White-box cryptography is a field within cryptography that focuses on protecting cryptographic algorithms and keys in scenarios where the cryptographic computations are performed in an untrusted environment. In the context of mobile apps, white box cryptography aims to prevent unauthorized access to cryptographic algorithms and keys in mobile apps by attackers who end up with complete access to the mobile app’s compiled code and the execution environment.
The main purpose of white-box cryptography is to provide security against various forms of attacks, such as reverse engineering, code analysis, and runtime attacks, which are commonly used to extract cryptographic keys or exploit vulnerabilities in cryptographic algorithms. It is particularly relevant in situations where the cryptographic computations need to be performed in an environment that is not fully trusted, such as on an end user’s mobile device or within a cloud computing environment
White box cryptography finds applications in various domains, including software protection, secure key storage, digital rights management (DRM), financial and payment systems, software license enforcement, secure remote computations, and secure cloud computing, and mobile and embedded systems security.
In mobile apps, white-box cryptography can be used to protect sensitive data, secure cryptographic operations, and enhance the overall security of the application. Here are a few ways white-box cryptography is employed in mobile apps.
By protecting the cryptographic algorithms and keys, it helps to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of sensitive data and computations in scenarios where the trust in the execution environment cannot be assumed.
In traditional cryptography, security is achieved by keeping the cryptographic key secret, assuming that the attacker does not have access to it. In white box cryptography, however, the attacker is assumed to have full access to the compiled code and the execution environment - yet in spite of this security is maintained.
Traditional cryptography involves using a secret key and, typically, a standardized encryption algorithm to encrypt and decrypt data. With this approach, the control lies in maintaining the secrecy of the key: it is assumed that an attacker does not have access to the key and is unable to obtain it even through unauthorized means. Traditional cryptography is a widely-used technique, and many encryption algorithms have been developed and standardized over the years.
However, traditional cryptography has limitations when it comes to mobile apps. For example, if an attacker gains access to the mobile device, they may be able to extract the encryption key and use it to decrypt sensitive data. This is a significant risk for mobile apps that store sensitive data, such as financial or health information.
Whitebox cryptography, which is a more recent approach, aims to protect cryptographic keys and algorithms from attackers who may have full access to the compiled software code and hardware environment where the encryption is executed. White-box cryptography is commonly used in mobile apps for sensitive operations such as mobile payments, digital rights management, and software licensing.
In white box cryptography, the cryptographic key and the encryption algorithm are embedded in the mobile app and secured in a way that is designed to be resistant to attacks, even when the attacker has full access to the software environment. This approach involves transforming the cryptographic algorithm and key into an opaque form that is difficult for an attacker to extract. The goal of white box cryptography is to provide secure cryptographic functionality in a hostile software environment, without relying on hardware security.
While white-box cryptography provides a high level of security for sensitive data, it should not be viewed as a replacement for traditional cryptography. In many cases, traditional cryptography may still be the best option for protecting data, particularly in situations where the cryptographic keys can be adequately protected.
White box cryptography can be more computationally expensive than traditional cryptography. One reason for this is that white box cryptography often involves more complex algorithms and data structures to protect the cryptographic keys and encryption algorithms from attack. These additional layers of protection can increase the computational complexity of the encryption and decryption processes, leading to longer processing times. White-box cryptography often involves performing encryption and decryption operations. On resource-constrained devices such as mobile phones, this can further increase the computational overhead, which warrants judicious use of white box cryptography in mobile apps.
That said, while whitebox cryptography can be more computationally expensive than traditional cryptography, the increased security it provides may be worth the additional processing cost in certain mobile app scenarios where the protection of sensitive data is critical.
In a white-box cryptography implementation, the encrypted data, the algorithm used to encrypt and decrypt the data, and the encryption key are all embedded within the mobile app. The algorithm and the keys are embedded in a way that makes it difficult for an attacker to extract the keys or reverse-engineer the algorithm, even if they have full access to the software environment.
By embedding everything within the mobile app, white box cryptography ensures that the cryptographic key is never exposed, making it difficult for an attacker to gain access to the unencrypted data. This is particularly important in a mobile app where the software environment cannot be fully trusted, and an attacker may have full access to the mobile app's code and data.
Here are the general steps involved in using whitebox cryptography in a mobile app:
White box cryptography provides several benefits over traditional cryptography, including:
Blue Cedar Enforce, a component of Blue Cedar Mobile App Security, implements white-box cryptography as a way to enhance the strength of the many mobile app security features provided by Blue Cedar.
Blue Cedar Mobile App Security and Blue Cedar Enhance are delivered by the Blue Cedar Platform, a CI/CD friendly SaaS solution.
You can try all of what Blue Cedar offers for NO CHARGE with as many mobile apps as you want. Blue Cedar Mobile App Security. Blue Cedar Enhance. The Blue Cedar Platform. All of it is free to use until integrated or secured mobile apps are pushed to production.