Javascript Obfuscators: Data Protection on the Client

I recently came across an intriguing job advertisement poster used by Konga, a Nigerian E-commerce company which made use of a Javascript obfuscation technique and it gave me the the idea for this article.  The poster contained a snippet of code, and one would have to evaluate its output to get the email address for the job application. Within the snippet, was a small bit of seemingly gibberish code created to obfuscate data. Obfuscate data? Let’s understand the term better.

What is Obfuscation?

Literally, the term obfuscate means to make obscure, unclear, or unintelligible. In software development, it describes a technique of creating source or machine code that is difficult for humans to understand in an attempt to conceal its purpose, values or logic without losing functionality. This ensures  that individuals are unable to easily tamper with or reverse engineer the software. Extensively, there are cases where this technique is used as a puzzle.

Disclaimer: Generally, obfuscating your code isn’t recommended. It rarely protects your code, as these techniques can be reversed eventually using tools such as JSNice .  Also if not done properly, it could cause errors in your code.

Obfuscation Sample

Perhaps you are wondering how this is even possible? Take a look at the code snippet below:
alert(" Season's Greetings from Frontend Universe! ");

The code snippet above simply shows an alert box with the message “Season’s Greetings from Frontend Universe!”.

Interestingly the code below is an obfuscated gibberish-looking version that actually does the same thing. You don’t believe me?
Copy both snippets and try them out in your browser’s console.
゚ω゚ノ= /`m´)ノ ~┻━┻   //*´∇`*/ ['_']; o=(゚ー゚)  =_=3; c=(゚Θ゚) =(゚ー゚)-(゚ー゚); (゚Д゚) =(゚Θ゚)= (o^_^o)/ (o^_^o);(゚Д゚)={゚Θ゚: '_' ,゚ω゚ノ : ((゚ω゚ノ==3) +'_') [゚Θ゚] ,゚ー゚ノ :(゚ω゚ノ+ '_')[o^_^o -(゚Θ゚)] ,゚Д゚ノ:((゚ー゚==3) +'_')[゚ー゚] }; (゚Д゚) [゚Θ゚] =((゚ω゚ノ==3) +'_') [c^_^o];(゚Д゚) ['c'] = ((゚Д゚)+'_') [ (゚ー゚)+(゚ー゚)-(゚Θ゚) ];(゚Д゚) ['o'] = ((゚Д゚)+'_') [゚Θ゚];(゚o゚)=(゚Д゚) ['c']+(゚Д゚) ['o']+(゚ω゚ノ +'_')[゚Θ゚]+ ((゚ω゚ノ==3) +'_') [゚ー゚] + ((゚Д゚) +'_') [(゚ー゚)+(゚ー゚)]+ ((゚ー゚==3) +'_') [゚Θ゚]+((゚ー゚==3) +'_') [(゚ー゚) - (゚Θ゚)]+(゚Д゚) ['c']+((゚Д゚)+'_') [(゚ー゚)+(゚ー゚)]+ (゚Д゚) ['o']+((゚ー゚==3) +'_') [゚Θ゚];(゚Д゚) ['_'] =(o^_^o) [゚o゚] [゚o゚];(゚ε゚)=((゚ー゚==3) +'_') [゚Θ゚]+ (゚Д゚) .゚Д゚ノ+((゚Д゚)+'_') [(゚ー゚) + (゚ー゚)]+((゚ー゚==3) +'_') [o^_^o -゚Θ゚]+((゚ー゚==3) +'_') [゚Θ゚]+ (゚ω゚ノ +'_') [゚Θ゚]; (゚ー゚)+=(゚Θ゚); (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]='\\'; (゚Д゚).゚Θ゚ノ=(゚Д゚+ ゚ー゚)[o^_^o -(゚Θ゚)];(o゚ー゚o)=(゚ω゚ノ +'_')[c^_^o];(゚Д゚) [゚o゚]='\"';(゚Д゚) ['_'] ( (゚Д゚) ['_'] (゚ε゚+(゚Д゚)[゚o゚]+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Θ゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (c^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (o^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Θ゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (o^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((゚ー゚) + (o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (o^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ (c^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (c^_^o)+ ((゚ー゚) + (o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Θ゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (o^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ (c^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((゚ー゚) + (o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ (c^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (c^_^o)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((゚ー゚) + (o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ (c^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Θ゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ ((o^_^o) +(o^_^o))+ (o^_^o)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚Θ゚)+ (゚ー゚)+ ((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ (゚Θ゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+(゚ー゚)+ ((o^_^o) - (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Д゚)[゚ε゚]+((゚ー゚) + (゚Θ゚))+ (゚Θ゚)+ (゚Д゚)[゚o゚]) (゚Θ゚)) ('_');
Good! Now you believe me. This could definitely help make my firebase credentials less obvious. Let’s see how this was done.

Simple Obfuscation Techniques

We will now examine ways to obfuscate Javascript code, each with various levels of sophistication:
Base64 Encoding and Decoding
Base64 is a group of similar binary-to-text encoding schemes that represent binary data in an ASCII string format by translating it into a radix-64 representation.
I do not consider myself very dumb, but this isn’t completely understandable to me. Let’s dig a little deeper then.
Binary-to-text-encoding is simply the encoding of data in plain text usually for the transmission of data via channels that do not support binary. Basically we will be converting the binary equivalent of our code into base 64 which makes it less readable by humans, although decodable with some effort.
Javascript provides two functions that allow us to make such conversions. Let’s see how they work:

btoa()

This function accepts a string of binary data and returns a base-64 encoded ASCII string as shown below:
btoa("FEUniverse")
When you run this snippet, it does the conversion and returns the base-64 equivalent.

atob()

This function accepts a base-64 encoded ASCII string and after decoding it, it returns the originally encoded string of data.
atob("RkVVbml2ZXJzZQ==")
Executing this snippet will return:
“FEUniverse”
Side Note: atob() means ASCII to Binary and btoa() means Binary to ASCII. Learn more here.

Online Obfuscators

There are other online obfuscation tools that take this process a lot further in an attempt to make the decoding process much more difficult. Feel free to check them out.

Further Reading

You can gain further insight into the workings of obfuscation tools by considering this article that explains what happens with Aaencode under the hood.

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