Understanding Security in Windows Phone 7 Platform

by Vipul Vipul Patel

Application developers targeting the Windows Phone platform should be aware of the security model in the revamped mobile platform from Microsoft. This article provides an overview of the security model changes in the Windows Phone platform.


Unlike the Windows Mobile development platform, the new Windows Phone platform from Microsoft is completely different from its predecessor. Application developers targeting Windows Phone platform should be aware of the security model surrounding the platform so that they can develop applications that fit the guidelines.

Security Model

Windows Phone employs a resource capability-driven model. An example of a resource capability can be GPS, camera, microphone, SMS or sensor for which privacy and security concerns exists.

By privacy and security concern, we mean that the user should be aware of the use of the above mentioned resources by the application and the user must consent to the use.

This control is necessary to avoid rogue applications from conducting malicious activity like transmitting user data, which can be used for malicious purposes.

All Windows Phone application projects declare the capabilities the application wants in the application manifest file called WMAppManifest.xml. This file can be located under the properties note of the Solution file.

Solution Explorer
Figure 1: Solution Explorer

By default, the WMAppManifest.xml looks as under

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

<Deployment xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/windowsphone/2009/deployment" AppPlatformVersion="7.0">
  <App xmlns="" ProductID="{d6527e1c-159b-49c4-9fb3-c75a5bff222f}" Title="WindowsPhoneSecurityDemo" RuntimeType="Silverlight" Version="" Genre="apps.normal" Author="WindowsPhoneSecurityDemo
author" Description="Sample description" Publisher="WindowsPhoneSecurityDemo">
    <IconPath IsRelative="true" IsResource="false">ApplicationIcon.png</IconPath>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_GAMERSERVICES"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_IDENTITY_DEVICE"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_IDENTITY_USER"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_LOCATION"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_MEDIALIB"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_MICROPHONE"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_NETWORKING"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_PHONEDIALER"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_PUSH_NOTIFICATION"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_SENSORS"/>
      <Capability Name="ID_CAP_WEBBROWSERCOMPONENT"/>
      <DefaultTask Name ="_default" NavigationPage="MainPage.xaml"/>
      <PrimaryToken TokenID="WindowsPhoneSecurityDemoToken" TaskName="_default">
          <BackgroundImageURI IsRelative="true" IsResource="false">Background.png</BackgroundImageURI>

We can see that by default, any application declares the following capabilities.

Capability ID

Capability description


Access to Xbox live gamer services


Access to IMEI, Device phone number.


Access to user information


Access to user's location


Access to media library


Access to device microphone


Access to network services. This has to be disclosed since user can be charged if roaming


Access to the ability to place phone calls


Access to push notifications from internet service


Access to device sensors


Access to browsing components.

Since by default, all capabilities are declared, it can make an application less desirable when it is available in the Marketplace. So application developers need to remove the capabilities the application does not need.

If you do not declare a capability and use it in the application, the application will crash with UnauthorizedAccessException when attempting to use that capability.

Capability Detection Tool

The Windows Phone SDK (with January update) ships with a useful utility, which can look into the code and determine which capabilities are needed by the application, so that the application manifest file only needs to declare the needed capability and not every capability available.

The Capability tool is located at %ProgramFiles (x86)%\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Phone\v7.0\Tools\CapDetect and is a file called CapabilityDetection.exe.

The syntax for the tool is

CapabilityDetection.exe Rules.xml PathtoXAPFile

The tool will list the capabilities the application needs and you can then update the projects's WMAppManifest.xml file to include only the tool listed capabilities.


In this article, we learned about the capability-driver security model of the Windows Phone platform. I hope you have found this information useful.

This article was originally published on Friday Jun 3rd 2011
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