorld), false);
} catch(Exception e) {
return new DBNameMap();


// used by our list adapter - coming next in the blog.
public Cursor getCursor() {
try {

return getReadableDatabase().query(TABLE_NAME, null, null, null, null, null, null);
} catch(Exception e) {
return null;

// This is used in our list adapter for mapping to fields.
public String[] listColumns() {
return new String[] {COLUMN_LOCAL};


I am not including the DBNameMap class, as it is a simple container that has two string fields and maps one name to another.

Finally, we have the List Provider. Android requires that you populate lists with a provider, and has several base ones to work with. The problem with the SimpleCursorAdapter is that it assumes an unencrypted database, and we just invested a ton of time making the DB encrypted. There are several possible solutions to this problem, and I present the one I chose here. I extended ResourceCursorAdapter and implemented decryption right in the routines, leaving not much to do in the list population section of my activity but to assign the correct adapter.

package com.company.monitor;

import android.content.Context;
import android.database.Cursor;
import android.view.LayoutInflater;
import android.view.View;
import android.view.ViewGroup;
import android.widget.ResourceCursorAdapter;
import android.widget.TextView;

public class EncryptedNameAdapter extends ResourceCursorAdapter {

private String pw;

public EncryptedHostNameAdapter(Context context, int layout, Cursor c,
boolean autoRequery) {
super(context, layout, c, autoRequery);

public EncryptedHostNameAdapter(Context context, int layout, Cursor c,
int flags) {
super(context, layout, c, flags);

// This class must know what the encryption key is for the DB before filling the list,
// so this call must be made before the list is populated. The first call after the constructor works.
public void setPW(String pww) {
pw = pww;

public View newView(Context context, Cursor cur, ViewGroup parent) {
LayoutInflater li = (LayoutInflater) context.getSystemService(Context.LAYOUT_INFLATER_SERVICE);
return li.inflate(R.layout.my_list_entry, parent, false);

public void bindView(View arg0, Context arg1, Cursor arg2) {
// Get an encryptor/decryptor for our data.
DBEncryptor enc = new DBEncryptor(pw);

// Get the TextView we're placing the data into.
TextView tvLocal = (TextView)arg0.findViewById(R.id.list_entry_name);
// Get the bytes from the cursor
byte[] bLocal = arg2.getBlob(arg2.getColumnIndex(DBManagerNames.COLUMN_LOCAL ));
// Convert bytes to a string
String local = new String(bSite);

try {
// decrypt the string
local = enc.decrypt(local);
} catch(Exception e) {

// local holds the encrypted version at this point, fix it.

// We’ll return an empty string for simplicity
local = new String();  


The EncryptedNameAdapter can be set as the source for any listbox just like most examples set an ArrayAdapter as the source. Of course, it helps if you’ve put some data in the database first Winking smile.

That’s it for this time. There’s a lot more going on with this project, and I’ll present my solution for SSL certificate verification some time in the next couple of weeks, but for now if you need to encrypt some fields of a database, this is one way to get it done. Ping me on any of the social media outlets or here in the comments if you know of a more elegant/less resource intensive solution, always up for learning more.

And please, if you find an error, it was likely introduced in the transition to something I was willing to throw out here publicly, but let me know so others don’t have problems. I’ve done my best not to introduce any, but always get a bit paranoid if I changed it after my last debug session – and I did to simplify and sanitize.

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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Archi...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abilit...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked 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 m...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
We are seeing a major migration of enterprises applications to the cloud. As cloud and business use of real time applications accelerate, legacy networks are no longer able to architecturally support cloud adoption and deliver the performance and security required by highly distributed enterprises. These outdated solutions have become more costly and complicated to implement, install, manage, and maintain.SD-WAN offers unlimited capabilities for accessing the benefits of the cloud and Internet. ...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...