How to extract the database(s) from a non-debuggable / signed Android App
The other day a device hit my desk….
One of our production Retail Execution (ITX) apps running on it was stuck in a loop — the bug was forwarded to the relevant development team, however, there where important transactions (about a days work for the sales rep) still in the device database that needed to be extracted.
So while I did this, I thought I would do a quick writeup for others who face the same issue in future.
Note: Step 1 & 2 are for those of you who do not know about
adband how to connect a device to your Mac. If you already have adb connected and your device in developer mode, skip to Step 3.
Step 1 — Setup your Mac
You will need the following installed:
This will also install Android Debug Bridge (adb) and add it to your path.
To test, open terminal and type
Step 2 — Setup the Android device
- Enable Developer Options
Go to Settings → About device → Software info
Then tap on Build Number seven times (you will see a toast message notifying you of how many more times to tap)
You will now see a Develop Options option on your settings menu like the following :
Ensure that the USB Debugging option is selected.
2. Plug your device into your computer with a USB cable
adb is running, you should see a permission popup on your device:
Grant your Mac permission (optionally Always Allow)
Once done, you should see the device available under
adb devices :
Step 3 — Identify and pull the APK
First shell into the device:
Then identify the apk you want to pull:
pm list packages
To make it easier (and you sort of know the bundle id of the app you are looking for) you can pipe the above command to grep:
pm list packages | grep atajo
To pull the APK, run :
adb backup -noapk com.app.your.package.name
Your device will prompt you for a (optional) password to encrypt the backup with. In this case, I chose to skip creating a password because it makes the next steps easier.
Once pulled, you will see a
mybackup.ab file in your current directory. This is basically a Java deflated (compressed) tar file. So to inflate (decompress) it into something your Mac understands, you have two options depending on your setup:
You can use
openssl to extract the archive :
dd if=mybackup.ab bs=24 skip=1|openssl zlib -d > mybackup.tar;
tar -xvf mybackup.tar
If you get an error like :
openssl:Error: 'zlib' is an invalid command.
You can alternatively use Python like so :
dd if=backup.ab bs=1 skip=24 | python -c "import zlib,sys;sys.stdout.write(zlib.decompress(sys.stdin.read()))" | tar -xvf -\n
Either way, you should now have a
apps directory in the current directory. The app contents was extracted there:
Step 4 — View the database
Disclaimer: This particular app had an encrypted database — I deliberately left out the decryption step as it is proprietary to the company the app belongs to.
I have been using SQLiteBrowser for a few years now, and it is still the best SQLite database explorer I know of for Mac.
So the next step is to simply find the database you want to query in the above
db directory, and open it in the SQLiteBrowser app:
Now you can query anything you want.
Step 5: Disabling Developer Options (Optional)
The only way to remove “Developer Options” from the Settings menu again is by clearing the App Cache of the Settings app.
Go to Settings → Application → All and select the Settings app. Once selected, hit Clear Cache — Don’t worry about the warning, it will literally just remove the change that resulted in Developer Options being visible.
And that’s it. Great Success! Thanks for reading.