Showing posts from August, 2012

Exploring Google Wallet using the secure element interface

In the first post of this series we showed how to use the embedded secure element interface Android 4.x offers. Next, we used some GlobalPlatform commands to find out more about the SE execution environment in the Galaxy Nexus. We also showed that there is currently no way for third parties to install applets on the SE. Since installing our own applets is not an option, we will now find some pre-installed applets to explore. Currently the only generally available Android application that is known to install applets on the SE is Google's own Google Wallet. In this last post, we'll say a few words about how it works and then try to find out what publicly available information its applets host.
Google Wallet and the SE To quote the Google Play description, 'Google Wallet holds your credit and debit cards, offers, and rewards cards'. How does it do this in practice though? The short answer: it's slightly complicated. The longer answer: only Google knows all the details…

Android secure element execution environment

In the previous post we gave a brief introduction of secure element (SE) support in mobile devices and showed how to communicate with the embedded SE in Android 4.x We'll now proceed to sending some actual command to the SE in order to find out more information about its OS and installed applications. Finally, we will discuss options for installing custom applets on the SE.
SE execution environmentsThe Android SE is essentially a smart card in a different package, so most standards and protocols originally developed for smart cards apply. Let's briefly review the relevant ones.
Smart cards have traditionally been file system-oriented and the main role of the OS was to handle file access and enforce access permissions. Newer cards support a VM running on top of the native OS that allows for the execution of 'platform independent' applications called applets, which make use of a well defined runtime library to implement their functionality. While different implementations …

Accessing the embedded secure element in Android 4.x

After discussing credential storage and Android's disk encryption, we'll now look at another way to protect your secrets: the embedded secure element (SE) found in recent devices. In the first post of this three part series we'll give some background info about the SE and show how to use the SE communication interfaces Android 4.x offers. In the second part we'll try sending some actual commands in order to find out more about the SE execution environment. Finally we will discuss Google Wallet and how it makes use of the SE.
What is a Secure Element and why do you want one?  A Secure Element (SE) is a tamper resistant smart card chip capable of running smart card applications (called applets or cardlets) with a certain level of security and features. A smart card is essentially a minimalistic computing environment on single chip, complete with a CPU, ROM, EEPROM, RAM and I/O port. Recent cards also come equipped with cryptographic co-processors implementing common algo…

Changing Android's disk encryption password

We've been discussing some of Jelly Bean's newsecurityfeatures, but this post will take a few steps back and focus on an older one that has been available since Honeycomb (3.0), announced in the beginning of the now distant 2011: disk encryption. We'll glance over the implementation, discuss how passwords are managed and introduce a simple tool that lets you change the password from the comfort of Android's UI.

Android disk encryption implementationAndroid 3.0 introduced disk encryption along with device administrator policies that can enforce it, and advertised it as one of several 'enhancements for the enterprise'. Of course Honeycomb tablets never really took off, let alone in the enterprise. Disk encryption however persevered and  has been available in all subsequent versions. Now that ICS is on about 16% of all Android devices and Jelly Bean's share will start to increase as well in the coming months, disk encryption might finally see wider adoption.