Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Professor uncovers potential issues with apps built for Android systems

Date:
October 13, 2011
Source:
Syracuse University
Summary:
Experts are concerned with potential issues with mobile applications (commonly referred to as apps) written for the Android system using the WebView platform.

Wenliang Du, professor of computer science in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (LCS), has had his paper accepted to be presented at the 27th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference, on potential issues with mobile applications (commonly referred to as apps) written for the Android system using the WebView platform.

Currently, in the Android market, 86 percent of the top 20 most downloaded apps in 10 diverse categories use WebView. With the goal of creating dynamic apps, WebView has enabled developers to embed browsers in their apps allowing users to have a more customized experience that provides opportunities to interact with social media, personal email and other app users. However, Du has discovered that the use of WebView opens app developers and users to potential risks.

There are two major issues addressed in his paper:

  1. Which apps to trust. There are a limited number of web browsers on the Internet (i.e. Firefox, Explorer, Safari, etc.). As a result, users of these browsers can be reasonably assured that they are protected from malicious content. However, WebView allows developers to embed browsers in their apps creating thousands browser applications on mobile platforms and there is no way to determine which apps are trustworthy. Malicious app developers could create apps that steal or modify users' information in their online accounts, such as Facebook
  2. Dealing with losing the protection of the sandbox. Internet browsers on computers have safeguards, known as the sandbox, that protect user information and prevent personal information from unknowingly being shared throughout the web. As apps have become more dynamic, those safeguards can often impede some of the desired functionality a developer wishes to create. As a result, app developers have slowly begun opening up holes in the protective sandbox to provide a better user experience but as a result user information is no longer as secure.

"In industry, developers are usually carried away by the fancy features they create for their products; they often forget about or underestimate the security problems caused by those features," says Du. "This has happened many times in the history of computing. The design of WebView in Android is just another example of this."

Du has submitted a proposal to Google to explore whether there are ways to preserve the nice features of WebView and at the same time make it secure. He and his graduate students are also planning on exploring whether this issue may also affect other smartphone and tablet platforms.

A PhD student, Tongbo Luo, who is currently working with Du on an NSF cybersecurity research grant, had the initial idea to explore weaknesses in the Android system. Luo had taken Du's courses in computer security and Internet security where students explored both how to identify weaknesses in operating systems and applications as well as how hackers might take advantage of these weaknesses.

Du is passionate about preparing his students to apply the right amount of skepticism to new product introductions. "The goal of both of my security courses is for students to learn take a look at a system or new technology and ask themselves, 'Is this risky?'"

In spring 2011 both Du and Luo participated in a course on the Android system taught by another LCS professor Heng Yin. As part of this course, Luo chose to explore weaknesses in Android apps that use WebView. Applying lessons from Du's security courses both Luo and Du were able to uncover the potential risks of this rapidly expanding technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Syracuse University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Syracuse University. "Professor uncovers potential issues with apps built for Android systems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013162940.htm>.
Syracuse University. (2011, October 13). Professor uncovers potential issues with apps built for Android systems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013162940.htm
Syracuse University. "Professor uncovers potential issues with apps built for Android systems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111013162940.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) If you've ever watched "Back to the Future Part II" and wanted to get your hands on a hoverboard, well, you might soon be in luck. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple Enters Mobile Payment Business

Apple Enters Mobile Payment Business

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Apple is making a strategic bet with the launch of Apple Pay, the mobile pay service aimed at turning your iPhone into your wallet. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins