Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mobile Browsers Fail Georgia Tech Safety Test

06.12.2012
How unsafe are mobile browsers? Unsafe enough that even cyber-security experts are unable to detect when their smartphone browsers have landed on potentially dangerous websites, according to a recent Georgia Tech study.

Like their counterparts for desktop platforms, mobile browsers incorporate a range of security and cryptographic tools to provide a secure Web-browsing experience.

However in one critical area that informs user decisions—the incorporation of tiny graphical indicators in a browser’s URL field—all of the leading mobile browsers fail to meet security guidelines recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for browser safety, leaving even expert users with no way to determine if the websites they visit are real or imposter sites phishing for personal data.

“We found vulnerabilities in all 10 of the mobile browsers we tested, which together account for more than 90 percent of the mobile browsers in use today in the United States,” said Patrick Traynor, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science. “The basic question we asked was, ‘Does this browser provide enough information for even an information-security expert to determine security standing?’ With all 10 of the leading browsers on the market today, the answer was no.”

The graphic icons at issue are called either SSL (“secure sockets layer”) or TLS (“transport layer security”) indicators, and they serve to alert users (a) when their connection to the destination website is secure and (b) that the website they see is actually the site they intended to visit. The tiny “lock” icon that typically appears in a desktop browser window when users are providing payment information in an online transaction is one example of an SSL indicator. Another is the “https” keyword that appears in the beginning of a desktop browser’s URL field.

The W3C has issued specific recommendations for how SSL indicators should be built into a browser’s user interface, and for the most part, Traynor said, desktop browsers do a good job of following those recommendations. In mobile browsers, however, the guidelines are followed inconsistently at best and often not at all.

The principal reason for this, Traynor admits, is the much smaller screen size with which designers of mobile browsers have to work. Often there simply isn’t room to incorporate SSL indicators in same way as with desktop browsers. However, given that mobile devices are widely predicted to face more frequent attacks from cyber-criminals, the vulnerability is almost sure to lead to increased cyber-crime unless it is addressed.

“Research has shown that mobile browser users are three times more likely to access phishing sites than users of desktop browsers,” said Chaitrali Amrutkar, a Ph.D. student in the School of Computer Science and principal author of the paper that described the SSL research. “Is that all due to the lack of these SSL indicators? Probably not, but giving these tools a consistent and complete presence in mobile browsers would definitely help.”

The paper, “Measuring SSL Indicators on Mobile Browsers: Extended Life, or End of the Road,” earned Amrutkar a Best Student Paper award at this year’s Information Security Conference, held Sept. 19-21 in Passau, Germany. Traynor and Amrutkar said the study, essentially a measurement analysis of the current state of visual security indicators in mobile browsers, is a necessary first step in developing a uniform set of security recommendations that can apply to mobile browsers.

“We understand the dilemma facing designers of mobile browsers, and it looks like all of them tried to do the best they could in balancing everything that has to fit within those small screens,” Traynor said. “But the fact is that all of them ended up doing something just a little different—and all inferior to desktop browsers. With a little coordination, we can do a better job and make mobile browsing a safer experience for all users.”

Michael Terrazas | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record
27.07.2015 | Duke University

nachricht Two crystals are better than one
22.07.2015 | The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

Im Focus: Simulations lead to design of near-frictionless material

Argonne scientists used Mira to identify and improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity at the macroscale for the first time. Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) researchers helped enable the groundbreaking simulations by overcoming a performance bottleneck that doubled the speed of the team's code.

While reviewing the simulation results of a promising new lubricant material, Argonne researcher Sanket Deshmukh stumbled upon a phenomenon that had never been...

Im Focus: NASA satellite camera provides 'EPIC' view of Earth

A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.

The color images of Earth from NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Possible Path Toward First Anti-MERS Drugs

28.07.2015 | Life Sciences

Smart Hydrogel Coating Creates “Stick-slip” Control of Capillary Action

28.07.2015 | Materials Sciences

Are Fish Getting High on Cocaine?

28.07.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>