Study on the Vulnerabilities of Free and Paid Mobile Apps Associated with Software Library

Takuya WATANABE  Mitsuaki AKIYAMA  Fumihiro KANEI  Eitaro SHIOJI  Yuta TAKATA  Bo SUN  Yuta ISHII  Toshiki SHIBAHARA  Takeshi YAGI  Tatsuya MORI  

IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Information and Systems   Vol.E103-D   No.2   pp.276-291
Publication Date: 2020/02/01
Publicized: 2019/11/22
Online ISSN: 1745-1361
DOI: 10.1587/transinf.2019INP0011
Type of Manuscript: Special Section PAPER (Special Section on Security, Privacy, Anonymity and Trust in Cyberspace Computing and Communications)
Category: Network Security
mobile app,  software library,  vulnerability,  

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This paper reports a large-scale study that aims to understand how mobile application (app) vulnerabilities are associated with software libraries. We analyze both free and paid apps. Studying paid apps was quite meaningful because it helped us understand how differences in app development/maintenance affect the vulnerabilities associated with libraries. We analyzed 30k free and paid apps collected from the official Android marketplace. Our extensive analyses revealed that approximately 70%/50% of vulnerabilities of free/paid apps stem from software libraries, particularly from third-party libraries. Somewhat paradoxically, we found that more expensive/popular paid apps tend to have more vulnerabilities. This comes from the fact that more expensive/popular paid apps tend to have more functionality, i.e., more code and libraries, which increases the probability of vulnerabilities. Based on our findings, we provide suggestions to stakeholders of mobile app distribution ecosystems.