In modern times, mobile apps are prone to an array of safety issues, driving app developers to adopt safety means to prevent damage. The number of Financial Software on the Android Marketplace is less than 50%. It suggests that mobile applications are prone to an array of risks like app clones, IP Theft, reputational damage, and the leakage of private details. An additional factor which is worthwhile considering is App performance. Eliminating unnecessary elements and codes leads to apps that are faster and smaller. Code obfuscation is crucial for open-source apps. Some tools, encompassing DexGuard and ProGuard simplify code obfuscation. Continue reading, as this article exclusively revolves around the ProGuard.
ProGuard is an open-source obfuscator in Java which can shrink, obfuscate, and optimize apps. It is a free tool which, in addition to shrinking, obfuscating and optimizing applications, pre-verify Java class files. Not only is it applied to Android Applications but also to large Java applications and libraries. An essential feature of the ProGuard is that it makes reverse engineering challenging. Since reverse engineering is simple in Android Applications, it is necessary to employ ProGuard as a safety means. It is an effective means to protect your app’s codebase with minimum alignment. In this context, it is noteworthy to affirm that ProGuard is a chief safety tool and should not be considered a multi-layered and comprehensive outlook towards safety. An essential feature of this tool is that it safely decreases the application size and removes unused variables.
Features of ProGuard
- Shrinking- Shrinking means decreasing the size of APKs. ProGuard enables the detection of unused classes, methods, and variables. The non-functioning codes are possible through two stages- Code Shrinking and Resource Shrinking. Code Shrinking means the removal of non-functioning attributes, classes, and methods from the application and its library. Contrarily, Resource Shrinking denotes expelling non-functioning resource files from the application and its library.
- Optimization– Optimization means optimizing the bytecode. Non-functioning applications can drastically affect the performance of an application. Peephole optimization strategies help remove unnecessary instructions in a small portion of the generated code.
- Obfuscation- Obfuscation refers to the method of designing a code in a way which is difficult to read. The primary benefit of Obfuscation is that a third party with unvalidated access will find it challenging to understand the code. After removing the existing non-functioning code, the abiding methods, fields, and classes undergo renaming through random characters.
- Pre-verification- Pre-verification means adding Pre-verification details to the class files for some Java Versions (Java Micro Edition or Java 6) to enjoy the maximum benefits of rapid class loading.
Steps for enabling ProGuard
Now the question arises: What steps are involved in enabling ProGuard for Obfuscation in an Android application? The steps involved in entitling the ProGuard for Obfuscation in an Android application are as follows:
- Add the ProGuard rules file to your project- A ProGuard rules file is a text file containing a set of rules that guide the ProGuard tool on how to shrink, obfuscate, and optimize an application code amidst the formation process. The rules file categorizes which classes, fields, and methods should be kept, removed, or renamed.
Build the ProGuard rules file in the project’s “app” directory and name it “proguard-rules.pro”. It should consist of the ways to optimize and obfuscate your code.
- Enable ProGuard in Build.gradle file- In the Build.gradle file, find the “build types section”. In the “build types section”, locate the “release” build type. Lastly, set “minifyEnabled” to “true” to enable ProGuard for the release build.
- Create your project- After successfully adding the ProGuard rules and enabling ProGuard in the Build.gradle file, opt for the “release” build type, and your project creation will be successful.
Benefits of using ProGuard
The merits of using ProGuard on Android Apps are as follows:
- Compact Configuration- When compared to other Java obfuscators, ProGuard has a template-based configuration. This factor enhances the popularity of ProGuard in modern times. You can use a simple configuration file or automatic command line options to enable ProGuard.
- Prevention against Static Analysis- Phishers employ Static Analysis to obtain access to the application code. Static analysis helps the phishers evaluate how the application code and control flow help in the smooth functioning of the application. Hence, using ProGuard can protect personal data from being disclosed to the phishers.
- Reverse engineering is challenging- An appropriate application of the rules of ProGuard can make reverse engineering difficult. ProGuard obfuscates and shrinks the code with vague names. Sensitive information can be exposed and leaked if phishers can access the application. ProGuard’s obfuscation abilities act as a barrier to reverse engineering efforts.
- Enhances efficiency of applications- Application codes are made more efficient with ProGuard. It improves the performance of the applications with its optimization characteristics and eliminates the least important components of the application. Applications which have ProGuard enabled within them are faster.
- Decreases the size of the applications- Using ProGuard can lead to a smaller size of AAB and APK applications. ProGuard can minimize application size by around 20% to 90%. It removes non-functioning resources and codes from your library and application, leading to a compact package with reduced memory footprints. In addition to this, it can process numerous megabytes within a few seconds alongside offering plugins and an optional command-line interface for Java ME (Micro Edition) and Ant Wireless Technique.
- Identifies Dead Code- ProGuard can spot dead codes your application no longer uses and eliminate them from the source code.
Conclusion- In the sphere of mobile application safety, ProGuard Androidevolved as an essential protection. By shrinking, optimizing, and obfuscating code, ProGuard Android protects applications against data breaches and unauthorized access. A primary factor owing to the popularity of ProGuard in modern times is its ability to decrease app sizes. In addition, it makes reverse engineering a challenge, protecting private information effectively. ProGuard’s ability to improve app performance, simplify applications, and recognize unnecessary code highlights its importance. Employing ProGuard through easy methods remarkably boosts user experience and data security, making it a vital tool in the contemporary terrain of Android app development.