Privacy preserving controls for Android applications
Android is currently the most widely used mobile operating system. The permission model in Android governs the resource access privileges of applications. The permission model however is amenable to various attacks, including re-delegation attacks, background snooping attacks and disclosure of private information. This thesis is aimed at understanding, analyzing and performing forensics on application behavior. This research sheds light on several security aspects, including the use of inter-process communications (IPC) to perform permission re-delegation attacks.
Android permission system is more of app-driven rather than user controlled, which means it is the applications that specify their permission requirement and the only thing which the user can do is choose not to install a particular application based on the requirements. Given the all or nothing choice, users succumb to pressures and needs to accept permissions requested. This thesis proposes a couple of ways for providing the users finer grained control of application privileges. The same methods can be used to evade the Permission Re-delegation attack.
This thesis also proposes and implements a novel methodology in Android that can be used to control the access privileges of an Android application, taking into consideration the context of the running application. This application-context based permission usage is further used to analyze a set of sample applications. We found the evidence of applications spoofing or divulging user sensitive information such as location information, contact information, phone id and numbers, in the background. Such activities can be used to track users for a variety of privacy-intrusive purposes. We have developed implementations that minimize several forms of privacy leaks that are routinely done by stock applications.