Google Ads Encryption Key

Just this last time I will talk about this encryption key, but then I’ll shut up (for me this is so 2011). I presented this thing last year at conferences, but if you just look at the slides I think it’s hard to get the point.

During my Android research in 2011 I encountered several bad practises that are wide spread. Especially hard-coded symmetric encryption keys in the source code of Android apps are often used. One special occurence of one of these encryption keys I just couldn’t forget: Why would Google (Ads) themself use such a thing? It’s not a big deal, but it just adds no real protection and I kept wondering.

445 apps I decompiled used Google Ads code and included the following AES symmetric encryption key:

byte[] arrayOfByte1 = { 10, 55, -112, -47, -6, 7, 11, 75, 
                       -7, -121, 121, 69, 80, -61, 15, 5 };

This AES key is used to encrypt the last known location of the user (all location providers: GPS, WIFI, etc) and send it to Google via the JSON uule parameter. Most of the time the key is located in, or if the app uses an obfuscator in or Here’s the corresponding code:

String getLocationParam(){
    List localList = getLastKnownLocations();
    StringBuilder localStringBuilder1 = new StringBuilder();
    int i = 0;
    int j = localList.size();
    if (i < j){
      Location localLocation = (Location)localList.get(i);
      String str1 = protoFromLocation(localLocation);
      String str2 = encodeProto(str1);
      if (str2 != null){
        if (i != 0)
          break label89;
        StringBuilder localStringBuilder2 = localStringBuilder1.append("e1+");
      while (true){
        StringBuilder localStringBuilder3 = localStringBuilder1.append(str2);
        i += 1;
        label89: StringBuilder localStringBuilder4 = localStringBuilder1.append("+e1+");
    return localStringBuilder1.toString();

String encodeProto(String paramString){
      Cipher localCipher = Cipher.getInstance("AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding");
      byte[] arrayOfByte1 = { 10, 55, 144, 209, 250, 7, 11, 75, 249, 135, 121, 69, 80, 195, 15, 5 };
      SecretKeySpec localSecretKeySpec = new SecretKeySpec(arrayOfByte1, "AES");
      localCipher.init(1, localSecretKeySpec);
      byte[] arrayOfByte2 = localCipher.getIV();
      byte[] arrayOfByte3 = paramString.getBytes();
      byte[] arrayOfByte4 = localCipher.doFinal(arrayOfByte3);
      int i = arrayOfByte2.length;
      int j = arrayOfByte4.length;
      byte[] arrayOfByte5 = new byte[i + j];
      int k = arrayOfByte2.length;
      System.arraycopy(arrayOfByte2, 0, arrayOfByte5, 0, k);
      int m = arrayOfByte2.length;
      int n = arrayOfByte4.length;
      System.arraycopy(arrayOfByte4, 0, arrayOfByte5, m, n);
      String str1 = Base64.encodeToString(arrayOfByte5, 11);
      str2 = str1;
      return str2;
    catch (GeneralSecurityException localGeneralSecurityException){
      while (true)
        String str2 = null;

This code was produced by a decompiler, so it won’t compile, but you get the idea. Instead of using symmetric crypto, they should have used asymmetric crypto (public key in app, private key on server). There would be no way to intercept the last known location on the network then. Ok, here’s the timeline:

June 2011: Notified (auto-response)
October 2011: Talked about it at 0sec / #days and spoke to two friends at Google who are not in the Android/Ads team. One of them (thank you!) sent my mail to the responsible people at Google.
Februar 2012: After a couple of emails I got the answer that they are going to switch to SSL

If you ever find the uule parameter on your network, let me know. One last thing: Depending on your decompiler, the AES key will look like this (wrong decompilation):

byte[] arrayOfByte1 = { 10, 55, 144, 209, 250, 7, 11, 75, 
                       249, 135, 121, 69, 80, 195, 15, 5 };

This is not a valid way to define a byte array in Java, because the integers must be between -127 and 128 (signed integers). That’s another funny fact: if you ever have to brute force a Java byte array like this, I would start with keys where every byte starts with a 0 bit (MSB=0). I saw a lot more of those keys. It seems that some Java developers don’t know about the instantiation with signed integers and therefore choose only numbers between 0 and 128.

One thought on “Google Ads Encryption Key

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