Safeguarding security and privacy for app users
A lot of “good” mobile apps interact with “bad” or questionable websites. Computer scientist Iulian Neamtiu and his team are investigating this problem and developing solutions.
The use of mobile apps — software that runs on smartphones, tablets and electronic wearables — is surging. The 1.4 billion active Android device users worldwide now have access to more than 2.2 million apps in the Google Play store. But how are users to know if an app jeopardizes their confidential information?
Work on smartphone security to date has focused mostly on malicious apps. By contrast, Iulian Neamtiu, NJIT associate professor of computer science, studies how “good” apps can compromise users’ data privacy by interacting with “bad” or questionable websites. His analysis of 13,500 popular, free Android apps verified by outside parties for trustworthiness showed that nearly 9 percent communicate with malicious websites, 15 percent communicate with websites flagged for malware, viruses, phishing and other scams, and 74 percent communicate with sites containing material unsuitable for children.
Dr. Neamtiu and his team have developed a systematic approach and comprehensive tool to assess app security and privacy concerns. The usefulness of this tool, when introduced, will extend to individuals downloading apps as well as marketplaces offering Android apps. It could also be deployed as one component of a larger cybersecurity system.