Over 1,300 Android apps scrape personal data regardless of permissions
Smartphone operating systems have ramped up their privacy settings in recent years to let users pick and choose what information apps can get, but it seems those permissions aren’t ironclad. A new study revealed that over 1,300 Android apps can scrape certain personal data anyway, even if a user explicitly denied access to it.
Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) created a controlled environment to test 88,000 apps downloaded from the US Google Play Store. They peeked at what data the apps were sending back, compared it to what users were permitting and - surprise - 1,325 apps were forking over specific user data they shouldn’t have.
Among the test pool were “popular apps from all categories,” according to ICSI’s report.
The researchers disclosed their findings to both the FTC and Google (receiving a bug bounty for their efforts), though the latter stated a fix would only be coming in the full release of Android Q, according to CNET.
What are the loopholes for Android users?
Before you get annoyed at yet another unforeseen loophole, those 1,325 apps didn’t exploit a lone security vulnerability - they used a variety of angles to circumvent permissions and get access to user data, including geolocation, emails, phone numbers, and device-identifying IMEI numbers.
One way apps determined user locations was to get the MAC addresses of connected WiFi base stations from the ARP cache, while another used picture metadata to discover specific location info even if a user didn’t grant the app location permissions. The latter is what the ICSI researchers described as a “side channel” - using a circuitous method to get data.
They also noticed apps using “covert channels” to snag info: third-party code libraries developed by a pair of Chinese companies secretly used the SD card as a storage point for the user’s IMEI number. If a user allowed a single app using either of those libraries access to the IMEI, it was automatically shared with other apps.
Most insidiously, the ICSI researchers found that a certain number of apps were certifiably using these loopholes...but thousands more had the potential to do so. For example, they found 42 apps that accessed a user’s location via MAC address using ioctl system calls - but 12,408 apps had the specific code that would allow them to do the same.
By their own admission in the report, their test system might not have triggered this behaviour - or the app had the required permission anyway and the data transmitted wasn’t seen as suspicious.
But in any case, it will be up to the FTC and Google whether these apps violate the ‘notice and consent’ doctrine required of apps in the US - that they notify users that they’d like to harvest data and require consent before doing so. “ In practical terms, though, these app behaviours may directly lead to privacy violations because they are likely to defy consumers’ expectations,” the ICSI report concludes.
Of course, the report’s scope only includes 88,000 apps - more could be violating permissions without user notice. But crucially, the test pool only contained apps downloaded off the US Google Play Store; it’s unclear if Android apps in other regions are exploiting similar loopholes to scrape user data despite permissions.
Industry: Cyber Security
- DevSecOpp- Security design / review consultant. SC Clearance. London
CH7838 London £70,000 DevSecOpp- Security design / review consultant. DevSecOpp- Security design / review consultant will ensure that newly created, public facing apps are secure by design and by default by aligning them to current / best practice security policies and standards into the design phases. The individual must have a technical software / application development background with specalist experinece in secure architecture design. (Frameworks, processes, best practice etc) Practical experience translating and ensuring that the OWASP top 10, ISO27001, HMG frameworks requirements are reviewed and embedded into project designs which are implemented is essential. Experience working projects through a full development lifecycle is key. You will work along side the design and project teams to idenitfy and mitigate risks throughout the design phases. This is a permanent role. SC clearance is essential as is the ability to get to the London office. (When appropiate #covid) Security DevSecOps consultant. To arrange a discreet call book via https://calendly.com/chris-holt/devsecopp--security-design-review-consultant
- SPLUNK SOC Analyst level 3, London.
SPLUNK SOC Analyst level 3, Must be able to commute to the City of London. Onsite role. Security clearance needed. The SPLUNK SOC Analyst level 3 must have current experience working within a SOC environment with specific experience using a range of tools and techniques to investigate security incidents. Current experience with Splunk is essential. any additional experience Individuals with Elastic Security SIEM are highly desirable. Any of the following certifications are desirable Splunk Phantom certified admin, Splunk Core Certified Power User / Advanced, Splunk Certified Enterprise Security Admin, etc The role will include, but not be limited to working with sophisticated information security tools, investigating security incidents, incident management, technical escalation, process improvement, research into the latest threats, reporting etc The individual MUST currently be living in the UK and be able to achieve UK security clearance. (SC) This is a permanent role To arrange a call with Chris Holt https://calendly.com/chris-holt/arranged-call-with-chris-holt-elastic-siem-engineer-soc Chris.Holt@dclsearch.com
- ISO 27001 & Business Continuity Security Specialist, End User
- United Kingdom
CH7828 ISO 27001 & Business Continuity Security Specialist, End User, £70,000 United Kingdom ISO 27001 & Business Continuity Security Specialist needed to join a Cyber team within an end user. The ISO 27001 & Business Continuity Security Specialist will have end to end responsibility for the information security and Business Continuity management system. ISMS/BCMS. Both from an information security and technical security perspective working alongside the CISO. Experience must include, but not be limited to; a mix of Information Security standards, frameworks, audit principles, controls / policies and the management and use of the technical tooling to achieve compliance. ISO 22301, ISO 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework etc An ideal candidate will be working within an end user environment with a cyber consultancy background. Experience taking a company through accreditation is highly desirable Experience managing internal stakeholders, technical teams and external third parties essential Flexible working, very occasional travel to London office This is an exclusive role to DCL Search & Selection. Looking to interview immediately. https://calendly.com/chris-holt/iso-27001-business-continuity-security-specialis
- PCI- DSS Security Consultant, End User
PCI- DSS Security Consultant needed to join a Cyber team within an end user. The PCI- DSS Security Consultant will have end to end responsibility for PCI - DSS and its continuing certification. Both from an information security and technical security perspective working alongside the CISO. Experience must include, but not be limited to; a mix of Information Security standards, frameworks, audit principles, controls / policies and the management and use of the technical tooling to achieve compliance. PCI objectives / 12 key requirements, OWASP top 10, ISO 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework etc An ideal candidate will be working within an end user environment with a cyber consultancy background. PCI Cloud compliance, specifically someone with experience taking PCI-DSS from on premise into the cloud is HIGHLY desired. However, someone with Solid PCI experience with a strong technical background which include Cyber / Secure by design etc would be considered. Experience managing internal stakeholders and external third parties essential. Flexible working, but with the ability to get into London. This is an exclusive role to DCL Search & Selection. 1st stage interviews to happen the week of the 14th September Arrange a call with Chris on https://calendly.com/chris-holt/arrange-a-call-chris-dcl-pci-compliance