Manitree: AndroidManifest.xml Auditor

Part of my presentation at this year’s Rochester Security Summit on Android security, included a reference to a tool that would help automate the process of detecting insecure app’s on Android devices. This was basically my research into how effective analyzing the AndroidManifest.xml file was at detecting insecurities in an app.

AndroidManifest.xml Insecurities:

It turns out that if you think about it, there’s probably a lot of ways you can screw up an app by putting wrong values in the the manifest file. Hopefully you remember that the AndroidManifest.xml is the file included inside of all APK’s that defines what permissions the app requires along with defining some of the operating parameters. For instance, if you wanted to create a content provider, you would make something like this:

<provider android:name=".provider.DropboxProvider" 
      <grant-uri-permission android:pathPrefix="/" />

But what is that grant-uri-permission gibberish, right? In this case, it means that anything that is located in a path that starts with “/” is able to access the provider. Probably not so good if you’re storing sensitive information in it like DropBox was doing.


That’s just one example but here are some others to consider:

  • Leaving debug mode enabled
  • Granting incorrect read or write permissions to a service, receiver, or provider
  • Setting a high intent priority (read also malware)
  • Setting a hidden dialer using the “android_secret_code” feature

How effective is this:

This isn’t a complete way of analyzing an Android device by any means, but here’s a few examples where it could have helped. Do you remember the DropBox post I made a couple months ago? That flaw that was caused by incorrect permissions in the AndroidManifest.xml was a good example that’s very easy to detect.

How about the HTCLogger hub bub. Could we have detected these problems by analyzing the manifest file? No – not really. But it would have picked up the fact that it was registering a hidden dialer code so when you would dial *#*#482564#*#* a hidden menu would appear giving you access to its settings.

In summary, we’ve found that analyzing Android’s manifest file is effective to give you a summary of items that need to be reviewed, and it’s very effective when you need to analyze a large quantity of apps in a short period of time. It isn’t very good at truly performing a vulnerability scan on an app, but it will pull up some items of interest. When you’re testing a device for app’s that are insecure, there may be hundreds installed and this technique is pretty good at flagging ones that you should pay attention to and then allow you to follow up with some of the manual techniques.

Manitree: AndroidManifest.xml Device Auditing Tool

Manitree is a tool that will review an AndroidManifest.xml file, APK package, or an entire device(or devices) for insecure values in the AndroidManifest.xml file.


  --version         show program's version number and exit
  -h, --help        show this help message and exit
  -f INPUTFILE      path to AndroidManifest.xml or APK (e.g.
                    /home/user/com.something.apk, ./

  Device Mode Options:
    -D              Device Mode: Perform a full test on a device
    -d              Download from a physical device.(Device mode only)
    -e              Download from an emulated device.(Device mode only)
    --path=TMPPATH  Set path of where files are temporarily downloaded.
                    (Default /tmp/AT)
    -u              Test only user apps

  Output Options:
    -T OUTPUTTXT    Save results to a text file (defaults to console)
    -H OUTPUTHTML   Save results to HTML (defaults to console)

  Debug Options:
    -v              Display verbose output
    -q              Quiet mode
    -t              Test mode. Check to see that environment has been setup


Device Test Mode:
Look for connected devices and download all of the APK’s for processing:
./ -D

Test only the emulators:
./ -D -e

Test only user apps:
./ -D -u

Test multiple devices:

./ -D -u
1: HT12345688
2: emulator-5554
3: emulator-5556
4: emulator-5558


More than one device found.
Select which device to use or A to test all the devices: A

Individual File Mode:
If you’re already extracted the manifest file, you can review it like so:
./ -f AndroidManifest.xml

If you haven’t extracted it, you can just give it an APK and it will extract if for you:
./ -f

Directory Mode:
Same idea as above but if you’ve already downloaded a large pile of APK’s, you can analyze them at once:
./ -f apks/

run a report on a previous test:

run a report on a specific device:
./ -D HTCS000001

run a report on a specific package and filter only high findings:
./ -P -r high


  • Linux (soon MacOSX)
  • Python 2.6+
  • adb (included)
  • AXMLPrinter2.jar (included)

Get It:

The tool is open source and hosted on GitHub:

You can also just download the latest tar ball from here: [download id="275"]

Published date:  21 November 2011

Written by:  mmanning

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