How To Decompile Android App On Mac

Learn how to reverse engineer Android apps, alter them, and put them back together. No root needed.

How To Decompile Code

Published:Fri, February 9, 2018, 22:40
Updated:Tue, December 8, 2020, 20:30
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The JPEXS Free Flas Decompiler utility also features bundled support for output formats such as HTML Canvas and SVG and it enables you to view ActionScript source code. Furthermore, JPEXS Free Flas Decompiler is an open source and cross-platform app, which means that you can run it on macOS, Windows, and Linux or any system that comes with a. The report noted that Android Java apps in particular are trivial to decompile back to source code, and that native Android and iOS apps are relatively easy to reverse engineer as well. 'To crack an Android app, hackers can download the app on another machine (e.g., Mac) and run a tool (e.g., apktool) to unpackage the app and disassemble its. 6.Now it is all set to get the source code.Open command prompt in case of windows and terminal in mac at the location of apktool folder.Type this command.apktool.jar d (name of file with.apk.

tl;dr 🔗

This tutorial for how to crack Android apps is one of my more technical posts. If you aren't a developer you might want to skip this one. :) I'm assuming some basic knowledge of UN*X, Java and Android.

Why crack an app? 🔗

Sometimes I like to check if online services I use really are secure. I've presented quite a few cases to prove that they very often are not. Simcity 2000 for mac. Mostly I can use very simple techniques to check the security as there are so many basic security vulnerabilities out there. When it comes to apps I often use a HTTP proxy like Charles to take a look at the HTTP and HTTPS traffic. However, once in a while there are apps that use e.g. HTTP tunneling or certificate pinning. In those cases you need to go one step further to be able to listen to the network traffic.

Other reasons to decompile apps could be to recover lost source code, to inject language translations or even fix a bug. But hey, remember, don't do anything you are not allowed to. Don't break the law. This guide is just for educational purposes when you have legitimate reasons to do what you do.

Decompile

Contents 🔗

These are the topics that I'll cover.

Online alternatives 🔗

Very often you don't have to get your hands too dirty getting the hands of a decompiled app. There are some good services out there that can provide you with most Android APKs, and then even some to decompile them.

Online APK archives 🔗

To get hold of an APK you can typically just google the package name. There are quite a few sites where to download them from. Some are more frequently updated than others. Note that you can get hold of different versions and the APK for different architectual platforms.

A word of wisdom: Don't download and run some random APK out there (at least do it in a sandboxed and/or emulated environment). There are quite a few sites that serves bogus or altered APKs. The app might look allright, but still have some malware injected. Don't blindly trust the ones that I recommend either. If the APK is signed with the same key as an APK that you got from Play Store you should be able to trust its origin (though there have been cases of private keys in the wild (even repackaged APKs uploaded to the vendor's own web site)).

Here's a few you might want to try out:

Online decompiler 🔗

The quickest and easiest way to decompile an APK is to just use an online service. You just upload the APK and get an archive with all the resources and decompiled files. javadecompilers.com is the one I have used, and I have been pretty happy with it.

As you might know, the APK file is really just a ZIP file, so you can typically just rename it to .zip and double click it or run unzip and you can start investigating the app. If it's a hybrid app you might not have to decompile it at all to get access to everything. Actually, the Gator Watch app was a hybrid app and gave away everything with little effort.

Getting the tools 🔗

Android - SDK, tools and emulators 🔗

You need to have at least the Android tools and SDK, but for most people I would recommend to just install Android Studio and follow the instructions to set it up as normal (but skip stuff like the SDK for Android TV and other stuff that will slow down your download).

Apktool - disassembling and reassembling APKs 🔗

Apktool can be installed manually, or if it's available via your package manager you can just install it using a command like apt-get install apktool.

Getting the APK 🔗

The first step of the reverse engineering is to get hold of the APK. I'll use my own Android app Developer Tools as an example app. It's open source and if you want you can get the source code and APKs from GitHub.

The command-line tool adb (Android Debug Bridge) is used for all communication with the device or emulator. You can find the tool in the Android's installation folder platform-tools.

Note on App Bundles / multi-APK 🔗

It's increasingly common (and required for Play Store releases in the second half of 2021) that apps use Android App Bundles. This adds a layer of complexity when cracking apps.

When the app is an App Bundle you will in the above example see more than one APK file. Typically you will see base.apk (the common code), split_config.arm64_v8a.apk (config for the CPU architecture), split_config.xxxhdpi.apk (config for the screen resolution) and typically a split for the language and maybe some dynamic features.

You need copy all the APK files - either in separate adb pull commands or pull the whole app directory.

Decoding the APK 🔗

The next step is to unzip and decompile the APK. Apktool does this for us.

Note on App Bundles / multi-APK 🔗

If you are interested in the core code and not the resource files you only have to consider the base.apk files and not the rest. But note that you need to either decompile and compile them (or at least unzip them and remove the META-INF folder before zipping again) if you need to resign the app as shown in a later step.

Altering the app 🔗

This is where the hard work starts. The code files are now fully readable, but the code is now in the smali format. You can think of smali as a sort of assembly language.

As an example we'll first change the language string app_name to Hacker Tools.

Then we'll change some hard coded text so that we have changed both resources and actual code.


Reading Java instead of smali 🔗

There's a way out if you rather want to read Java instead of smali. The excellent tool jadx provides both a command-line and GUI tool for converting dex to Java.

How To Decompile Games

You can open the APK files directly in the the program and have all the code decompiled and converted. Reading Java is after all easier than reading the smali format. Just note that you cannot simply change the Java code and recompile it with jadx. You can always try to get a project up and running in Android Studio, but it will typically take some major effort as jadx seldom can fully decompile everything 100%.

How to decompile android apk

Getting the app back together 🔗

There are quite a few steps getting everything together. We need to rebuild the app, sign it, zipalign it, and then install it. If the properly signed app is still installed it needs to first be uninstalled as our signature violates the existing one.

The command-line tool zipalign is needed to align the contents of the APK for Android to be able to run it. You can find the tool in the Android's installation folder build-tools/<some version number>.

That's it! :-)

Note on App Bundles / multi-APK 🔗

If you have multiple APK files and you just signed the altered APK file with a new certificate you will need to sign every single APK file with jarsigner and then zipalign them.

Installing them will need the install-multiple option and all APK files as arguments:

A few addtional tips 🔗

Reading smali 🔗

It might take a little bit of getting used to, but reading smali isn't all too bad. If you have any concrete problems you'll find the answer with some googling. But a good tip is to create some small very simple Java classes yourself and check out what they look like in the smali format.

If you are having trouble navigating the smali code and understand the flow of an app you can use the following smali code. It will call Thread.dumpStack() which logs the current thread's call stack.

How To Decompile A Program

If you need to know the value of a string - e.g. a parameter - you can use Log.d(String tag, String message) to log it to the system log.

Proguard 🔗

How To Decompile Jar File

Very often - but not in the case of my Developer Tools app - the code will be shrinked and obfuscated using ProGuard. This makes the code a lot harder do read and understand. There aren't really any good ways around it, but doing the thread dump trick and taking your time to follow the code will eventually get you where you want to be.

How To Decompile Android App On Mac Os

Wrapping it up 🔗

How To Decompile Android App On Mac

If you have followed along the guide you would see the app change from the version on the left to something like the one on the right. One of the reasons I wrote this guide was for my own sake to have something to easily copy and paste from when doing some reverse engineering myself, but I thought this might be useful one for others as well. :)