Software analyzes apps for malicious behavior

March 7, 2014
Software analyzes apps for malicious behavior
Apps and tablets are potential data thieves. With new software, computer scientists from Saarland University want to identify such malicious apps already in the app store. Credit: Oliver Dietze

Last year at the end of July the Russian software company "Doctor Web" detected several malicious apps in the app store "Google Play". Downloaded on a smartphone, the malware installed—without the permission of the user—additional programs which sent expensive text messages to premium services. Although Doctor Web, according to its own statement, informed Google immediately, the malicious apps were still available for download for several days. Doctor Web estimates that in this way up to 25,000 smartphones were used fraudulently.

Computer scientists from the German Saarland University have now developed software which can discover such already in the app store. The software detects pieces of code where the app accesses sensitive data and where data is sent from the mobile device. If the software detects a connection between such a "source" and such a "sink", it reports that as suspect behavior. To give an example of such a malicious source-sink combination, Erik Derr explains: "Your address book is read; hundreds of instructions later and without your permission an SMS is sent or a website is visited." Derr is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Computer Science and does research at the Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA), only a few yards away.

To identify a functional relation between source and sink, the computer scientists from Saarbrücken use new methods of information flow analysis. As input they provide suspicious combinations of accesses on the application programming interface. As the software needs a lot of computational power and storage, it runs on a separate server. "So far we have tested up to 3000 apps with it. The analyzes them fast enough that the approach can also be used in practice," Derr says.

Explore further: Wisdom of app stores: Early identification of malicious Android apps from Google Play

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Samsung to disable Note 7 phones in recall effort

December 9, 2016

Samsung announced Friday it would disable its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in the US market to force remaining owners to stop using the devices, which were recalled for safety reasons.

Swiss unveil stratospheric solar plane

December 7, 2016

Just months after two Swiss pilots completed a historic round-the-world trip in a Sun-powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere.

Solar panels repay their energy 'debt': study

December 6, 2016

The climate-friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.