Virgin Media WiFi Android app on a rooted device

Virgin Media have a handy Android app which lets Virgin Media subscribers connect to their Virgin Media WiFi service. However they have, in their infinite wisdom, decided that they will not support running this app on rooted Android devices – which is entirely their prerogative.

As a longtime fan of rooted Android (I currently run LineageOS 14.1 on my HTC 10) I was disappointed by Virgin’s decision but decided to treat it as a learning opportunity. So, purely for academic / research purposes, is it possible to modify the Android APK such that it will run on a rooted handset? Yes, yes it is and it’s quite easy if you know what you’re doing.

Here’s how I went about my proof-of-concept:

  1. Install the Virgin Media WiFi app on your phone from the Play Store.
  2. Use ADB to pull the APK file from your device. For me this worked like this:
    adb pull /data/app/com.virginmedia.simplewifi-1
    pull: building file list...
    pull: /data/app/com.virginmedia.simplewifi-1/lib/arm64/libdevicescape-jni.so -> ./lib/arm64/libdevicescape-jni.so
    pull: /data/app/com.virginmedia.simplewifi-1/base.apk -> ./base.apk
    
  3. Use the fantastic apktool to decompile the base.apk:
    apktool d base.apk
    I: Using Apktool 2.2.2 on base.apk
    I: Loading resource table...
    I: Decoding AndroidManifest.xml with resources...
    I: Loading resource table from file: /home/simon/.local/share/apktool/framework/1.apk
    I: Regular manifest package...
    I: Decoding file-resources...
    I: Decoding values */* XMLs...
    I: Baksmaling classes.dex...
    I: Copying assets and libs...
    I: Copying unknown files...
    I: Copying original files...
  4. Now let’s start looking for the text in the toast notification it pops up to tell you it’s not going to run on a rooted device:
    grep -R "rooted" *
    res/values/public.xml:    <public type="string" name="alert_rooted_device" id="0x7f0800d1" />
    res/values/strings.xml:    <string name="alert_rooted_device">For security reasons you are not able to run this app on a rooted device</string>

    I’d take a reasonable guess that “alert_rooted_device” is the one we’re after. Let’s see if that id “0x7f0800d1” is referenced anywhere in the decompiled code:

    grep -Ri "7f0800d1" *
    res/values/public.xml:    <public type="string" name="alert_rooted_device" id="0x7f0800d1" />
    smali/com/studios/ocasta/prototype/vmwfsclient/ui/activities/StartActivity.smali:    const v0, 0x7f0800d1

    Aha! It looks like StartActivity.smali might be worth a closer look.

  5. So let’s take a look at the decompiled StartActivity.smali:
    StartActivity.smali
    Seems like it’s invoking com/studios/ocasta/prototype/vmwfsclient/g/i;->a() (line 283), putting the result into v0 (line 285) and then jumping to :cond_0 if v0 is equal to 0 (line 287). If v0 isn’t zero then it raises a Toast notification with the id of the “alert_rooted_device” string (0x7f0800d) (lines 289-297) and calls the “finish()” method (line 299).
    I think it’s a reasonable guess that lines 283-299 are responsible to detecting whether the device is rooted, displaying a toast notification to that effect and exiting.
    So what, if we were so inclined, could we do about it?
  6. Looks likely that if the device isn’t rooted then line 287:
    if-eqz v0, :cond_0

    will skip over the toast + exit stuff. So what if line 287 read simply:

    goto :cond0

    instead? Skipping over the toast and exit regardless of the result of the method invoked at line 283.
    Let’s give it a go!

  7. Make whatever modifications you decide to and use apktool to rebuild the apk
    apktool b base -o com.virginmedia.simplewifi-rooted.apk
    I: Using Apktool 2.2.2
    I: Checking whether sources has changed...
    I: Smaling smali folder into classes.dex...
    I: Checking whether resources has changed...
    I: Building apk file...
    I: Copying unknown files/dir...

    This should produce an apk which you’ll need to zipalign and sign before you try installing it on a rooted Android device for educational purposes only.

So what did we learn here?

  1. It is often trivial to work around root detection on Android apps.
  2. The root detection in this case isn’t even necessary since the app will set-up WiFi auto sign-on for you, so you could:
    Remove root (temporary)
    Install the app & set-up auto sign-on
    Reinstate root and just don’t launch the app

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