Feeds

Boffins tag Android app privacy fails

Your pocket is leaking data

Website security in corporate America

A group of researchers from universities in Luxembourg, Germany and the US say they can dramatically improve the detection of privacy leaks between Android processes.

The researchers, led by Li Li of the University of Luxembourg, are looking for ways to identify apps that send private data outside the app's own domain without the user's consent (often by accident), via intra-component leaks, inter-component communications (ICC), and inter-application communication (IAC).

They claim that the tool they describe in this paper at Arxiv detected 88.3 per cent of inter-component privacy leaks, and when used in combination with ApkCombiner, also detected inter-application privacy leaks.

As noted in the paper, privacy leaks have been the subject of lots of academic research into Android, with Yajin Zhou a noted discoverer of different kinds of leaks, including this one reported last year.

The Android components that can contribute to leaks include calls like startActivity, startActivityForResult, query, startService and so on.

The Li Li paper outlines a technique called Static Taint Analysis, using a tool called IccTA that analyses inter-component and inter-app links. IccTA takes existing tools Epicc (from Pennsylvania State University, whose Damien Octeau and Patrick McDaniel contributed to the study) and FlowDroid (the German contribution, with Steven Arzt, Siegfried Rasthofer and Eric Bodden from EC SPRIDE), and extends them into the Android environment.

Their aim is to look both at how an app behaves both on its own, and how it interacts with other apps: “IccTA enables a data-flow analysis between two components and adequately models the lifecycle and callback methods to detect ICC based privacy leaks,” the researchers write.

“When running IccTA on three thousands applications randomly selected from the Google Play store as well other third-party markets, it detects 130 inter-component based privacy leaks in 12 applications.”

The good news, The Register notes, must be that only a dozen apps out of the 3,000 tested actually revealed privacy leaks.

Li Li's colleagues at the University of Luxembourg, Alexandre Bartel, Jacques Klein, Yves Le Traon, also took part in the project. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.