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Investigating Android permissions and intents for malware detection

Abro, F. I. (2018). Investigating Android permissions and intents for malware detection. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, Universtiy of London)


Today’s smart phones are used for wider range of activities. This extended range of functionalities has also seen the infiltration of new security threats. Android has been the favorite target of cyber criminals. The malicious parties are using highly stealthy techniques to perform the targeted operations, which are hard to detect by the conventional signature and behaviour based approaches. Additionally, the limited resources of mobile device are inadequate to perform the extensive malware detection tasks. Impulsively emerging Android malware merit a robust and effective malware detection solution.

In this thesis, we present the PIndroid ― a novel Permissions and Intents based framework for identifying Android malware apps. To the best of author’s knowledge, PIndroid is the first solution that uses a combination of permissions and intents supplemented with ensemble methods for malware detection. It overcomes the drawbacks of some of the existing malware detection methods. Our goal is to provide mobile users with an effective malware detection and prevention solution keeping in view the limited resources of mobile devices and versatility of malware behavior. Our detection engine classifies the apps against certain distinguishing combinations of permissions and intents. We conducted a comparative study of different machine learning algorithms against several performance measures to demonstrate their relative advantages. The proposed approach, when applied to 1,745 real world applications, provides more than 99% accuracy (which is best reported to date). Empirical results suggest that the proposed framework is effective in detection of malware apps including the obfuscated ones.

In this thesis, we also present AndroPIn—an Android based malware detection algorithm using Permissions and Intents. It is designed with the methodology proposed in PInDroid. AndroPIn overcomes the limitation of stealthy techniques used by malware by exploiting the usage pattern of permissions and intents. These features, which play a major role in sharing user data and device resources cannot be obfuscated or altered. These vital features are well suited for resource constrained smartphones. Experimental evaluation on a corpus of real-world malware and benign apps demonstrate that the proposed algorithm can effectively detect malicious apps and is resilient to common obfuscations methods.

Besides PInDroid and AndroPIn, this thesis consists of three additional studies, which supplement the proposed methodology. First study investigates if there is any correlation between permissions and intents which can be exploited to detect malware apps. For this, the statistical significance test is applied to investigate the correlation between permissions and intents. We found statistical evidence of a strong correlation between permissions and intents which could be exploited to detect malware applications.

The second study is conducted to investigate if the performance of classifiers can further be improved with ensemble learning methods. We applied different ensemble methods such as bagging, boosting and stacking. The experiments with ensemble methods yielded much improved results.

The third study is related to investigating if the permissions and intents based system can be used to detect the ever challenging colluding apps. Application collusion is an emerging threat to Android based devices. We discuss the current state of research on app collusion and open challenges to the detection of colluding apps. We compare existing approaches and present an integrated approach that can be used to detect the malicious app collusion.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources > ZA4050 Electronic information resources
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Science & Technology > Engineering
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
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