Saarbrücken computer scientists’ anti-spyware app crosses one million downloads
Applications on smartphones and tablets are frequently doing more than they appear to. Unnoticed by their owner, these apps reveal his current location, or spy on contact details.
To address this issue, Saarland University computer scientists developed an anti-spyware app. As of today, the app has been downloaded more than a million times. The app has now been enhanced so that it no longer accesses the program code of the supervised app. Moreover, it depicts precisely which apps are suspicious and which ones are not anymore. This new professional version can be downloaded on platforms like “Google Play Store” and soon on “Samsung Apps”.
Pro” not only enables the user to see the threads at one glance, but also to revoke access permissions granted to suspicious apps.
“We considered such an app necessary. But we all were surprised by its actual success”, explains Michael Backes, professor for Information Security and Cryptography at Saarland University and scientific director at the Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA). Last July, his spin-off Backes SRT provided the app as a free download. With “SRT Appguard” users can supervise apps they have already installed on the operating system Android and control their access permissions on resources like contact information and internet connection at any time. They do not have to be root to do this. “That is exactly what has not been possible with Android apps so far”, declares Backes.
The facilities of SRT Appguard quickly attracted a lot of users. The download rate at the software registers of the German IT-portals “heise.de” and “chip.de” increased continually. In just six months 91,536 users downloaded the mini program and pushed it to 11th place in the category “Top 100 most popular apps in 2012”. “If we add the balance of chip.de to the download numbers of our corporation website, we can see, that SRT Appguard has been downloaded over a million times by now”, says Backes. In the meantime, the counter on chip.de stood at 178,272 and 93 percent of the users gave the app a thumbs up. The app was also available on the DVD that was included in around 230,000 copies of this year's January issue of the magazine.
Now, the new corporation offers a commercial version of the app. Since the beginning of April, “SRT Appguard Pro” can be found on the web portal “Google Play” for 3,99 Euros. Soon, the computer scientists in Saarbrücken will offer their app for the same price at “Samsung Apps”. The South Korean company has invited Backes SRT to do so. One of the major assets of the commercial version over the free version is its improvement regarding ease-of-use, and the ability to support updates of monitored apps. A “risk score” graphically presents the danger of the current right-configuration for each app. “On this way we make it easier for the users to assess the potential danger on their smartphones and tablet PCs”, explains Philipp von Styp-Rekowsky, chief technical officer of Backes SRT and doctoral candidate at Professor Backes’ department.
He is assured that the importance of this will increase in the future. Furthermore, the app runs significantly faster and works on every Android version starting from version 2.3. The updating process of the installed apps also works. Within the first version, this wasn’t possible.
In contrast to the first version of SRT Appguard, the application does not access the code of the supervised app anymore. A special program library is reloaded instead. If this app is executed on the so-called Dalvik Virtual Machine, Appguard controls the calls of functions that are relevant to security, like Internet connection setup or the read-out of the address book.
Saarland University as computer science location and founder college
Since January, Saarland University is an “EXIST founder university”. In a competition of the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology (BMWi), Saarland University was recognized as one of the three best founder academies in Germany. Numerous computer science research institutes on campus enable this. Besides the computer science faculty, these are the Max Planck Institute of Computer Science, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA), the Center for Bioinformatics, the Intel Visual Computing Institute and Cluster of Excellence “Multimodal Computing and Interaction”.
For further information please contact:
Professor Dr. Michael Backes
Phone: +49 681 302-3259
Science Communication, CISPA
Phone: +49 681 302-70741
Friederike Meyer zu Tittingdorf | Universität des Saarlandes