Dec 062015
 December 6, 2015  Posted by at 10:36 pm android, backup, documentation, security Tagged with: , , ,  3 Responses »

For those unfamiliar: SMSSecure (now called Silence) is a text messaging application that supports encryption. It has exceptional integration on your phone and will handle your non-encrypted friends acquaintances texts as well.
I recommend using fdroid to install it. F-droid is a Free Software repository for Android.

UPDATE: You can now export an encrypted copy of Silence. This export includes your encryption keys. From your old phones Silence “app”lication, under the three horizontal “…” -> “Import / Export” -> “Export encrypted backup”. This exports to the phones /sdcard/SilenceExport or from mtp “mtp://[usb:xxx,xxx]/Internal storage/SilenceExport”. Copy this directory to the new phone, to the equivalent path (/sdcard/). Install Silence on the new phone. In my experience the first-run import prompt didn’t work so I had to do it manually. Click the three horizontal “…” -> “Import / Export” -> “Restore encrypted backup”. Your done!

I wanted to do this transfer using mtp but neither thunar or nautilus could “see” the SilenceExport directory. I had to do the following:
plug in old phone and copy the export to my laptop:
adb pull /sdcard/SilenceExport/
plug in the new phone:
adb push SilenceExport/
Remember you have to authorize your laptop from the phone.


When moving to a new phone you can export a plain text copy of all your sms texts for import on the new phone. This is fine but has many drawbacks. The export feature of smssecure does not export a users encryption keys. Here are instructions on doing this yourself. Its really not as bad as it might seem and is worth doing to avoid re-keying with every friend you text with. You can also avoid exporting sensitive txt’s to plain-text.

Install SMSSecure on the new phone.
You will need adb access to both phones.

Enable developer options by going into Settings -> About phone -> then press “Build number” 7 times.

Enable adb access under Settings -> Developer options -> Android debugging.

Allow adb root access from “developer options -> Root access” “Apps and ADB”. Otherwise you will get a permission error like so:

shell@ville:/ $ su -
Permission denied

Also, be sure your computer can see the phone:
[jason@local ~] $ adb devices
List of devices attached
393520931D5B00EC device

    If usb is broken you can use ADB over the network. Enable it under Developer options -> Android debugging -> ADB over network. Connect to your local wireless first and take out your sim card before enabling. Otherwise your phone will be fully reachable over the cell network/public internet.

    Now connect to the phone over the network:
    [jason@local ~] $ adb connect

    You can continue as if it was plugged in directly…
    To disconnect from the phone use this:
    [jason@local ~] $ adb disconnect

I wasn’t able to directly copy the smssecure directory to my computer. It errors with zero files transferred:

[jason@local ~] $ adb pull /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/ org.smssecure.smssecure-balz
pull: building file list...
0 files pulled. 0 files skipped.

First I copy it to the sdcard of the old phone:

[jason@local ~] $ adb shell
shell@crespo:/ $ su -
root@crespo:/ # cp -rv /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/ /sdcard/

Copy the smssecure data from your old phone /sdcard/ to your local computer:

[jason@local ~] $ adb pull /sdcard/org.smssecure.smssecure/ org.smssecure.smssecure

Now plugin the new phone

Next, we will copy the org.smssecure.smssecure directory to the new phone:
Note: I attempted to copy directly to the new phone at /data/data but there was a permission denied:

[jason@local ~] $ adb push org.smssecure.smssecure/ /data/data/
push: org.smssecure.smssecure/databases/messages.db-journal -> /data/data/databases/messages.db-journal
failed to copy 'org.smssecure.smssecure/databases/messages.db-journal' to '/data/data/databases/messages.db-journal': Permission denied

Instead copy it to the /sdcard/ of the new phone, first:

[jason@local ~] $ adb push org.smssecure.smssecure/ /sdcard/org.smssecure.smssecure

Before we proceed lets check what permissions the org.smssecure.smssecure directory is currently set to (from the phones shell). In this case its chown u0_a63.u0_a63 and chmod 755:

root@crespo:/ # ls -ld /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/
drwxr-xr-x u0_a63   u0_a63            2015-12-06 21:35

Keep note of this for later.

Using the new phone’s root shell you will delete the existing (un-used) directory and copy your smssecure directory (with all your text’s) from sdcard to /data/data:

[jason@local ~] $ adb shell
shell@crespo:/ $ su -
root@crespo:/ # 
root@crespo:/ # rm -fr /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/
root@crespo:/ # cp -rv /sdcard/org.smssecure.smssecure  /data/data/

Note: If you try using move (mv) instead of copy (cp) and your sdcard is on a separate partition you will get this error:
root@maguro:/ # mv /sdcard/org.smssecure.smssecure/ /data/data/
failed on '/sdcard/org.smssecure.smssecure/' - Cross-device link

Back to permissions:
After the data is copied to the new phone the directory and file permissions will be wrong (owned by root):

root@crespo:/ # ls -l /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/       
drwxrwx--- root     root              2015-12-06 21:35 app_parts
drwxrwx--- root     root              2015-12-06 21:35 databases
drwxrwx--- root     root              2015-12-06 21:35 files
lrwxrwxrwx install  install           2015-12-06 15:07 lib -> /data/app-lib/org.smssecure.smssecure-1
drwxrwx--- root     root              2015-12-06 21:35 shared_prefs

We need to change ownership to user and group. In my case I need to change it to u0_a63. Android’s chown doesn’t work as expected:

root@crespo:/ # chown -R u0_a63.u0_a63 /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/
No such user '-R'

Unfortunately, android sucks and chown is broken so we must get creative. Like any puzzle, its simple once you know the answer :-)

root@crespo:/ # find /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/ -exec chown u0_a63.u0_a63 {} \;

Luckily, chmod works ok:

chmod -R 755 /data/data/org.smssecure.smssecure/

Be sure to reboot your phone.
Note: My SMSSecure disappeared and I needed to re-install. Everything was there after I re-installed and it survived subsequent reboots.