Spying on spy apps: Researchers of the University of Luxembourg receive Google grant

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Researchers of the University of Luxembourg's Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT), together with their colleagues from Pennsylvania State University (USA) and Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany) have received a Google Faculty Research Award endowed with 50.000 U.S. dollars. Their promising research results focus on Android Security, and aim at identifying malicious applications on smartphones and other devices. Android is an operating system designed for smartphones and tablet computers.

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19/03/2013 |
  • LuxembourgUni  -GoogleGrant

Jointly, scientists of the three institutions are developing automated application analysis software to aid Google and other organizations in their quest to eliminate malicious applications from the software markets. “Our software plots a detailed map illustrating how Android apps communicate – both internally and amongst other applications,” says Alexandre Bartel, PhD candidate at SnT and working on the awarded project. The map is used to identify malicious behavior and unusual or unintended communication patterns. For instance, it will visualize if a social app that is denied access to localization data can instead retrieve it without authorization from e. g. weather apps installed on the same device. As Dr. Jacques Klein, research scientist at SnT, adds: “Google and the security community have established methods to analyze individual apps, but they still have to develop approaches that detect malicious applications working in concert or abusing features of the legitimate applications on the phone.”

“Android is the most widespread smartphone operating system, accounting for 70% global smartphone market share”, says Prof. Dr. Yves Le Traon, Principal Investigator of the project and head of the Security Design and Validation Research Group (SERVAL) at SnT pointing out how important research in this field is: “More than 10,000 new apps are available every month in the Google Play store alone. However, hackers around the world have taken advantage of its popularity by placing malicious applications within the Android market.  Unsuspecting users downloading these applications can fall victim to privacy violations, data corruption or theft, or the misuse of the phone itself. “

Google grants approximately 200 Faculty Research Awards a year funding a variety of computer science-related topics. The grants cover tuition and travel for a graduate student and provide faculty and students the opportunity to work directly with Google scientists and engineers. In this round 102 successful proposals were selected from a total of 600 proposals from 46 different countries.

About SnT: Launched in 2009 by the University of Luxembourg, SnT is an internationally leading research facility that together with external partners establishes Luxembourg as a European centre of excellence and innovation for secure, reliable, and trustworthy information and communications technologies (ICT). To create great impact, SnT follows an interdisciplinary research approach, taking not only technical aspects into account but also addressing business, human, and regulatory issues. SnT provides a platform for interaction and collaboration between university researchers and external partners. www.uni.lu/snt

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