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Enhancing Android App Security: Approov's Role with Non-GMS Apps

Android and app figures hand in hand

In today's digital age, mobile applications and APIs play a pivotal role in our daily lives. With the Android ecosystem being the dominant platform, the security of Android apps is a critical concern. Based on privacy concerns and a desire for openness more Android apps than ever are being developed without relying on Google Mobile Services (GMS), commonly known as non-GMS apps. In this blog post, we will explore the cybersecurity issues associated with non-GMS Android apps and delve into the importance of mobile device and app attestation. We will also discuss how Approov can serve as an alternative to Google PlayIntegrity (or SafetyNet) for device integrity checks, app attestation, and enhancing the API security of non-GMS Android apps.


I. The Security Challenges of Non-GMS Android Apps:

  • Lack of GMS Security Services: Non-GMS apps do not benefit from Google's built-in security services, making them more vulnerable to various threats.
  • Increased Risk of Malware: Without GMS's app scanning and monitoring, non-GMS apps are at a higher risk of containing malware or malicious code.
  • Unauthorized Access: Security patches and updates are often delayed or non-existent in non-GMS apps, leaving them open to vulnerabilities and unauthorized access.

II. App Attestation: Enhancing Android App Security:

  • What is App Attestation? App attestation is a process that verifies the integrity and authenticity of an app and the device it's running on.
  • Importance of App Attestation: App attestation ensures that only legitimate, unaltered apps run on a device, protecting against tampering and malicious activities.
  • Traditional Methods: Google SafetyNet and PlayIntegrity have been the go-to solutions for seamlessly performing app attestation in GMS apps.
  • App Attestation is an effective method for safeguarding APIs from bots and automated attacks on cloud services to prevent scraping and data breaches.

III. Approov: A Game-Changer in App Attestation:

Approov is a comprehensive runtime application self-protection (RASP) solution for mobile apps and APIs, compatible with iOS, Android, and HarmonyOS. Advantages of Approov include:
  • Real-time Threat Detection: Approov identifies threats in real-time, protecting against advanced attacks.
  • No Dependency on GMS: Non-GMS apps can leverage Approov's attestation capabilities without relying on GMS services.
  • Customizable Policies: Approov allows app developers to define custom policies for attestation, tailoring security to their specific needs.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Approov continuously monitors app behavior, adapting to evolving threats.

IV. Comparing Approov with Traditional Methods:

Advantages of Approov Over Google PlayIntegrity (and SafetyNet) are:
  • Independence: Approov doesn't rely on GMS, making it suitable for non-GMS apps.
  • Customization: Developers have more control over attestation policies.
  • Real-time Protection: Approov's real-time threat detection offers faster response to emerging threats.
  • Reduced False Positives: Approov minimizes false positives, ensuring legitimate apps aren't wrongly flagged.
  • Live Threat Analytics: Approov provides live threat analytics, allowing developers to track threats over time and prioritize security against growing threats.

Source: Approov

V. How Approov Works for Non-GMS Android Apps:

  • Integration: Developers can integrate the Approov SDK into their apps, enabling seamless attestation.
  • Runtime Protection: Approov continuously checks app integrity and device security during runtime.
  • Response to Threats: When a threat is detected, Approov can trigger actions like logging, blocking, or notifying administrators.

VI. Conclusion: Elevating Non-GMS Android App Security with Approov:

  • A Viable Solution: Approov proves to be a reliable alternative to Google SafetyNet and PlayIntegrity for non-GMS Android apps.
  • Robust App Attestation: The comprehensive approach of Approov ensures robust security by verifying app integrity and device trustworthiness in real-time.
  • Empowering Developers: With Approov, developers have the tools they need to protect their apps and users from evolving cybersecurity threats.

While closed ecosystems like GMS offer certain advantages, don't be fooled into thinking they're the only avenue for security. Open ecosystems can be just as secure, and in fact, their inherent flexibility often allows for more diverse and adaptable security solutions. Non-GMS Android apps face unique security challenges that demand innovative solutions. Approov's role in app attestation emerges as a game-changer, providing a comprehensive security layer for non-GMS apps. By embracing Approov, developers can significantly enhance the security of their Android applications, safeguarding both their reputation and their users' data in an ever-evolving threat landscape.


A hacker attempted to breach a secured API perimeter


Consider the Benefits of Openness:

  • Innovation thrives: Unrestricted competition breeds new ideas and solutions, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in security. GMS, on the other hand, can restrict choice and limit innovation potential.
  • Collaboration empowers: Open ecosystems encourage knowledge sharing and joint efforts, leading to more robust and comprehensive security strategies. Closed systems tend to operate in silos, hindering this crucial collaboration.
  • Standards & interoperability: Openness fosters shared standards and protocols, ensuring devices and apps from different sources work together seamlessly, enhancing security compatibility. GMS imposes its own standards, potentially excluding valuable security tools from wider adoption.
  • Adaptability reigns supreme: The security landscape demands nimble responses. Open ecosystems, by their nature, can adapt more quickly, integrating new solutions and strategies as threats evolve. GMS, with its defined structure, might struggle to keep pace.

Ultimately, open ecosystems empower consumers, developers, and the entire market with richer, cheaper, and more adaptable security solutions. Regulators also recognize the value of open and competitive markets, fostering healthy innovation and progress. While GMS might offer a familiar experience, remember, true security doesn't shy away from competition, it thrives on it.

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Image by andrekheren from Pixabay

Ted Miracco

- CEO of Approov
Ted’s high-technology experience spans 30 years in cybersecurity, electronic design automation (EDA), RF/microwave circuit design, semiconductors, and defense electronics.