Aware: Preventing abuse of privacy-sensitive sensors via operation bindings

Giuseppe Petracca, Ahmad Atamli Reineh, Yuqiong Sun, Jens Grossklags, Trent Jaeger

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


System designers have long struggled with the challenge of determining how to control when untrusted applications may perform operations using privacy-sensitive sensors securely and effectively. Current systems request that users authorize such operations once (i.e., on install or first use), but malicious applications may abuse such authorizations to collect data stealthily using such sensors. Proposed research methods enable systems to infer the operations associated with user input events, but malicious applications may still trick users into allowing unexpected, stealthy operations. To prevent users from being tricked, we propose to bind applications’ operation requests to the associated user input events and how they were obtained explicitly, enabling users to authorize operations on privacy-sensitive sensors unambiguously and reuse such authorizations. To demonstrate this approach, we implement the AWare authorization framework for Android, extending the Android Middleware to control access to privacy-sensitive sensors. We evaluate the effectiveness of AWare in: (1) a laboratory-based user study, finding that at most 7% of the users were tricked by examples of four types of attacks when using AWare, instead of 85% on average for prior approaches; (2) a field study, showing that the user authorization effort increases by only 2.28 decisions on average per application; (3) a compatibility study with 1,000 of the most-downloaded Android applications, demonstrating that such applications can operate effectively under AWare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 26th USENIX Security Symposium
PublisherUSENIX Association
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781931971409
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Event26th USENIX Security Symposium - Vancouver, Canada
Duration: Aug 16 2017Aug 18 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 26th USENIX Security Symposium


Conference26th USENIX Security Symposium

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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