Talks & Lectures
15 Feb 2018
McLean 510

Malware, Leaks, and Hammers: Securing Mobile Devices and the Privacy of User Data

CS Seminar Series: Martina Lindorfer, University of California Santa Barbara

Martina Lindorfer

Mobile phones have become part of every aspect of our daily lives and are used for everything from emails and social networking, to online shopping and banking. A core piece of advice that security researchers give users to protect their devices and their privacy is not to install apps from untrusted sources. Unfortunately, the app vetting processes of trusted app stores, like the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store, are intransparent, they have been repeatedly evaded, and, in turn, malicious and privacy-violating software have been a regular occurrence even in trusted app stores.

In this talk, we first explore automated techniques for the large-scale analysis of mobile apps to detect malicious behavior and gain insights into the modus operandi of mobile malware authors. We further discuss how we can refine these techniques to identify how users' private information is collected by app developers and third-party advertisers and trackers. The tools we developed raise awareness on security and privacy issues and empower users to take control over how their private data is shared. Other security advice for users to protect themselves from malware and privacy-violating software dictates to always install the latest security patches, and to always double-check that the permissions of any app they install are justified. Unfortunately, in the second part of this talk, we discuss how attackers can exploit hardware reliability issues, like Rowhammer, to craft powerful attacks and completely subvert a system without relying on any software vulnerability or prompting users for additional permissions, which might raise their suspicions.

I will conclude my talk by detailing future research directions on how to defend against novel attacks, such as Rowhammer, and how to apply the presented techniques to secure a new generation of targets in the Internet of Things.


Martina Lindorfer is a postdoc in the Computer Security Group at UC Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. degree from Vienna University of Technology in Austria Sub Auspiciis Praesidentis in 2016. In her research, Lindorfer focuses on malware analysis across platforms, as well as mobile security and privacy. She advances automated static and dynamic analysis techniques for the large-scale analysis of applications for malicious behavior, security vulnerabilities, and privacy leaks.

Lindorfer's research has been covered internationally by news outlets such as the Boston Globe, WIRED, NBC and the Christian Science Monitor. Her academic track record has been recognized with a Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship, the Best Paper Award at the CSAW Applied Research Competition. Her research on rowhammering Android phones has received a Pwnie award for Best Privilege Escalation Bug, a Pwnie nomination for Most Innovative Research.

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