Categories
Risk Management

Does Obfuscation Affect Code Performance?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The digital age has built bridges to new frontiers. However, these frontiers aren’t limited to the well-intentioned. Unfortunately, malicious online characters are common, and studies show that a new cyber attack is carried out every 39 seconds. 

 

Such high cybercrime rates imply that keepers of online assets must find ways to protect those assets. In addition, coders face unique threats to their work, given that their products form the foundations of the digital world. Thankfully, there are ways to defend code from being accessed, reengineered, stolen, and abused.

 

Open-source code obfuscation is a security application technique that prevents all forms of hacking and tampering. It takes executed code/data and reorders it, rendering it unidentifiable to hackers and other third parties looking to cause trouble. The benefits of code obfuscation are numerous:

 

  • It defends open-source code information and data.
  • It can eliminate debugging loopholes.
  • It slows down hackers trying to re-engineer programs and applications.
  • It helps protect intellectual property.

 

Although obfuscation has considerable upsides, many ask the question: does obfuscation affect performance? It’s a common defense tactic, but many claim that it harms source code performance and decide that the tradeoff between execution and security isn’t worth it. 

 

It’s important to understand obfuscation, what it accomplishes, and its varying methods to engage in this debate with the necessary information. Only then should someone judge whether it’s the right decision for their digital assets.

 

What Is Code Obfuscation?

 

Code obfuscation is the process of encrypting and complicating lines of code, data, and communication loops. These measures cause hackers immense difficulty in interpreting and changing existing information. Ultimately, obfuscation stymies potential hackers, limiting their access and ability to steal and manipulate.

 

There’s a broad range of methods used to carry out code obfuscation. However, in essence, obfuscation is any method implemented to make source code harder to understand. Intense levels of encryption make it so hackers require more time and resources to figure out the code they’re trying to infiltrate.

 

Renaming Obfuscation

Renaming is one of the most common and accessible forms of obfuscation. This method is used in Java, IOS, Android, and NET. Renaming code consists of disguising the variable and method names while retaining the fundamental execution. It’s useful because it directly alters the source code, leaving the program’s functions untouched. 

 

Programmers can also insert “dummy code,” additional strings of false code that mean nothing and only exist to increase the difficulty of reverse engineering. Another method removes unnecessary and gratuitous lines of code and metadata, which improves performance and shrinks the availability of hackable material. 

 

Data Obfuscation

Obfuscation takes many forms, and another standard method is encrypting stored data that’s layered into the code. This form of security creates a barrier between hackers and the valuable data within the program and memory. Data obfuscation can involve aggregation and storage-based methods. 

 

Then there’s string encryption, which entails encrypting legible strings of code. Then, each time a line of code is needed, it must be deciphered before becoming usable again. 

 

In terms of implementation, data obfuscation is more intense than renaming methods. However, combining both practices leads to amplified security. 

 

Control Code Obfuscation

Plugging in additional control loops causes hackers to lose track of any sense of a program’s patterned intent. Furthermore, tinkering with the flow of the codebase — by entering dead-end statements, for example — leaves hackers struggling to find patterns. These statements create a labyrinth, making it especially challenging to reverse engineer a coding pattern.

 

Many consider control code obfuscation the most effective way to guard their program from hackers because it removes all logic from the code’s flow, confusing those looking to cause harm. 

 

Disadvantages of Code Obfuscation

With the what, why, and how of obfuscation established, it’s time to examine the other side of the aisle: why do some cast a wary eye on the practice of obfuscation?

 

The main weakness cited against obfuscation is that adding extra layers of security bogs down code performance. Some estimate that obfuscation can impact program performance between 10% and 80%. This criticism is reasonable because it’s true: adding obfuscation tactics results in extra layers of complexity and affects performance. But there are important caveats — namely that not all obfuscation methods impact performance to the same extent.

 

Renaming obfuscation rarely impacts code performance as it only deals with the semantic structure. As a result, the program function remains nearly identical after obfuscation. Any resulting performance drop-off from this method is minor, if not non-existent.

 

On the other hand, data and control flow obfuscation can sometimes cause a significant performance reduction depending on the intensity of the encryption. Baking additional safety layers into the data and code flow cause the application to take on extra work to execute its function. However, as opposed to renaming methods, data and control flow provide more comprehensive defense against hackers. 

 

Nothing is guaranteed, and there’s never 100% certainty that obfuscation prevents hacking. Some hackers can overcome even high levels of obfuscation. Nevertheless, obfuscation should always be considered because without it, the results can be severe.

 

Leaving Coding Insecure

The rate at which hackers attempt to steal information makes preparation vital to maintaining online safety. If that’s not a good enough reason, up to $400 billion in capital is lost to online hackers every year.

 

Even though obfuscating code comes with some slight downsides, nothing compares to being left helpless as hackers infiltrate, ruin, and steal the hard work of entire companies.

 

Refusing to obfuscate significantly increases the chances of falling prey to such schemes, which can lead to unimaginable consequences depending on what was left unsecured. Such dangers all but necessitate analyzing programs for weaknesses and finding the right solution to protect sensitive data. 

 

Forming a multi-layered obfuscation strategy is a great way to defend digital property from being stolen or attacked. Anyone looking for best-in-class code obfuscation needn’t look any further than PreEmptive’s vast offering of protective services. Visit PreEmptive’s product page for more information or to sign up for a free trial.

 

 

 

Categories
DevSecOps

Defining Data Obfuscation and How It Works Within Your Development

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Nowadays, the stakes of cybersecurity are higher and the methods of data breaches are becoming more sophisticated. Cyberattackers are inventing more lethal data breach strategies such as reverse engineering tools, decompilers, and disassemblers.

In response, developers must take extra steps to ensure the safety and security of their code and their users’ data. The healthcare industry is the most targeted by hackers, followed by the financial services and retail sectors. According to a study cited by the National Library of Medicine, there were 2216 incidences of data breaches reported across 65 countries in 2018 alone. Among these data breach incidences, the healthcare industry faced 536 breaches. 

Software development is one of the most affected industry sectors. In fact, data from the recent IBM report showed that software development was the target of 44% of all ransomware attacks in 2021. Findings from research conducted by Positive Technologies show that mobile banking applications are the most affected by cybercrime. The study also showed that common cyberattacks and cyber vulnerabilities are caused by names of classes and methods explicitly written in the source code, without being masked or encrypted through methods such as code obfuscation.

The need for masking is increasing as stakes in cybercrime rise. Data from CBinsights shows that data masking will grow to be an $800M industry by 2023. As you can see, data obfuscation is important for many reasons. Not only does it protect your intellectual property, but it also helps to keep user data safe and secure.

What Is Data Obfuscation and Why Should I Care?

So, what is data obfuscation? In their guide, Brunton and Nissenbaum define data obfuscation as “the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects.” In simple terms, it is a method of hiding data by making it difficult to interpret. App hardening is an excellent example of the use of data obfuscation and protection. It’s a technique used to protect information by making it unreadable and unusable to anyone who doesn’t have the proper key to unlock it.

This is accomplished by using some of the best practices of data protection such as encryption, code transformation, and watermarking. In the software development world, data obfuscation is important. It assists software developers to protect intellectual property, ensure the safety of user data, and prevent reverse engineering. For instance, software developers can prevent intellectual property theft through encryption. By encrypting code, it becomes much more difficult for non-authorized people to copy it or reverse engineer it.

The use of data obfuscation is becoming increasingly relevant, especially as businesses and start-ups move to the online space. A survey conducted by 451 Research LLC revealed that data obfuscation techniques are on the rise, partly due to accelerating DevOps and as developers’ access to production data rises. Findings from the survey revealed that 53% of organizations interviewed used data obfuscation methods to protect the organization’s developer infrastructure. However, mobile developers seem to be lagging behind in adopting data obfuscation strategies to prevent data breaches in their development activities. According to research by the Association for Computing Machinery, only 24.92% of the 1.7 million free Android apps from Google Play are obfuscated by the developers.

This is a concern because, as the number of mobile devices and apps increases, so does the risk of data breaches. A recent study by Kaspersky shows that nearly one-in-five (17% of internet users) have had private information leaked to the public without their consent. With the increasing number of data breaches, it is becoming more important than ever for developers to take measures to protect their code and user data. One way to do this is through data obfuscation.

Five Types of Software Vulnerabilities That Affect All Developers

As a developer, it is important to be aware of the different types of software vulnerabilities that can affect your code. By understanding these vulnerabilities, you can take steps to avoid them and keep your code safe. Here are five common software vulnerabilities:

1. SQL Injection

SQL injection is a type of attack that allows attackers to execute malicious SQL code on a database. This can be done by submitting malicious input into an application that then gets executed by the database. SQL injection can be used to access sensitive data, such as user passwords and credit card numbers. SQL injection can be prevented by using data obfuscation techniques, such as string encryption, and parameterized queries.

2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting is a type of attack that allows attackers to inject malicious code into a web page. This can be done by submitting malicious input into an application that is then displayed on the web page. XSS can be used to steal sensitive information, such as cookies and session IDs. It can also be used to inject malicious code into the web page, such as JavaScript code that redirects users to a malicious site.

XSS can be prevented by using data obfuscation techniques, such as input validation and output encoding. Input validation involves checking user input to ensure that it is valid before it is displayed on the web page. PreEmptive’s Dotfuscator uses input validation to verify the application’s integrity during runtime.

3. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-site request forgery is a type of attack that allows attackers to inject malicious code into a web page. This can be done by submitting a malicious link or form to a user. CSRF can be used to trick users into submitting sensitive information, such as their username and password. It can also be used to inject malicious code into the web page, such as JavaScript code that redirects users to a malicious site.

CSRF can be prevented by using data obfuscation techniques such as input validation and output encoding. Input validation involves checking user input to ensure that it is valid before it is processed by the application.

4. Session Hijacking

Session hijacking is a type of attack that allows attackers to take over a user’s session. This can be done by stealing the user’s session ID. Session hijacking can be used to access sensitive data, such as user passwords and credit card numbers. It can also be used to modify data, such as changing a user’s password or adding new users to a database. PreEmptive’s Dotfuscator is the best app shield against session hijacking.

5. Denial of Service (DoS)

Denial of service is a type of attack that prevents users from accessing a website or service. This can be done by overwhelming the website with traffic or by crashing the server. DoS can be used to make a website unavailable, such as by preventing users from being able to access the website or by slowing down the website so that it is unusable. Denial of service can be prevented by using data obfuscation techniques, such as input validation and output encoding.

Data obfuscation is an important tool that any developer should use in developing security application. By using data obfuscation techniques, such as input validation and output encoding, developers can make it much more difficult for attackers to inject malicious code into their web pages. This can help to prevent a wide range of attacks, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, CSRF, session hijacking, and denial of service.


Don’t Let Your Data Fall Into the Wrong Hands

Data obfuscation is a critical step in software development, yet too often it is neglected. By understanding what data obfuscation is and how to apply it, you can protect your applications from hacking and tampering. PreEmptive’s comprehensive suite of obfuscation tools can help you secure your DevSecOps pipelines and investments. With our help, you can protect your systems and keep your data safe. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services!


Categories
Support Corner

How to Leverage Incremental Obfuscation when Protecting Large Applications

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the previous Support Corner article, we discussed the significance of Cross-Assembly Obfuscation when configuring Dotfuscator.  Cross-Assembly Obfuscation ensures that classes, methods, properties and their references are automatically renamed uniformly across all Dotfuscator inputs.

Separated Assemblies Obfuscated

When related assemblies are obfuscated separately, they’re processed in Library Mode by default.  Library Mode does not rename public and protected types and members so that they can still be called by assemblies not included in that Dotfuscator project.  (Obfuscation transforms like Control Flow, String Encryption, and Tamper detection will be performed regardless of access modifier).

What if the different components of our app must be obfuscated as separate projects, but we still want to fully rename public types and members? This can be achieved by using Incremental obfuscation.

Incremental obfuscation

Incremental obfuscation uses Dotfuscator’s Rename Map file to maintain consistent identifier renaming across Dotfuscator builds.  It was created to enable patching a subset of assemblies for an obfuscated app already in production.  It can also be used to rename serializable types, so that full Renaming can still be performed on apps that persist serializable types to file. 

Along these same lines, Incremental Obfuscation can be used to maximize renaming when separating components of an app into multiple Dotfuscator projects.  

Example:

Consider the following example: a company maintains a set of common assemblies used by several different projects.  Each project has completely different sprints and release cycles.  In this scenario, the team maintaining the common assemblies uses Dotfuscator to fully obfuscate and rename publics.  They store the Rename Map file with their build artifacts.  Any team creating a front-end app will use that map file to rename references to the shared assemblies in their Dotfuscator project.  Only the map file is needed – they do not need to re-obfuscate the common assemblies.  When it’s time to deploy to production, all public and protected types and members for the full application will be renamed.

A simple example illustrating this concept can be downloaded here.


If you have feedback on this topic or other topics you would like us to discuss in the Support Corner, please feel free to contact our Support Department.


Categories
101

PreEmptive 101

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In this blog we’ve established a 101 – of all things PreEmptive. Our goal is to help you comprehensively understand PreEmptive and our products in basic terms. This is a great piece of content to share with your team, decision makers or that pesky finance department that won’t give you extra budget for security tools.

For those of you who are in the industry and know what we offer, we appreciate the loyalty! If you are new to the industry and are not tech savvy, but want to know a little bit more about PreEmptive, check out our 5 W’s:

Who is PreEmptive?

PreEmptive is an Idera INC software company. We have been obfuscating and protecting applications since 1996, starting with DashO for Java then expanding over the last 20 years to our full range of solutions that you see today! Our core values are: to help organizations make their applications more resilient to hacking and tampering –  to protect intellectual property, to secure sensitive data, and enhance revenue. In other words, PreEmptive is the first line of defense for your code!

What is PreEmptive?

PreEmptive is a software security solution that helps you protect and secure your apps intelligently through a layered approach. Our multi-faeceted approach is applied to the binary code to provide: obfuscation, encryption, root detection, shielding and tamper detection with the end goal of making life difficult for hackers & bots. Let’s add some definitions, what is obfuscation? Obfuscation means making something unclear or obscure – it’s like a frosted window, it obscures your vision but does not prevent functionality. With code obfuscation the goal is to conceal the underlying code that enables the application to function, while ensuring effective functionality of the application 

How is this achieved? Our layered application hardening and shielding is directly infused into your .NET, Java, Android, JavaScript and iOS applications. Which means, we do not require changes to your end user’s computer/device or network to stay fully protected– the solution does the dirty work for you, securing the app against any vulnerabilities in your projects and jumbles up the code so that hackers can’t reverse engineer your proprietary information!

  • PreEmptive not only “scrambles” your source code, but also has the right mix of protection, response and security reporting features, allowing the user to better protect their projects and defending against the ever-evolving data, IP theft, fraud, brand damage and drastic revenue loss. 
  • PreEmptive offers 4 different types of protection: Dotfuscator, DashO, JSDefender, and PreEmptive Protection for iOS. Here’s the key differences:
    • Dotfuscator provides many layers of protection for .NET users with multiple forms of obfuscation (renaming, string encryption, watermarking, active runtime checks (tamper, debug, root, and more).
    • DashO is a security plugin for Android and Java users providing layers of protection by obfuscation (renaming, string encryption, resource encryption, and more).
    • JSDefender is for teams that use Javascript, securing their applications through in-app protection and code obfuscation. This tool helps teams to prevent code from being easily visible to anyone with access to a browser.
    • PreEmptive Protection (iOS) protects all Objective-C iOS applications, reducing the risk of piracy, intellectual property theft and tampering. (Don’t worry, if you’re feeling lost, we will dive into more in depth on each product in our upcoming blogs)

When should you use PreEmptive?

If you’re a start-up company that has blossomed overnight, a freelancer with multiple clients, or a large corporation who needs to enhance their security program, that’s when PreEmptive should come into play. With fair pricing based on your project needs, PreEmptive can be applicable for many organizations.. When writing any source code without protection, you are susceptible to damage and theft, which has long term financial implications. By using any of the PreEmptive products, your team will feel at ease instantaneously, knowing your code is secure even after deployment!

Where does this work?

PreEmptive is injected into your source code, but our operational playbook includes a bottom-up evaluation of security risks, vulnerability mitigation techniques, and post deployment protection to further reduce exposure.

Why should you use PreEmptive?

PreEmptive not only offers different packages based on your needs, but it has been the leading security system for over 17 years! We test, obscure and manage your vulnerabilities directly in your code, so if you feel worried about hackers or stressed about how secure your projects are, check out your options by visiting our main page!

For more information on how to get started or need further help, we encourage you to use our resources, found in our navigation bar. We hope this blog has guided you to understand what it is we do. Be on the lookout for our upcoming 101’s!