This post documents my attempt to get libsodium-jni with SealedBox support working in an Android Studio project. It assumes you already have an Android Studio project up and running (and that you’ve accepted all the licenses!) that you wish to add libsodium to. I am running Pop!_OS 19.10, but this should work on Ubuntu 19.10 and related distros.

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID:	Ubuntu
Description:	Pop!_OS 19.10
Release:	19.10
Codename:	eoan

Update 19 Apr, 2020: Be careful with these instructions if you are also developing C projects that rely on sodium.h. Installing libsodium from git as described here will conflict with installing it from your distro’s libsodium23 and libsodium-dev packages.


I was working on an Android application that required the use of libsodium’s SealedBox. A public private key pair is first generated out of band and then the public key is communicated by some means to the mobile device. The mobile device needs to take some piece of information, encrypt it with the public key using SealedBox, and return the encrypted blob.

The nacl python module is great at this, but there were no easy answers for Android. I am not a cryptographer which is why I wanted to stick with a misuse-resistant library like libsodium. I know there are many alternatives, but the hope is that this library should make it hard for me to mess up.

I looked around for ways to integrate libsodium with Android and all signs pointed to kalium-jni, which is now called libsodium-jni presumably to avoid confusion with kalium. Libsodium-jni promises to add a Java JNI binding for NaCl that can be used in Android APKs. Sounds great! But there were a few problems.

First, the project as is does not support SealedBox. This means I couldn’t just use the pre-built binary in the Sonartype OSS repo, I had to build it myself and include SealedBox somehow. I decided to make my own fork and pull in the SealedBox implementation made by om26er from the implement-sealed-box branch.

Second, the instructions for building the project were not a good fit for my workflow. The instructions are based around a one-size-fits-all script that seems to just force the build to work with no regard for the individual host configuration. I’m not knocking the original dev, I realize this isn’t an easy problem to solve and it probably helps with build issues, but it wasn’t going to work for me. For example, it relies on a file that overwrites environment variables and may not be correct:

export JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java-8-oracle
export ANDROID_HOME=`pwd`/installs/android-sdk

I’m not using the Oracle JDK, so this wouldn’t work for me. Also, the script just adds repositories and installs unrelated software:

sudo apt-get -qq update && sudo apt-get -y -qq install python-software-properties software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository -y "deb $(lsb_release -sc) universe"
sudo apt-get -qq update

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:git-core/ppa -y
sudo apt-get -qq update

sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:saiarcot895/myppa
sudo apt-get -qq update
echo debconf apt-fast/maxdownloads string 16 | sudo debconf-set-selections
echo debconf apt-fast/dlflag boolean true | sudo debconf-set-selections
echo debconf apt-fast/aptmanager string apt-get | sudo debconf-set-selections
sudo apt-get -y -qq install apt-fast 

I don’t need apt-fast, thanks. Just tell me the dependencies and I’ll sort them out on my own. So the next thing I needed to do was discover what the true dependencies were and install only those.

Just tell me how to get it working!

I’m assuming you are running Linux (Ubuntu 19.10 or similar), have Android Studio installed, and already have an up and running project to import libsodium into.

Install Dependencies

As far as I could tell, the true dependencies are:

  • git
  • autoconf
  • automake
  • build-essential
  • autogen
  • libtool
  • gettext-base
  • gettext
  • libpcre3-dev
  • libpcre++-dev
  • pkg-config
  • maven
  • lldb
  • clang
  • swig

I am unsure of wget, bzip2, and unzip, but it can’t hurt. The copy-pasteable command is:

sudo apt-get install wget git autoconf automake build-essential autogen libtool gettext-base gettext bzip2 libpcre3-dev libpcre++-dev pkg-config unzip maven lldb clang swig

Gradle is left out because we will use the version that comes with your project’s gradlew wrapper script.

Next, you should install the Android NDK for Linux. The instructions on that page are pretty easy to follow if you’re using the SDK Manager.

And that’s it, you’re ready to start building.

Build the AAR

First, clone the repository. You can use my fork which already has the SealedBox included or you can fork it and pull it yourself.

$ git clone
Cloning into 'libsodium-jni'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 48, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (48/48), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (27/27), done.
remote: Total 4320 (delta 9), reused 33 (delta 6), pack-reused 4272
Receiving objects: 100% (4320/4320), 1.48 MiB | 4.16 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (2078/2078), done.
$ cd libsodium-jni/

Next, you’ll want to initialize the libsodium submodule and set it to the latest stable version.

$ git submodule init
Submodule 'libsodium' ( registered for path 'libsodium'
$ git submodule sync
Synchronizing submodule url for 'libsodium'
$ git submodule update
Cloning into '/home/user/Documents/github/libsodium-jni/libsodium'...
Submodule path 'libsodium': checked out '6bece9c8c45259998f83ce243b1933e76c03f545'
$ git branch
* (HEAD detached at 6bece9c8)
$ git checkout master
Previous HEAD position was 6bece9c8 Relax most __attribute__ ((nonnull)) to allow 0-length inputs to be NULL.
Switched to branch 'master'
Your branch is up to date with 'origin/master'.
$ git checkout stable
Branch 'stable' set up to track remote branch 'stable' from 'origin'.
Switched to a new branch 'stable'
$ git pull origin stable
 * branch              stable     -> FETCH_HEAD
Already up to date.

That last pull wasn’t necessary but I’m paranoid. I commit the latest libsodium stable back to the repo, you can too if you have your own fork. It’s not really necessary though, you can just pull the latest libsodium whenever you want to rebuild.

Next, we want to generate the source from SWIG. Unfortunately, the version of gradle in the Ubuntu repos is out of date and won’t work properly, which is why I didn’t include it as a dependency earlier.

$ gradle --version
Gradle 4.4.1

Build time:   2012-12-21 00:00:00 UTC
Revision:     none

Groovy:       2.4.16
Ant:          Apache Ant(TM) version 1.10.6 compiled on July 11 2019
JVM:          12.0.2 (Private Build 12.0.2+9-Ubuntu-119.04)
OS:           Linux 5.3.0-7629-generic amd64

However, we can use the gradle wrapper script that is found in the root folder of any Android project. I committed it to my repo, so you can use that if you like or you can copy in your own.

If you want to copy your own, you’ll need the gradlew file as well as the gradle/wrapper/gradle-wrapper.jar and gradle/wrapper/ files. Copy the script, jar file, and properties file to the root of the libsodium-jni folder. Make sure you preserve the gradle/wrapper/ subfolder path for the jar and properties files.

Now we have a more up to date gradle we can use to build the rest of the project.

$ ./gradlew --version

Gradle 5.6.4

Build time:   2019-11-01 20:42:00 UTC
Revision:     dd870424f9bd8e195d614dc14bb140f43c22da98

Kotlin:       1.3.41
Groovy:       2.5.4
Ant:          Apache Ant(TM) version 1.9.14 compiled on March 12 2019
JVM:          12.0.2 (Private Build 12.0.2+9-Ubuntu-119.04)
OS:           Linux 5.3.0-7629-generic amd64


Next, you’ll want to generate the SWIG source.

$ ./gradlew generateSWIGsource --full-stacktrace
Starting a Gradle Daemon, 1 incompatible Daemon could not be reused, use --status for details

1 actionable task: 1 executed

After that we can build libsodium itself. I have 6 cores, but you should adjust the number in make -j6 to your number of cores.

$ cd libsodium/
$ ./configure --disable-soname-versions --prefix=`pwd`/libsodium-host --libdir=`pwd`/libsodium-host/lib
... lots of configure text ...
$ make clean
... lots of make text ...
$ make -j6
... lots of make text ...
$ make install
... lots of make text...

Now we build the ndk version of libsodium. You’ll need to set the ANDROID_NDK_HOME and JAVA_HOME environment variables. Make sure you include the version number for the ndk path.

Here is how I set up my Android paths in my .bashrc:

export ANDROID_HOME=$HOME/Android/Sdk
export ANDROID_NDK_HOME=$ANDROID_HOME/ndk/21.0.6113669/
export PATH=$PATH:$ANDROID_HOME/emulator
export PATH=$PATH:$ANDROID_HOME/tools/bin
export PATH=$PATH:$ANDROID_HOME/platform-tools

Now we can build libsodium for the Android NDK. My openjdk Java home is located at /usr/lib/jvm/default-java/, but yours may vary. The output AAR file can be found at build/outputs/aar/libsodium-jni-release.aar.

$ export JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/default-java/
$ ./gradlew build --full-stacktrace
70 actionable tasks: 25 executed, 45 up-to-date

At this point we can import the AAR into Android Studio. There are a few other steps that will allow us to use libsodium on the host which may make development easier, if desired. If you don’t care about this you can skip down to the next section.

Next we build object and add it to our host library. This script feels sketchy since it asks for sudo privileges, but you can see below that it’s pretty benign.

$ cd jni/
$ ./ 
#!/bin/bash -ev
if uname -a | grep -q -i darwin; then
  if [ ! -d $destlib ]; then
      sudo mkdir $destlib
  sudo ldconfig
[sudo] password for user: 
echo $jnilib
echo $destlib
echo $destlib/$jnilib 

#sudo cp /usr/local/lib/libsodium.* /usr/lib


gcc -I../libsodium/src/libsodium/include -I${JAVA_HOME}/include -I${JAVA_HOME}/include/linux -I${JAVA_HOME}/include/darwin sodium_wrap.c -shared -fPIC -L${SODIUM_LIB_DIR} -L/usr/local/lib -L/usr/lib -lsodium -o $jnilib
sudo rm -f $destlib/$jnilib
sudo cp $jnilib $destlib
sudo cp ${SODIUM_LIB_DIR}/ /usr/lib
$ cd ../

Finally, we get to the Maven build. I had issues with javadoc so I just skipped that part. If I want the docs I’ll read the source files.

$ mv -q clean install
[ERROR] Failed to execute goal org.apache.maven.plugins:maven-javadoc-plugin:3.2.0:jar (attach-sources) on project libsodium-jni: MavenReportException: Error while generating Javadoc: 
[ERROR] Exit code: 1 - javadoc: error - The code being documented uses modules but the packages defined in are in the unnamed module.
$ mvn -Dmaven.javadoc.skip=true -q clean install

Results :

Tests run: 97, Failures: 0, Errors: 0, Skipped: 0

We get a bunch of warnings, but no errors. The compilation has tests but you can explicitly run more tests if you’d like.

$ ./ 
#!/bin/bash -ev

echo "running single test to find stacktrace if track down JNI loading error"
running single test to find stacktrace if track down JNI loading error
mvn --quiet clean test -Dtest=RandomTest#testProducesDifferentDefaultRandomBytes
WARNING: An illegal reflective access operation has occurred
WARNING: Illegal reflective access by$ReflectUtils$1 (file:/usr/share/maven/lib/guice.jar) to method java.lang.ClassLoader.defineClass(java.lang.String,byte[],int,int,
WARNING: Please consider reporting this to the maintainers of$ReflectUtils$1
WARNING: Use --illegal-access=warn to enable warnings of further illegal reflective access operations
WARNING: All illegal access operations will be denied in a future release

 T E S T S
Running org.libsodium.jni.crypto.RandomTest
Mar 20, 2020 9:57:23 AM org.libsodium.jni.NaCl <clinit>
INFO: librarypath=/usr/java/packages/lib:/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/jni:/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu:/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu:/usr/lib/jni:/lib:/usr/lib
Tests run: 1, Failures: 0, Errors: 0, Skipped: 0, Time elapsed: 0.073 sec

Results :

Tests run: 1, Failures: 0, Errors: 0, Skipped: 0

#mvn clean test -Dtest=RandomTest#testProducesDifferentDefaultRandomBytes -X

Use the AAR

The steps here are taken straight from the Android developer docs.

First, launch Android Studio and open your project. Now we want to add the compiled AAR to the project. Click File > New > New Module, then Import .JAR/.AAR Package, navigate to the AAR file at /path/to/libsodium-jni/build/outputs/aar/libsodium-jni-release.aar, and you’re done. The following line in your settings.gradle should be added automatically, but you can double check that it’s there:

include ':app', ':libsodium-jni-release'

Additionally, you should add the library as a dependency in the app level build.gradle file.

dependencies {
  implementation project(":libsodium-jni-release")

To use the code in your project you can import what you need and get to work. If you’ve used libsodium wrappers before this should be pretty straightforward.

import org.libsodium.jni.keys.PublicKey;
import org.libsodium.jni.crypto.SealedBox;

I was coming from a python space so the usage was a bit different. You can check the SealedBox source, but basically you have to transform stuff to bytes/string in a more manual way:

For example:

public SealedBox(byte[] publicKey) {
    if (publicKey == null) {
        throw new IllegalArgumentException("Public key must not be null");
    mPublicKey = publicKey;

I could have added a constructor that uses PublicKey but I’m lazy and calling toBytes() on the PublicKey was easy enough. And that’s it, you can now use libsodium and SealedBox in your Android project.