A Sudy of Android Application Security

Topics: Java, Bytecode, Source code Pages: 39 (12993 words) Published: December 10, 2012
A Study of Android Application Security
William Enck, Damien Octeau, Patrick McDaniel, and Swarat Chaudhuri Systems and Internet Infrastructure Security Laboratory Department of Computer Science and Engineering The Pennsylvania State University {enck, octeau, mcdaniel, swarat}@cse.psu.edu Abstract The fluidity of application markets complicate smartphone security. Although recent efforts have shed light on particular security issues, there remains little insight into broader security characteristics of smartphone applications. This paper seeks to better understand smartphone application security by studying 1,100 popular free Android applications. We introduce the ded decompiler, which recovers Android application source code directly from its installation image. We design and execute a horizontal study of smartphone applications based on static analysis of 21 million lines of recovered code. Our analysis uncovered pervasive use/misuse of personal/phone identifiers, and deep penetration of advertising and analytics networks. However, we did not find evidence of malware or exploitable vulnerabilities in the studied applications. We conclude by considering the implications of these preliminary findings and offer directions for future analysis. ingly desire it, markets are not in a position to provide security in more than a superficial way [30]. The lack of a common definition for security and the volume of applications ensures that some malicious, questionable, and vulnerable applications will find their way to market. In this paper, we broadly characterize the security of applications in the Android Market. In contrast to past studies with narrower foci, e.g., [14, 12], we consider a breadth of concerns including both dangerous functionality and vulnerabilities, and apply a wide range of analysis techniques. In this, we make two primary contributions: • We design and implement a Dalvik decompilier, ded. ded recovers an application’s Java source solely from its installation image by inferring lost types, performing DVM-to-JVM bytecode retargeting, and translating class and method structures. • We analyze 21 million LOC retrieved from the top 1,100 free applications in the Android Market using automated tests and manual inspection. Where possible, we identify root causes and posit the severity of discovered vulnerabilities. Our popularity-focused security analysis provides insight into the most frequently used applications. Our findings inform the following broad observations. 1. Similar to past studies, we found wide misuse of privacy sensitive information—particularly phone identifiers and geographic location. Phone identifiers, e.g., IMEI, IMSI, and ICC-ID, were used for everything from “cookie-esque” tracking to accounts numbers. 2. We found no evidence of telephony misuse, background recording of audio or video, abusive connections, or harvesting lists of installed applications. 3. Ad and analytic network libraries are integrated with 51% of the applications studied, with Ad Mob (appearing in 29.09% of apps) and Google Ads (appearing in 18.72% of apps) dominating. Many applications include more than one ad library.



The rapid growth of smartphones has lead to a renaissance for mobile services. Go-anywhere applications support a wide array of social, financial, and enterprise services for any user with a cellular data plan. Application markets such as Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market provide point and click access to hundreds of thousands of paid and free applications. Markets streamline software marketing, installation, and update—therein creating low barriers to bring applications to market, and even lower barriers for users to obtain and use them. The fluidity of the markets also presents enormous security challenges. Rapidly developed and deployed applications [40], coarse permission systems [16], privacyinvading behaviors [14, 12, 21], malware [20, 25, 38], and limited security models [36,...
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