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“These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For”: Retrofitting Android to Protect Data from Imperious Applications

Peter Hornyack, Seungyeop Han, Jaeyeon Jung, Stuart Schechter, and David Wetherall

Abstract

We examine two privacy controls for Android smartphones that empower users to run permission-hungry applications while protecting private data from being exfiltrated:

  1. Covertly substituting shadow data in place of data that the user wants to keep private, and
  2. Blocking network transmissions that contain data the user made available to the application for on-device use only.

We retrofit the Android operating system to implement these two controls for use with unmodified applications. A key challenge of imposing shadowing and exfiltration blocking on existing applications is that these controls could cause side effects that interfere with user-desired functionality. To measure the impact of side effects, we develop an automated testing methodology that records screenshots of application executions both with and without privacy controls, then automatically highlights the visual differences between the different executions. We evaluate our privacy controls on 50 applications from the Android Market, selected from those that were both popular and permission-hungry. We fifind that our privacy controls can successfully reduce the effective permissions of the application without causing side effects for 66% of the tested applications. The remaining 34% of applications implemented user-desired functionality that required violating the privacy requirements our controls were designed to enforce; there was an unavoidable choice between privacy and user-desired functionality.

Details

Publication typeInproceedings
Published inProceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (ACM CCS)
PublisherACM
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