Configuring Burp Suite with Android Nougat

Table of Contents

  • Background
  • Install Burp CA as a system-level trusted CA
  • Mofiying and repackaging an app
  • tl;dr cheatsheet

  • This last weekend I started testing a new Android app for fun, and ran into some trouble getting Burp Suite working properly. I burned a whole afternoon troubleshooting the issue, and decided to write up what I found out and two different ways I got it working.


    I've done quite a bit of Android testing in the past and my setup usually involves a Genymotion VM or my old rooted Nexus Tablet. I run Burp Suite locally, install the User Cert as outlined in Portswigger's documentation, configure a WiFi proxy and I'm off the races.

    This particular app I wanted to test, however, required a minimum API level 24 (Android 7.0 - "Nougat") and suddenly it wasn't working. I followed the steps I always do but saw nothing but "connection reset" errors in Burp:

    Burp Alrets

    After a few frustrating hours of troubleshooting, I finally figured out the issue lied with the latest versions of Android (API >= 24). Before I go any further, all the information I needed was found in these great write-ups:

    Starting with Nougat, Android changed the default behavior of trusting user installed certificates. It's no longer possible to just install the Burp CA from the sdcard to start intercepting app traffic. Unless otherwise specified, apps will now only trust system level CAs. The failure happens "invisibly" and is responsible for all the alerts I saw in Burp Suite.

    There's two ways to bypass this, and I'll walk through them both.

    • Install the Burp CA as a system-level CA on the device. My recommendation for the easiest solution, but does require a rooted device. Also added benefit of not having to set a lockscreen PIN :)
    • Modify the manifest and repackage the app. Slightly more work, but doesn't require root privileges.

    Note: I did all this with Burp Suite Pro on my Windows 10 machine and am using an Android 7.1 (API25) Genymotion VM, but the steps should be applicable to any setup.

    Install Burp CA as a system-level trusted CA

    Since the "traditional" way of installing a user certificate doesn't work anymore in Nougat and above, for me the easiest solution is to install the Burp CA to the system trusted certificates. You can see all the system CAs that are bundled with an Android device by going to Settings -> Security -> Trusted Credentials and viewing system CAs. You'll see the similar CAs you'd see in a browser bundle.

    Trusted CAs for Android are stored in a special format in /system/etc/security/cacerts. If we have root privileges, it's possible to write to this location and drop in the Burp CA (after some modification).

    Export and convert the Burp CA
    The first step is to get the Burp CA in the right format. Using Burp Suite, export the CA Certificate in DER format. I saved it as cacert.der

    Export Burp CA

    Android wants the certificate to be in PEM format, and to have the filename equal to the subject_hash_old value appended with .0.

    Note: if you are using OpenSSL <1.0, it's actually just the subject_hash, not the "old" one

    Use openssl to convert DER to PEM, then output the subject_hash_old and rename the file:

    openssl x509 -inform DER -in cacert.der -out cacert.pem  
    openssl x509 -inform PEM -subject_hash_old -in cacert.pem |head -1  
    mv cacert.pem <hash>.0  

    For example, with my certificate:

    Converting Cert

    Copy the certificate to the device
    We can use adb to copy the certificate over, but since it has to be copied to the /system filesystem, we have to remount it as writable. As root, this is easy with adb remount.

    adb root  
    adb remount  
    adb push <cert>.0 /sdcard/  

    The just drop into a shell (adb shell) and move the file to /system/etc/security/cacerts and chmod it to 644:

    mv /sdcard/<cert>.0 /system/etc/security/cacerts/  
    chmod 644 /system/etc/security/cacerts/<cert>.0  

    Lastly, we have to full reboot the device with either adb reboot or a power cycle.

    Copy over the cert

    After the device reboots, browsing to Settings -> Security -> Trusted Credentials should show the new "Portswigger CA" as a system trusted CA.

    Portswigger Trusted

    Now it's possible to set up the proxy and start intecepting any and all app traffic with Burp :)

    Mofiying and repackaging an app

    If you don't have root or don't want to modify the system trusted certificates, you can install the Burp CA as a user cert and then modify the specific APK you want to MitM.

    Starting with Nougat, apps will ignore user-installed certificates by default. This is evident by looking at logcat output when launching the app:

    No network security config

    Without a network security config, the app will only trust system CAs and will not honor the user installed Burp certificate.

    To get around this, it involves:

    • Disassembling the APK
    • Adding a new XML resource to define a network security profile
    • Modifying AndroidManifest.xml
    • Repackaging and self-signing the APK

    Disassemble and modify the APK
    Start by using apktool to disassemble the APK

    apktool d TestApp.apk  

    Apktool disassemble

    Next, add a new network security config by creating the file network_security_config.xml in the res/xml directory:

    vim TestApp\res\xml\network_security_config.xml  

    The config needs to explicitly state that trusting user certs is acceptable. The entire contents should be:

                <!-- Trust preinstalled CAs --> 
                <certificates src="system" /> 
                <!-- Additionally trust user added CAs --> 
                <certificates src="user" /> 

    Finally, we have to define the network security config in AndroidManifest.xml. In the <application> tag, add the android:networkSecurityConfig attribute pointing to the new XML file:

    <application android:allowBackup="true" android:networkSecurityConfig="@xml/network_security_config" ...etc...>  

    Reassemble and Sign
    Finally, the APK must now be rebuilt and signed in order to be installed. Using apktool b, a new build will be created in the dist/ directory:

    apktool b TestApp  

    To self-sign the app, use keytool to create a new keystore and key, then jarsigner to sign the new APK:

    keytool -genkey -v -keystore test.keystore -storepass password -alias android -keypass password -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000
    jarsigner.exe -verbose -keystore test.keystore -storepass password -keypass password TestApp\dist\TestApp.apk android  

    Build and Sign APK

    Lastly, install the new APK with adb:

    adb install TestApp\dist\TestApp.apk  

    Now, when we start the application, the logcat output will indicate a new network security config is being used:

    Logcat new network security config

    With the Burp CA installed to user certificates, we can not MitM the application traffic!

    tl;dr cheatsheet

    Install System CA

    # Convert DER to PEM
    openssl x509 -inform DER -in cacert.der -out cacert.pem
    # Get subject_hash_old (or subject_hash if OpenSSL < 1.0)
    openssl x509 -inform PEM -subject_hash_old -in cacert.pem |head -1
    # Rename cacert.pem to <hash>.0
    mv cacert.pem 9a5ba575.0
    # Remount and copy cert to device
    adb root  
    adb remount  
    adb push 9a5ba575.0 /sdcard/  
    adb shell  
    vbox86p:/ # mv /sdcard/9a5ba575.0 /system/etc/security/cacerts/  
    vbox86p:/ # chmod 644 /system/etc/security/cacerts/9a5ba575.0  
    vbox86p:/ # reboot  

    Modify APK

    apktool d TestApp.apk  
    vim TestApp\res\xml\network_security_config.xml  
            <!-- Trust preinstalled CAs --> 
            <certificates src="system" /> 
            <!-- Additionally trust user added CAs --> 
            <certificates src="user" /> 
    vim TestApp\AndroidManifest.xml  
    # Add to <application > tag:
    # Rebuild and self-sign
    keytool -genkey -v -keystore test.keystore -storepass password -alias android -keypass password -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -validity 10000
    apktool b TestApp
    jarsigner -keystore test.keystore -storepass password -keypass password TestApp\dist\TestApp.apk android
    # Install new APK
    adb install TestApp\dist\TestApp.apk
    # Install Burp CA to User Certs
    mv cacert.der cacert.cer  
    adb push burpca.cer /mnt/sdcard  
    Settings -> Security -> Install from SD Card  

    Hope this helps!


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