Facebook Releases Android App Security Tool “Mariana Trench” As Open-Source

The social media giant Facebook has released another security tool, “Mariana Trench,” as open-source for the community. Mariana Trench is a dedicated security tool that detects code vulnerabilities in Android and Java applications.

Facebook Open-Source Mariana Trench

As announced in a recent blog post, Facebook has decided to open-source its security tool Mariana Trench (MT). The tech giant elaborated that its officials heavily relied on this tool for detecting security bugs. Now, Facebook intends to present this tool to all security researchers.

Facebook developed this tool for scrutinizing bugs in its mobile apps products that run on millions of lines of codes. The automated analyzers helped the researchers improve the apps without spending time on manual reviews.

Mariana Trench typically aims at analyzing Android mobile apps. Facebook explained that reviewing mobile app codes can be tedious compared to web apps, given how the updates go to each consumer individually.

While server-side code can be updated almost instantaneously for web apps, mitigating a security bug in an Android application relies on each user updating the application on the device they own in a timely way. This makes it that much more important for any app developer to put systems in place to help prevent vulnerabilities from making it into mobile releases, whenever possible.

How Mariana Trench Works

Regarding how MT works, Facebook explained that the tool analyzes “data flow” from “source” (the point of origin of data, such as user credentials) to “sink” (the destination methods using that data). It then spots the bugs and generates alarms.

Describing its functionality on MT’s documentation website, Facebook stated,

A flow from sources to sinks indicate that for example user passwords may get logged into a file, which is not desirable and is called as an “issue” under the context of Mariana Trench. Mariana Trench is designed to automatically discover such issues.

The following video demonstrates Mt running on a sample app.

With MT, it becomes easier to “flag potential issues on pull requests” before proceeding to the production phase.

Although the tool may raise more false positives, Facebook considers it a better security approach. Nonetheless, users can always review and identify the true positives by sorting the results according to different criteria.

Facebook has released MT on GitHub for anyone to use.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has open-sourced a security tool. It also released Pysa – a static code analyzer working on Python that Facebook used as an Instagram security tool.

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