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<h2>In this document</h2>
<ol id="auto-toc"></ol>
<h2 id="elements-of-applications">Elements of Applications</h2>
<p>Android provides an open source platform and application environment for mobile
devices. The core operating system is based on the Linux kernel. Android
applications are most often written in the Java programming language and run in
the Dalvik virtual machine. However, applications can also be written in native
code. Applications are installed from a single file with the .apk file
<p>The main Android application building blocks are:</p>
<p><strong>AndroidManifest.xml</strong>: The <a href="
t-intro.html">AndroidManifest.xml</a> file is the control file that tells the system what to do with
all the top-level components (specifically activities, services, broadcast
receivers, and content providers described below) in an application. This also
specifies which permissions are required.</p>
<p><strong>Activities</strong>: An <a href="
l">Activity</a> is, generally, the code for a single, user-focused task. It usually
includes displaying a UI to the user, but it does not have to -- some
Activities never display UIs. Typically, one of the application's Activities
is the entry point to an application.</p>
<p><strong>Services</strong>: A <a href="">Service</a> is a body of code that runs in the background. It can run in its own process,
or in the context of another application's process. Other components "bind" to
a Service and invoke methods on it via remote procedure calls. An example of a
Service is a media player: even when the user quits the media-selection UI, the
user probably still intends for music to keep playing. A Service keeps the
music going even when the UI has completed.</p>
<p><strong>Broadcast Receiver</strong>: A <a href="
castReceiver.html">BroadcastReceiver</a> is an object that is instantiated when an IPC mechanism
known as an <a href="">Intent</a> is issued by the operating system or another application. An application may
register a receiver for the low battery message, for example, and change its
behavior based on that information.</p>
<h2 id="the-android-permission-model-accessing-protected-apis">The Android Permission Model: Accessing Protected APIs</h2>
<p>All applications on Android run in an Application Sandbox, described earlier in this document.
By default, an Android application can only access a limited range of system
resources. The system manages Android application access to resources that, if
used incorrectly or maliciously, could adversely impact the user experience,
the network, or data on the device.</p>
<p>These restrictions are implemented in a variety of different forms. Some
capabilities are restricted by an intentional lack of APIs to the sensitive
functionality (e.g. there is no Android API for directly manipulating the SIM
card). In some instances, separation of roles provides a security measure, as
with the per-application isolation of storage. In other instances, the
sensitive APIs are intended for use by trusted applications and protected
through a security mechanism known as Permissions.</p>
<p>These protected APIs include:</p>
<li>Camera functions</li>
<li>Location data (GPS)</li>
<li>Bluetooth functions</li>
<li>Telephony functions</li>
<li>SMS/MMS functions</li>
<li>Network/data connections</li>
<p>These resources are only accessible through the operating system. To make use
of the protected APIs on the device, an application must define the
capabilities it needs in its manifest. When preparing to install an
application, the system displays a dialog to the user that indicates the
permissions requested and asks whether to continue the installation. If the
user continues with the installation, the system accepts that the user has
granted all of the requested permissions. The user can not grant or deny
individual permissions -- the user must grant or deny all of the requested
permissions as a block.</p>
<p>Once granted, the permissions are applied to the application as long as it is
installed. To avoid user confusion, the system does not notify the user again
of the permissions granted to the application, and applications that are
included in the core operating system or bundled by an OEM do not request
permissions from the user. Permissions are removed if an application is
uninstalled, so a subsequent re-installation will again result in display of
<p>Within the device settings, users are able to view permissions for applications
they have previously installed. Users can also turn off some functionality
globally when they choose, such as disabling GPS, radio, or wi-fi.</p>
<p>In the event that an application attempts to use a protected feature which has
not been declared in the application's manifest, the permission failure will
typically result in a security exception being thrown back to the application.
Protected API permission checks are enforced at the lowest possible level to
prevent circumvention. An example of the user messaging when an application is
installed while requesting access to protected APIs is shown in <em>Figure 2</em>.</p>
<p>The system default permissions are described at <a href=""></a>.
Applications may declare their own permissions for other applications to use.
Such permissions are not listed in the above location.</p>
<p>When defining a permission a protectionLevel attribute tells the system how the
user is to be informed of applications requiring the permission, or who is
allowed to hold a permission. Details on creating and using application
specific permissions are described at <a href="https://develo"></a>.</p>
<p>There are some device capabilities, such as the ability to send SMS broadcast
intents, that are not available to third-party applications, but that may be
used by applications pre-installed by the OEM. These permissions use the
signatureOrSystem permission.</p>
<h2 id="how-users-understand-third-party-applications">How Users Understand Third-Party Applications</h2>
<p>Android strives to make it clear to users when they are interacting with
third-party applications and inform the user of the capabilities those
applications have. Prior to installation of any application, the user is shown
a clear message about the different permissions the application is requesting.
After install, the user is not prompted again to confirm any permissions.</p>
<p>There are many reasons to show permissions immediately prior to installation
time. This is when user is actively reviewing information about the
application, developer, and functionality to determine whether it matches their
needs and expectations. It is also important that they have not yet
established a mental or financial commitment to the app, and can easily compare
the application to other alternative applications.</p>
<p>Some other platforms use a different approach to user notification, requesting
permission at the start of each session or while applications are in use. The
vision of Android is to have users switching seamlessly between applications at
will. Providing confirmations each time would slow down the user and prevent
Android from delivering a great user experience. Having the user review
permissions at install time gives the user the option to not install the
application if they feel uncomfortable.</p>
<p>Also, many user interface studies have shown that over-prompting the user
causes the user to start saying "OK" to any dialog that is shown. One of
Android's security goals is to effectively convey important security
information to the user, which cannot be done using dialogs that the user will
be trained to ignore. By presenting the important information once, and only
when it is important, the user is more likely to think about what they are
agreeing to.</p>
<p>Some platforms choose not to show any information at all about application
functionality. That approach prevents users from easily understanding and
discussing application capabilities. While it is not possible for all users to
always make fully informed decisions, the Android permissions model makes
information about applications easily accessible to a wide range of users. For
example, unexpected permissions requests can prompt more sophisticated users to
ask critical questions about application functionality and share their concerns
in places such as <a href="htts://">Google Play</a> where they
are visible to all users.</p>
<td><strong>Permissions at Application Install -- Google Maps</strong></td>
<td><strong>Permissions of an Installed Application -- Gmail</strong></td>
<td><img alt="Permissions at Application Install -- Google Maps" width=250
src="../images/image_install.png" /></td>
<td><img alt="Permissions of an Installed Application -- Gmail" width=250
src="../images/image_gmail_installed.png" id="figure1" /></td>
<p class="img-caption">
<strong>Figure 1.</strong> Display of permissions for applications
<h2 id="interprocess-communication">Interprocess Communication</h2>
<p>Processes can communicate using any of the traditional UNIX-type mechanisms.
Examples include the filesystem, local sockets, or signals. However, the Linux
permissions still apply.</p>
<p>Android also provides new IPC mechanisms:</p>
<p><strong>Binder</strong>: A lightweight capability-based remote procedure call mechanism
designed for high performance when performing in-process and cross-process
calls. Binder is implemented using a custom Linux driver. See <a href="https://developer"></a>.</p>
<p><strong>Services</strong>: Services (discussed above) can provide interfaces directly
accessible using binder.</p>
<p><strong>Intents</strong>: An Intent is a simple message object that represents an
"intention" to do something. For example, if your application wants to display
a web page, it expresses its "Intent" to view the URL by creating an Intent
instance and handing it off to the system. The system locates some other piece
of code (in this case, the Browser) that knows how to handle that Intent, and
runs it. Intents can also be used to broadcast interesting events (such as a
notification) system-wide. See
<p><strong>ContentProviders</strong>: A ContentProvider is a data storehouse that provides
access to data on the device; the classic example is the ContentProvider that
is used to access the user's list of contacts. An application can access data
that other applications have exposed via a ContentProvider, and an application
can also define its own ContentProviders to expose data of its own. See <a href=""></a>.</p>
<p>While it is possible to implement IPC using other mechanisms such as network
sockets or world-writable files, these are the recommended Android IPC
frameworks. Android developers will be encouraged to use best practices around
securing users' data and avoiding the introduction of security vulnerabilities.</p>
<h2 id="cost-sensitive-apis">Cost-Sensitive APIs</h2>
<p>A cost sensitive API is any function that might generate a cost for the user or
the network. The Android platform has placed cost sensitive APIs in the list of
protected APIs controlled by the OS. The user will have to grant explicit
permission to third-party applications requesting use of cost sensitive APIs.
These APIs include:</p>
<li>In-App Billing</li>
<li>NFC Access</li>
<p> Android 4.2 adds further control on the use of SMS. Android will provide a
notification if an application attempts to send SMS to a short code that uses
premium services which might cause additional charges. The user can choose
whether to allow the application to send the message or block it. </p>
<h2 id="sim-card-access">SIM Card Access</h2>
<p>Low level access to the SIM card is not available to third-party apps. The OS
handles all communications with the SIM card including access to personal
information (contacts) on the SIM card memory. Applications also cannot access
AT commands, as these are managed exclusively by the Radio Interface Layer
(RIL). The RIL provides no high level APIs for these commands.</p>
<h2 id="personal-information">Personal Information</h2>
<p>Android has placed APIs that provide access to user data into the set of
protected APIs. With normal usage, Android devices will also accumulate user
data within third-party applications installed by users. Applications that
choose to share this information can use Android OS permission checks to
protect the data from third-party applications.</p>
<img alt="Access to sensitive user data available only through protected
APIs" src="../images/image03.png" id="figure2" />
<p class="img-caption">
<strong>Figure 2.</strong> Access to sensitive user data is available only through protected APIs
<p>System content providers that are likely to contain personal or personally
identifiable information such as contacts and calendar have been created with
clearly identified permissions. This granularity provides the user with clear
indication of the types of information that may be provided to the application.
During installation, a third-party application may request permission to
access these resources. If permission is granted, the application can be
installed and will have access to the data requested at any time when it is
<p>Any applications which collect personal information will, by default, have that
data restricted only to the specific application. If an application chooses to
make the data available to other applications though IPC, the application
granting access can apply permissions to the IPC mechanism that are enforced by
the operating system.</p>
<h2 id="sensitive-data-input-devices">Sensitive Data Input Devices</h2>
<p>Android devices frequently provide sensitive data input devices that allow
applications to interact with the surrounding environment, such as camera,
microphone or GPS. For a third-party application to access these devices, it
must first be explicitly provided access by the user through the use of Android
OS Permissions. Upon installation, the installer will prompt the user
requesting permission to the sensor by name.</p>
<p>If an application wants to know the user's location, the application requires a
permission to access the user's location. Upon installation, the installer will
prompt the user asking if the application can access the user's location. At
any time, if the user does not want any application to access their location,
then the user can run the "Settings" application, go to "Location &amp; Security",
and uncheck the "Use wireless networks" and "Enable GPS satellites". This will
disable location based services for all applications on the user's device.</p>
<h2 id="device-metadata">Device Metadata</h2>
<p>Android also strives to restrict access to data that is not intrinsically
sensitive, but may indirectly reveal characteristics about the user, user
preferences, and the manner in which they use a device.</p>
<p>By default applications do not have access to operating system logs,
browser history, phone number, or hardware / network identification
information. If an application requests access to this information at install
time, the installer will prompt the user asking if the application can access
the information. If the user does not grant access, the application will not be
<h2 id="application-signing">Application Signing</h2>
<p>Code signing allows developers to identify the author of the application and to
update their application without creating complicated interfaces and
permissions. Every application that is run on the Android platform must be
signed by the developer. Applications that attempt to install without being
signed will rejected by either Google Play or the package installer on
the Android device.</p>
<p>On Google Play, application signing bridges the trust Google has with the
developer and the trust the developer has with their application. Developers
know their application is provided, unmodified to the Android device; and
developers can be held accountable for behavior of their application.</p>
<p>On Android, application signing is the first step to placing an application in
its Application Sandbox. The signed application certificate defines which user
id is associated with which application; different applications run under
different user IDs. Application signing ensures that one application cannot
access any other application except through well-defined IPC.</p>
<p>When an application (APK file) is installed onto an Android device, the Package
Manager verifies that the APK has been properly signed with the certificate
included in that APK. If the certificate (or, more accurately, the public key
in the certificate) matches the key used to sign any other APK on the device,
the new APK has the option to specify in the manifest that it will share a UID
with the other similarly-signed APKs.</p>
<p>Applications can be signed by a third-party (OEM, operator, alternative market)
or self-signed. Android provides code signing using self-signed certificates
that developers can generate without external assistance or permission.
Applications do not have to be signed by a central authority. Android currently
does not perform CA verification for application certificates.</p>
<p>Applications are also able to declare security permissions at the Signature
protection level, restricting access only to applications signed with the same
key while maintaining distinct UIDs and Application Sandboxes. A closer
relationship with a shared Application Sandbox is allowed via the <a href="">shared UID
feature</a> where two or more applications signed with same developer key can
declare a shared UID in their manifest.</p>
<h2 id="app-verification">Application Verification</h2>
<p> Android 4.2 and later support application verification. Users can choose to
enable “Verify Apps" and have applications evaluated by an application verifier
prior to installation. App verification can alert the user if they try to
install an app that might be harmful; if an application is especially bad, it
can block installation. </p>
<h2 id="digital-rights-management">Digital Rights Management</h2>
<p>The Android platform provides an extensible DRM framework that lets
applications manage rights-protected content according to the license
constraints that are associated with the content. The DRM framework supports
many DRM schemes; which DRM schemes a device supports is left to the device
<p>The <a href="">Android DRM
framework</a> is implemented in two architectural layers (see figure below):</p>
<p>A DRM framework API, which is exposed to applications through the Android
application framework and runs through the Dalvik VM for standard applications.</p>
<p>A native code DRM manager, which implements the DRM framework and exposes an
interface for DRM plug-ins (agents) to handle rights management and decryption
for various DRM schemes</p>
<p><img alt="Architecture of Digital Rights Management on Android
platform" src="../images/image02.png" id="figure3" /></p>
<p class="img-caption">
<strong>Figure 3.</strong> Architecture of Digital Rights Management on Android platform