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An Analysis of the Privacy and Security Risks of Android VPN Permission-enabled Apps

Ikram, Muhammad and Vallina-Rodriguez, Narseo and Seneviratne, Suranga and Kaafar, Mohamed Ali and Paxson, Vern (2016) An Analysis of the Privacy and Security Risks of Android VPN Permission-enabled Apps. In: The 16th ACM Internet Measurement Conference 2016 (ACM IMC 2016), 14-16 November 2016, Santa Monica, CA, USA.

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Abstract

Millions of users worldwide resort to mobile VPN clients to either circumvent censorship or to access geo-blocked content, and more generally for privacy and security purposes. In practice, however, users have little if any guarantees about the corresponding security and privacy settings, and perhaps no practical knowledge about the entities accessing their mobile traffic. In this paper we provide a first comprehensive analysis of 283 Android apps that use the Android VPN permission, which we extracted from a corpus of more than 1.4 million apps on the Google Play store. We perform a number of passive and active measurements designed to investigate a wide range of security and privacy features and to study the behavior of each VPN-based app. Our analysis includes investigation of possible malware presence, third-party library embedding, and traffic manipulation, as well as gauging user perception of the security and privacy of such apps. Our experiments reveal several instances of VPN apps that expose users to serious privacy and security vulnerabilities, such as use of insecure VPN tunneling protocols, as well as IPv6 and DNS traffic leakage. We also report on a number of apps actively performing TLS interception. Of particular concern are instances of apps that inject JavaScript programs for tracking, advertising, and for redirecting e-commerce traffic to external partners.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Papers (Paper)
Subjects: UNSPECIFIED
Divisions: UNSPECIFIED
Depositing User: Narseo Vallina
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2017 13:55
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2017 14:04
URI: http://eprints.networks.imdea.org/id/eprint/1505

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