Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Feature stops apps from stealing phone users' passwords

27.06.2013
Imagine downloading a NetFlix app to your phone so that you can watch movies on the go. You would expect the app to request your account's username and password the first time it runs. Most apps do.

But, not all apps are what they appear to be. They can steal log-in and password information. In 2011, researchers at North Carolina State University discovered a convincing imitation of the real Netflix app that forwarded users' login details to an untrusted server. And, in June, the security firm F-Secure discovered a malicious, fake version of the popular game "Bad Piggies" in the Google Play Store.

Attacks like these are rare, said Duke computer scientist Landon Cox, but, "we will likely see more of them in the future." To protect users against the threat of malicious apps, Cox and his team have built ScreenPass. ScreenPass adds new features to an Android phone's operating system to prevent malicious apps from stealing a user's passwords.

"Passwords are a critical glue between mobile apps and remote cloud services," Cox said. "The problem right now is that users have no idea what happens to the passwords they give to their apps."

This is where ScreenPass comes in. It provides a special-purpose software keyboard for users to securely enter sensitive text such as passwords. An area below the keyboard allows users to tell ScreenPass where they want their text sent, such as Google, Facebook, or Twitter. ScreenPass then tracks a users' password data as the app runs and notifies the user if an app tries to send a password to the wrong place.

ScreenPass guarantees that users always input passwords through the secure keyboard. It does this by using computer vision to periodically scan the screen for untrusted keyboards.

"If a malicious app can trick a user into inputting their password through a fake keyboard, then there is no way to guarantee that an app's password is sent only to the right servers," Cox said. If ScreenPass detects an untrusted keyboard, then an app may be trying to "spoof" the secure keyboard in order to steal the user's password.

Cox and his team presented ScreenPass at the MobiSys 2013 conference in Taipei on June 27.

In trials on a prototype phone, ScreenPass detected attack keyboards that tried to avoid detection by changing the font, color, and blurriness of letters on the keys. "The only attack keyboard that ScreenPass could not detect was a keyboard with a flowery background that blended in with the keyboard letters," Cox said.

He and his team also installed ScreenPass on the phones of 18 volunteers for three weeks to test how user-friendly it was. Users reported no additional burden at having to tell ScreenPass where their passwords should be sent.

Finally, testing ScreenPass on 27 apps from the Android Marketplace, the team found three apps sent passwords over the network in plaintext, four stored passwords in the local file system without encryption, and three apps sent passwords from different domains to a third-party server owned by the app developer. Cox would not provide the names of the apps, but said ScreenPass also easily detected the fake Netflix app.

Cox's team plans to make ScreenPass publicly available to continue to improve smartphone password security.

Citation: "ScreenPass: Secure Password Entry on Touchscreen Devices." Liu, D. et. al. MobiSys 2013. June 27, 2013.

Ashley Yeager | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Researchers catch extreme waves with higher-resolution modeling
15.02.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>