Prevention of Cross-update Privacy Leaks on Android

Beumjin Cho, Sangho Lee, Meng Xu, Sangwoo Ji, Taesoo Kim, Jong Kim

Updating applications is an important mechanism to enhance their availability, functionality, and security. However, without careful considerations, application updates can bring other security problems. In this paper, we consider a novel attack that exploits application updates on Android: a cross-update privacy-leak attack called COUPLE. The COUPLE attack allows an application to secretly leak sensitive data through the cross-update interaction between its old and new versions; each version only has permissions and logic for either data collection or transmission to evade detection. We implement a runtime security system, BREAKUP, that prevents cross-update sensitive data transactions by tracking permission-use histories of individual applications. Evaluation results show that BREAKUP's time overhead is below 5%. We further show the feasibility of the COUPLE attack by analyzing the versions of 2;009 applications (28;682 APKs).