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Communications of the ACM

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TaintDroid: An Information Flow Tracking System for Real-Time Privacy Monitoring on Smartphones


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Today's smartphone operating systems frequently fail to provide users with adequate control over and visibility into how third-party applications use their privacy-sensitive data. We address these shortcomings with TaintDroid, an efficient, systemwide dynamic taint tracking and analysis system capable of simultaneously tracking multiple sources of sensitive data. TaintDroid provides real-time analysis by leveraging Android's virtualized execution environment. Using TaintDroid to monitor the behavior of 30 popular third-party Android applications, we found 68 instances of misappropriation of users' location and device identification information across 20 applications. Monitoring sensitive data with TaintDroid provides informed use of third-party applications for phone users and valuable input for smartphone security service firms seeking to identify misbehaving applications.

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1. Introduction

A key feature of modern smartphone platforms is a centralized service for downloading third-party applications. The convenience to users and developers of such "app stores" has made mobile devices more fun and useful, and has led to an explosion of development. Many of these applications combine data from remote cloud services with information from local sensors such as a GPS receiver, camera, microphone, and accelerometer. Applications often have legitimate reasons for accessing this privacy-sensitive data, but users would also like assurances that their data is used properly.


 

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