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Mazurek, Foster Receive Google Research Award


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Mazurek, Foster Receive Google Research Award

Two researchers in the Maryland Cybersecurity Center (MC2) recently received a Google Research Award to improve the privacy of apps on the Android platform.

Michelle Mazurek, assistant professor of computer science, and Jeff Foster, professor of computer science, will share the approximately $57,000 award for their proposal, “Visualizing Android App Permissions in Context.”

“I'm very pleased that Google recognized this project, and I am excited to work with Jeff, our students and researchers at Google on the challenging problem of improving privacy in the Android app ecosystem,” says Mazurek.

Google’s Android platform uses permissions to protect access to sensitive resources such as the telephone, camera and SMS, she says, as well as personal information including a user’s contacts, calendar, and location.

Users can grant permissions, but do not always understand how or why these permissions are used, so it can be difficult for them to make informed decisions about whether the permissions should be granted.

The goal of the Google-funded project is to develop tools that provide human-understandable insight into how and when apps perform security-sensitive operations.

To do this, Mazurek says she and Foster will develop program-analysis techniques to infer the space of app contexts and what permissions are used in which contexts.

“We aim to help experts triage apps submitted to the Android market, and to develop ‘power-user’ rating apps for others to quickly evaluate whether an app is trustworthy,” she says.

The researchers will also develop new user interfaces to summarize and display this information, and will perform user studies to evaluate whether—and how—such information can improve users’ understanding of app security.

Mazurek and Foster both have appointments in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

MC2 is jointly supported by the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences and the A. James Clark School of Engineering. It is one of 16 centers and labs in UMIACS.

August 19, 2015

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