What is the most appropriate way to store user settings in Android application


Question

I am creating an application which connects to the server using username/password and I would like to enable the option "Save password" so the user wouldn't have to type the password each time the application starts.

I was trying to do it with Shared Preferences but am not sure if this is the best solution.

I would appreciate any suggestion on how to store user values/settings in Android application.

1
297
6/5/2014 6:25:30 AM

Accepted Answer

In general SharedPreferences are your best bet for storing preferences, so in general I'd recommend that approach for saving application and user settings.

The only area of concern here is what you're saving. Passwords are always a tricky thing to store, and I'd be particularly wary of storing them as clear text. The Android architecture is such that your application's SharedPreferences are sandboxed to prevent other applications from being able to access the values so there's some security there, but physical access to a phone could potentially allow access to the values.

If possible I'd consider modifying the server to use a negotiated token for providing access, something like OAuth. Alternatively you may need to construct some sort of cryptographic store, though that's non-trivial. At the very least, make sure you're encrypting the password before writing it to disk.

229
4/24/2009 4:20:35 PM

I agree with Reto and fiXedd. Objectively speaking it doesn't make a lot of sense investing significant time and effort into encrypting passwords in SharedPreferences since any attacker that has access to your preferences file is fairly likely to also have access to your application's binary, and therefore the keys to unencrypt the password.

However, that being said, there does seem to be a publicity initiative going on identifying mobile applications that store their passwords in cleartext in SharedPreferences and shining unfavorable light on those applications. See http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2011/06/08/some-top-apps-put-data-at-risk/ and http://viaforensics.com/appwatchdog for some examples.

While we need more attention paid to security in general, I would argue that this sort of attention on this one particular issue doesn't actually significantly increase our overall security. However, perceptions being as they are, here's a solution to encrypt the data you place in SharedPreferences.

Simply wrap your own SharedPreferences object in this one, and any data you read/write will be automatically encrypted and decrypted. eg.

final SharedPreferences prefs = new ObscuredSharedPreferences( 
    this, this.getSharedPreferences(MY_PREFS_FILE_NAME, Context.MODE_PRIVATE) );

// eg.    
prefs.edit().putString("foo","bar").commit();
prefs.getString("foo", null);

Here's the code for the class:

/**
 * Warning, this gives a false sense of security.  If an attacker has enough access to
 * acquire your password store, then he almost certainly has enough access to acquire your
 * source binary and figure out your encryption key.  However, it will prevent casual
 * investigators from acquiring passwords, and thereby may prevent undesired negative
 * publicity.
 */
public class ObscuredSharedPreferences implements SharedPreferences {
    protected static final String UTF8 = "utf-8";
    private static final char[] SEKRIT = ... ; // INSERT A RANDOM PASSWORD HERE.
                                               // Don't use anything you wouldn't want to
                                               // get out there if someone decompiled
                                               // your app.


    protected SharedPreferences delegate;
    protected Context context;

    public ObscuredSharedPreferences(Context context, SharedPreferences delegate) {
        this.delegate = delegate;
        this.context = context;
    }

    public class Editor implements SharedPreferences.Editor {
        protected SharedPreferences.Editor delegate;

        public Editor() {
            this.delegate = ObscuredSharedPreferences.this.delegate.edit();                    
        }

        @Override
        public Editor putBoolean(String key, boolean value) {
            delegate.putString(key, encrypt(Boolean.toString(value)));
            return this;
        }

        @Override
        public Editor putFloat(String key, float value) {
            delegate.putString(key, encrypt(Float.toString(value)));
            return this;
        }

        @Override
        public Editor putInt(String key, int value) {
            delegate.putString(key, encrypt(Integer.toString(value)));
            return this;
        }

        @Override
        public Editor putLong(String key, long value) {
            delegate.putString(key, encrypt(Long.toString(value)));
            return this;
        }

        @Override
        public Editor putString(String key, String value) {
            delegate.putString(key, encrypt(value));
            return this;
        }

        @Override
        public void apply() {
            delegate.apply();
        }

        @Override
        public Editor clear() {
            delegate.clear();
            return this;
        }

        @Override
        public boolean commit() {
            return delegate.commit();
        }

        @Override
        public Editor remove(String s) {
            delegate.remove(s);
            return this;
        }
    }

    public Editor edit() {
        return new Editor();
    }


    @Override
    public Map<String, ?> getAll() {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException(); // left as an exercise to the reader
    }

    @Override
    public boolean getBoolean(String key, boolean defValue) {
        final String v = delegate.getString(key, null);
        return v!=null ? Boolean.parseBoolean(decrypt(v)) : defValue;
    }

    @Override
    public float getFloat(String key, float defValue) {
        final String v = delegate.getString(key, null);
        return v!=null ? Float.parseFloat(decrypt(v)) : defValue;
    }

    @Override
    public int getInt(String key, int defValue) {
        final String v = delegate.getString(key, null);
        return v!=null ? Integer.parseInt(decrypt(v)) : defValue;
    }

    @Override
    public long getLong(String key, long defValue) {
        final String v = delegate.getString(key, null);
        return v!=null ? Long.parseLong(decrypt(v)) : defValue;
    }

    @Override
    public String getString(String key, String defValue) {
        final String v = delegate.getString(key, null);
        return v != null ? decrypt(v) : defValue;
    }

    @Override
    public boolean contains(String s) {
        return delegate.contains(s);
    }

    @Override
    public void registerOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener(OnSharedPreferenceChangeListener onSharedPreferenceChangeListener) {
        delegate.registerOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener(onSharedPreferenceChangeListener);
    }

    @Override
    public void unregisterOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener(OnSharedPreferenceChangeListener onSharedPreferenceChangeListener) {
        delegate.unregisterOnSharedPreferenceChangeListener(onSharedPreferenceChangeListener);
    }




    protected String encrypt( String value ) {

        try {
            final byte[] bytes = value!=null ? value.getBytes(UTF8) : new byte[0];
            SecretKeyFactory keyFactory = SecretKeyFactory.getInstance("PBEWithMD5AndDES");
            SecretKey key = keyFactory.generateSecret(new PBEKeySpec(SEKRIT));
            Cipher pbeCipher = Cipher.getInstance("PBEWithMD5AndDES");
            pbeCipher.init(Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE, key, new PBEParameterSpec(Settings.Secure.getString(context.getContentResolver(),Settings.Secure.ANDROID_ID).getBytes(UTF8), 20));
            return new String(Base64.encode(pbeCipher.doFinal(bytes), Base64.NO_WRAP),UTF8);

        } catch( Exception e ) {
            throw new RuntimeException(e);
        }

    }

    protected String decrypt(String value){
        try {
            final byte[] bytes = value!=null ? Base64.decode(value,Base64.DEFAULT) : new byte[0];
            SecretKeyFactory keyFactory = SecretKeyFactory.getInstance("PBEWithMD5AndDES");
            SecretKey key = keyFactory.generateSecret(new PBEKeySpec(SEKRIT));
            Cipher pbeCipher = Cipher.getInstance("PBEWithMD5AndDES");
            pbeCipher.init(Cipher.DECRYPT_MODE, key, new PBEParameterSpec(Settings.Secure.getString(context.getContentResolver(),Settings.Secure.ANDROID_ID).getBytes(UTF8), 20));
            return new String(pbeCipher.doFinal(bytes),UTF8);

        } catch( Exception e) {
            throw new RuntimeException(e);
        }
    }

}

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