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 April 23, 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 April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) The future of Aereo, an online service that provides over-the-air TV channels, hinges on a battle with broadcasters that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Aereo Takes on Broadcast TV Titans in Supreme Court Today

Aereo Takes on Broadcast TV Titans in Supreme Court Today

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) Aereo heads to the Supreme Court today to fight for its right to stream broadcast TV over the Internet -- against broadcasters who say the start-up infringes upon copyright law. TheStreet Deputy Managing Editor Leon Lazaroff explains the importance of the case in the TV industry and details what the outcome of it could mean for broadcasters and for cloud storage services -- as Aereo allows its subscribers to not just watch live TV shows but also store content to a DVR in the cloud. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) The light-field photography engineers at Lytro unveiled their next innovation: a professional DSLR-like camera called "Illum." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Netflix To Raise Prices For New Subscribers

Netflix To Raise Prices For New Subscribers

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2014) Netflix executives say they don't think a $1 or $2 price hike will hurt the service, and they have their sites set on overtaking HBO. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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