New Data Sources: API Key Identifiers and BroadcastReceiver Declarations

A central focus of the Tracking the Trackers project has been to find simple ways to detect whether a given Android APK app file contains code which tracks the user. The ideal scenario is a simple program that can scan the APK and tell a non-technical user whether it contains trackers, but as decades of experience with anti-virus and malware scanners have clearly demonstrated, scanners will always contain a large degree of approximation and guesswork. [Read More]

εxodus ETIP: The Canonical Database for Tracking Trackers

There is a new story to add to the list of horrors of Surveillance Capitalism: the United States’ Military is purchasing tracking and location data from companies that track many millions of people. We believe the best solution starts with making people aware of the problem, with tools like Exodus Privacy. Then they must have real options for stepping out of “big tech”, where tracking dominates. F-Droid provides Android apps that are reviewed for tracking and other “anti-features”, and F-Droid is built into mobile platforms like CalyxOS that are free of proprietary, big tech software. [Read More]

Distribution in Depth: Mirrors as a Source of Resiliency

There are many ways to get the apps and media, even when the Internet is expensive, slow, blocked, or even completely unavailable. Censorshop circumvention tools from ShadowSocks to Pluggable Transports can evade blocks. Sneakernets and nearby connections work without any network connection. Hosting on Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can make hosting drastically cheaper and faster. One method that is often overlooked these days is repository mirrors. Distribution setups that support mirrors give users the flexibility to find a huge array of solutions for problems when things are not just working. [Read More]

Free Software Tooling for Android Feature Extraction

As part of the Tracking the Trackers project, we are inspecting thousands of Android apps to see what kinds of tracking we can find. We are looking at both the binary APK files as well as the source code. Source code is of course easy to inspect, since it is already a form that is meant to be read and reviewed by people. Android APK binaries are a very different story. [Read More]

"Features" for Finding Trackers

One key component of the Tracking the Trackers project is building a machine learning (ML) tool to aide humans to find tracking in Android apps. One of the most important pieces of developing a machine learning tool is figuring out which “features” should be fed to the machine learning algorithms. In this context, features are constrained data sets derived from the whole data set. In our case, the whole data set is terabytes of APKs. [Read More]

Tracking the Trackers: using machine learning to aid ethical decisions

F-Droid is a free software community app store that has been working since 2010 to make all forms of tracking and advertising visible to users. It has become the trusted name for privacy in Android, and app developers who sell based on privacy make the extra effort to get their apps included in the F-Droid.org collection. These include Nextcloud, Tor Browser, TAZ.de, and Tutanota. Auditing apps for tracking is labor intensive and error prone, yet ever more in demand. [Read More]

NetCipher + Conscrypt for the best possible TLS

A new NetCipher library has recently been merged: netcipher-conscrypt. In the same vein as the other NetCipher libraries, netcipher-conscrypt wraps the Google Conscrypt library, which provides the latest TLS for any app that includes it. netcipher-conscrypt lets apps then disable old TLS versions like TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1, as well as disable TLS Session Tickets. This is an alpha release because it only works on recent Android versions (8.1 or newer). The actual functionality works well, the hard part remains making sure that it is possible to inject netcipher-conscrypt as the TLS provider on all Android devices and versions. [Read More]

Trusted Update Channels vs. Scratching Your Itch

One of the great things about free software is that people can easily take a functional program or library and customize it as they see fit. Anyone can come along, submit bug fixes or improvements, and they can be easily shared across many people, projects, and organizations. With distribution systems like Python’s pypi, there is an update channel that the trusted maintainers can publish fixes so consumers of the library can easily get updates. [Read More]

IOCipher 64-bit builds

IOCipher v0.5 includes fulil 64-bit support and works with the latest SQLCipher versions. This means that the minimum supported SDK version had to be bumped to android-14, which is still older than what Google Play Services and Android Support libraries require. One important thing to note is that newer SQLCipher versions require an upgrade procedure since they changed how the data is encrypted. Since IOCipher does use a SQLCipher database, and IOCipher virtual disks will have to be upgraded. [Read More]

Tor Project: Orfox Paved the Way for Tor Browser on Android

Last month, we tagged the final release of Orfox, an important milestone for us in our work on Tor. Today, we pushed this final build out to all the Orfox users on Google Play, which forces them to upgrade to the official Tor Browser for Android.. Our goal was never to become the primary developer or maintainer of the “best” tor-enabled web browser app on Android. Instead, we chose to act as a catalyst to get the Tor Project and the Tor Browser development team themselves to take on Android development, and upstream our work into the primary codebase. [Read More]

NetCipher update: global, SOCKS, and TLSv1.2

NetCipher has been relatively quiet in recent years, because it kept on working, doing it was doing. Now, we have had some recent discoveries about the guts of Android that mean NetCipher is a lot easier to use on recent Android versions. On top of that, TLSv1.2 now reigns supreme and is basically everywhere, so it is time to turn TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1 entirely off. A single method to enable proxying for the whole app As of Android 8. [Read More]

PanicKit 1.0: built-in panic button and full app wipes

Panic Kit is 1.0! After over three years of use, it is time to call this stable and ready for widespread use. Built-in panic button This round of work includes a new prototype for embedding PanicKit directly into Android. Android 9.0 Pie introduced a new “lockdown” mode which follows some of the patterns laid out by PanicKit. [Read More]

Exploring possibilities of Pluggable Transports on Android

Pluggable Transports (PT) give software developers the means to establishing reliable connections in DPI-filtered network scenarios. A variety of techniques are supported, all available by implementing just one standard. We looked into how this can be put to work in Android Apps. Hence we crafted 3 fully functional PT-enabled prototype Apps based on well known open source projects. All our prototypes rely on obfs4 which is a stable PT implementation widely deployed by Tor. [Read More]

Orbot v16: a whole new look, and easier to use!

Orbot: Tor for Android has a new release (tag and changelog), with a major update to the user experience and interface. This is the 16th major release of Orbot, since it was launched in late 2009. The main screen of the app now looks quite different, with all the major features and functions exposed for easy access. We have also added a new onboarding setup wizard for first time users, that assists with configuring connections to the Tor network for users in places where Tor itself is blocked. [Read More]

Repomaker Usability Trainers Worldwide, June 2017

Repomaker Usability, Trainers Worldwide Study Prepared by Carrie Winfrey and Tiffany Robertson, Okthanks, in partnership with F-Droid and Guardian Project OK Thanks – Guardian Project For more information, contact carrie@okthanks.com. Purpose The purpose of this study was to understand the following things. Are users able to complete basic tasks including, creating a repo, adding apps from other repos, removing apps, editing app details, and creating a second repo? [Read More]

fdroidserver UX Testing Report

We ran user tests of fdroidserver, the tools for developers to create and manage F-Droid repositories of apps and media. This test was set up to gather usability feedback about the tools themselves and the related documentation. These tests were put together and run by Seamus Tuohy/Prudent Innovation. Methodology Participants completed a pretest demographic/background information questionnaire. The facilitator then explained that the amount of time taken to complete the test task will be measured and that exploratory behavior within the app should take place after the tasks are completed. [Read More]

Announcing new libraries: F-Droid Update Channels

In many places in the world, it is very common to find Android apps via a multitude of sources: third party app stores, Bluetooth transfers, swapping SD cards, or directly downloaded from websites. As developers, we want to make sure that our users get secure and timely update no matter how they got our apps. We still recommend that people get apps from trusted sources like F-Droid or Google Play. [Read More]

New research report on the challenges developers face

The Guardian Project has been working with the F-Droid community to make it a secure, streamlined, and verifiable app distribution channel for high-risk environments. While doing this we have started to become more aware of the challenges and risks facing software developers who build software in closed and closing spaces around the world. There are a wealth of resources available on how to support and collaborate with high-risk users. [Read More]

F-Droid User Testing, Round 2

#by Hailey Still and Carrie Winfrey **** Here we outline the User Testing process and plan for the F-Droid app store for Android. The key aims of F-Droid are to provide users with a) a comprehensive catalogue of open-source apps, as well as b) provide users with the the ability to transfer any app from their phone to someone in close physical proximity. With this User Test, we are hoping to gain insights into where the product design is successful and what aspects need to be further improved. [Read More]

F-Droid: A new UX 6 years in the making

_(post by Peter Serwylo)_ F-Droid has been a part of the Android ecosystem for over 6 years now. Since then, over 2000 apps have been built for the main repository, many great features have been added, the client has been translated into over 40 different languages, and much more. However, the F-Droid UX has never changed much from the original three tab layout: This will change with the coming release of F-Droid client v0. [Read More]