What is code obfuscation and how does it work?

    The goal of code obfuscation is to prevent any unauthorized party from accessing and gaining insight into the logic of an application, which prevents them from extracting data, tampering with code, exploiting vulnerabilities, and more.


    The Problem

    Mobile applications can be reverse engineered using readily available disassemblers and/or decompilers, making it easy for hackers to access and analyze the source code of your applications. Hackers can then:

    • Steal intellectual property & clone applications
    • Extract sensitive information & harvest credentials
    • Identify vulnerabilities
    • Add malicious code to apps & repackage them

    Data of a sensitive nature may include; valuable intellectual property (such as custom algorithms), authentication mechanisms, in-app payment mechanisms, keys (API keys, hardcoded encryption keys etc.), credentials (database passwords etc.), the logic behind server communication, and much more.


    The Solution

    Code obfuscation is the process of making applications difficult or impossible to decompile or disassemble, and the retrieved application code more difficult for humans to parse. 

    Application developers must harden the code at various layers. This is the only way to achieve the level of protection necessary to safeguard sensitive data and property in mobile applications. Obfuscation is part of a broader mobile application shielding strategy.

    Application shielding is a broad term for the process of making it more difficult for hackers to reverse engineer or modify an app. There are various techniques that can be used for application shielding, including code obfuscation and other code hardening techniques, as well as runtime mobile application self-protection (RASP).

    Why use code obfuscation?

    All of this is undertaken without altering the function of the code or the end user experience in a meaningful way.

    Code obfuscation strategies include:

    • Renaming classes, fields, methods, libraries etc.
    • Altering the structure of the code
    • Transforming arithmetic and logical expressions



    • Encryption of strings, classes etc.
    • Removing certain metadata
    • Hiding calls to sensitive APIs, and more

    Ready to see how code obfuscation can better secure your mobile applications?


    Types of code obfuscation

    There are several techniques available today to obfuscate code. These include:

    Name obfuscation

    The replacement of readable names in the code by difficult to decipher alternatives

    Control flow obfuscation

    The modification of the logical structure of the code to make it less predictable and traceable

    Arithmetic obfuscation

    The conversion of simple arithmetic and logical expressions into complex equivalents

    Code virtualization

    The transformation of method implementation into instructions for randomly generated virtual machines

    Learn more in our blog