IMDEA Networks Institute Publications Repository

An Analysis of Pre-installed Android Software

Gamba, Julien and Rashed, Mohammed and Razaghpanah, Abbas and Tapiador, Juan and Vallina-Rodriguez, Narseo (2020) An Analysis of Pre-installed Android Software. In: The 41st IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (IEEE S&P 2020), 18-20 May 2020, San Fransisco, CA, USA.

[img] PDF (An Analysis of Pre-installed Android Software) - Published Version
Download (304Kb)


The open-source nature of the Android OS makes it possible for manufacturers to ship custom versions of the OS along with a set of pre-installed apps, often for product differentiation. Some device vendors have recently come under scrutiny for potentially invasive private data collection practices and other potentially harmful or unwanted behavior of the preinstalled apps on their devices. Yet, the landscape of preinstalled software in Android has largely remained unexplored, particularly in terms of the security and privacy implications of such customizations. In this paper, we present the first largescale study of pre-installed software on Android devices from more than 200 vendors. Our work relies on a large dataset of real-world Android firmware acquired worldwide using crowd-sourcing methods. This allows us to answer questions related to the stakeholders involved in the supply chain, from device manufacturers and mobile network operators to thirdparty organizations like advertising and tracking services, and social network platforms. Our study allows us to also uncover relationships between these actors, which seem to revolve primarily around advertising and data-driven services. Overall, the supply chain around Android’s open source model lacks transparency and has facilitated potentially harmful behaviors and backdoored access to sensitive data and services without user consent or awareness. We conclude the paper with recommendations to improve transparency, attribution, and accountability in the Android ecosystem.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Papers (Paper)
Depositing User: Julien Gamba
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2019 12:29
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2020 13:20

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item