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Security and Privacy Enhancements in Android 10

Every Android release includes dozens of security enhancements to protect users. Android 10 includes several security and privacy enhancements. See the Android 10 release notes for a complete list of changes in Android 10.

Security

BoundsSanitizer

Android 10 deploys BoundsSanitizer (BoundSan) in Bluetooth and codecs. BoundSan uses UBSan's bounds sanitizer. This mitigation is enabled on a per-module level. It helps keep critical components of Android secure and shouldn't be disabled. BoundSan is enabled in the following codecs:

  • libFLAC
  • libavcdec
  • libavcenc
  • libhevcdec
  • libmpeg2
  • libopus
  • libvpx
  • libspeexresampler
  • libvorbisidec
  • libaac
  • libxaac

Execute-only memory

By default, executable code sections for AArch64 system binaries are marked execute-only (nonreadable) as a hardening mitigation against just-in-time code reuse attacks. Code that mixes data and code together and code that purposefully inspects these sections (without first remapping the memory segments as readable) no longer functions. Apps with a target SDK of Android 10 (API level 29 or higher) are impacted if the app attempts to read code sections of execute-only memory (XOM) enabled system libraries in memory without first marking the section as readable.

Extended access

Trust agents, the underlying mechanism used by tertiary authentication mechanisms such as Smart Lock, can only extend unlock in Android 10. Trust agents can no longer unlock a locked device and can only keep a device unlocked for a maximum of four hours.

Face authentication

Face authentication allows users to unlock their device simply by looking at the front of their device. Android 10 adds support for a new face authentication stack that can securely process camera frames, preserving security and privacy during face authentication on supported hardware. Android 10 also provides an easy way for security-compliant implementations to enable app integration for transactions such as online banking or other services.

Integer Overflow Sanitization

Android 10 enables Integer Overflow Sanitization (IntSan) in software codecs. Ensure that playback performance is acceptable for any codecs that aren't supported in the device's hardware. IntSan is enabled in the following codecs:

  • libFLAC
  • libavcdec
  • libavcenc
  • libhevcdec
  • libmpeg2
  • libopus
  • libvpx
  • libspeexresampler
  • libvorbisidec

Modular system components

Android 10 modularizes some Android system components and enables them to be updated outside of the normal Android release cycle. Some modules include:

OEMCrypto

Android 10 uses OEMCrypto API version 15.

Scudo

Scudo is a dynamic user-mode memory allocator designed to be more resilient against heap-related vulnerabilities. It provides the standard C allocation and deallocation primitives, as well as the C++ primitives.

ShadowCallStack

ShadowCallStack (SCS) is an LLVM instrumentation mode that protects against return address overwrites (like stack buffer overflows) by saving a function's return address to a separately allocated ShadowCallStack instance in the function prolog of nonleaf functions and loading the return address from the ShadowCallStack instance in the function epilog.

WPA3 and Wi-Fi Enhanced Open

Android 10 adds support for the Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) and Wi-Fi Enhanced Open security standards to provide better privacy and robustness against known attacks.

Privacy

App access when targeting Android 9 or lower

If your app runs on Android 10 or higher but targets Android 9 (API level 28) or lower, the platform applies the following behavior:

  • If your app declares a <uses-permission> element for either ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION or ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION, the system automatically adds a <uses-permission> element for ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION during installation.
  • If your app requests either ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION or ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION, the system automatically adds ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION to the request.

Background activity restrictions

Starting in Android 10, the system places restrictions on starting activities from the background. This behavior change helps minimize interruptions for the user and keeps the user more in control of what's shown on their screen. As long as your app starts activities as a direct result of user interaction, your app most likely isn't affected by these restrictions.
To learn more about the recommended alternative to starting activities from the background, see the guide on how to alert users of time-sensitive events in your app.

Camera metadata

Android 10 changes the breadth of information that the getCameraCharacteristics() method returns by default. In particular, your app must have the CAMERA permission in order to access potentially device-specific metadata that is included in this method's return value.
To learn more about these changes, see the section about camera fields that require permission.

Clipboard data

Unless your app is the default input method editor (IME) or is the app that currently has focus, your app cannot access clipboard data on Android 10 or higher.

Device location

To support the additional control that users have over an app's access to location information, Android 10 introduces the ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION permission.
Unlike the ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION and ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION permissions, the ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION permission only affects an app's access to location when it runs in the background. An app is considered to be accessing location in the background unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:

  • An activity belonging to the app is visible.
  • The app is running a foreground service that has declared a foreground service type of location.
    To declare the foreground service type for a service in your app, set your app's targetSdkVersion or compileSdkVersion to 29 or higher. Learn more about how foreground services can continue user-initiated actions that require access to location.

External storage

By default, apps targeting Android 10 and higher are given scoped access into external storage, or scoped storage. Such apps can see the following types of files within an external storage device without needing to request any storage-related user permissions:

To learn more about scoped storage, as well as how to share, access, and modify files that are saved on external storage devices, see the guides on how to manage files in external storage and access and modify media files.

MAC address randomization

On devices that run Android 10 or higher, the system transmits randomized MAC addresses by default.
If your app handles an enterprise use case, the platform provides APIs for several operations related to MAC addresses:

  • Obtain randomized MAC address: Device owner apps and profile owner apps can retrieve the randomized MAC address assigned to a specific network by calling getRandomizedMacAddress().
  • Obtain actual, factory MAC address: Device owner apps can retrieve a device's actual hardware MAC address by calling getWifiMacAddress(). This method is useful for tracking fleets of devices.

Non-resettable device identifiers

Starting in Android 10, apps must have the READ_PRIVILEGED_PHONE_STATE privileged permission in order to access the device's non-resettable identifiers, which include both IMEI and serial number.

If your app doesn't have the permission and you try asking for information about non-resettable identifiers anyway, the platform's response varies based on target SDK version:

  • If your app targets Android 10 or higher, a SecurityException occurs.
  • If your app targets Android 9 (API level 28) or lower, the method returns null or placeholder data if the app has the READ_PHONE_STATE permission. Otherwise, a SecurityException occurs.

Physical activity recognition

Android 10 introduces the android.permission.ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION runtime permission for apps that need to detect the user's step count or classify the user's physical activity, such as walking, biking, or moving in a vehicle. This is designed to give users visibility of how device sensor data is used in Settings.
Some libraries within Google Play services, such as the Activity Recognition API and the Google Fit API, don't provide results unless the user has granted your app this permission.
The only built-in sensors on the device that require you to declare this permission are the step counter and step detector sensors.
If your app targets Android 9 (API level 28) or lower, the system auto-grants the android.permission.ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION permission to your app, as needed, if your app satisfies each of the following conditions:

  • The manifest file includes the com.google.android.gms.permission.ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION permission.
  • The manifest file doesn't include the android.permission.ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION permission.

If the system-auto grants the android.permission.ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION permission, your app retains the permission after you update your app to target Android 10. However, the user can revoke this permission at any time in system settings.

/proc/net filesystem restrictions

On devices that run Android 10 or higher, apps cannot access /proc/net, which includes information about a device's network state. Apps that need access to this information, such as VPNs, should use the NetworkStatsManager or ConnectivityManager class.

Permission groups removed from UI

As of Android 10, apps cannot look up how permissions are grouped in the UI.

Removal of contacts affinity

Starting in Android 10, the platform doesn't keep track of contacts affinity information. As a result, if your app conducts a search on the user's contacts, the results aren't ordered by frequency of interaction.
The guide about ContactsProvider contains a notice describing the specific fields and methods that are obsolete on all devices starting in Android 10.

Restricted access to screen contents

To protect users' screen contents, Android 10 prevents silent access to the device's screen contents by changing the scope of the READ_FRAME_BUFFER, CAPTURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT, and CAPTURE_SECURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT permissions. As of Android 10, these permissions are signature-access only.
Apps that need to access the device's screen contents should use the MediaProjection API, which displays a prompt asking the user to provide consent.

USB device serial number

If your app targets Android 10 or higher, your app cannot read the serial number until the user has granted your app permission to access the USB device or accessory.
To learn more about working with USB devices, see the guide on how to configure USB hosts.

Wi-Fi

Apps targeting Android 10 or higher cannot enable or disable Wi-Fi. The WifiManager.setWifiEnabled() method always returns false.
If you need to prompt users to enable and disable Wi-Fi, use a settings panel.

Restrictions on direct access to configured Wi-Fi networks

To protect user privacy, manual configuration of the list of Wi-Fi networks is restricted to system apps and device policy controllers (DPCs). A given DPC can be either the device owner or the profile owner.
If your app targets Android 10 or higher, and it isn't a system app or a DPC, then the following methods don't return useful data: