WHYPER: Towards Automating Risk Assessment of Mobile Applications

Application markets such as Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store have played an important role in the popularity of smartphones and mobile devices. However, keeping malware out of application markets is an ongoing challenge. While recent work has developed various techniques to determine what applications do, no work has provided a technical approach to answer, what do users expect? In this paper, we present the first step in addressing this challenge. Specifically, we focus on permissions for a given application and examine whether the application description provides any indication for why the application needs a permission. We present WHYPER, a framework using Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to identify sentences that describe the need for a given permission in an application description. WHYPER achieves an average precision of 82.8%, and an average recall of 81.5% for three permissions (address book, calendar, and record audio) that protect frequently used security and privacy sensitive resources. These results demonstrate great promise in using NLP techniques to bridge the semantic gap between user expectations and application functionality, further aiding the risk assessment of mobile applications.

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