TKPERM: Cross-platform Permission Knowledge Transfer to Detect Overprivileged Third-party Applications

Faysal Hossain Shezan (University of Virginia), Kaiming Cheng (University of Virginia), Zhen Zhang (Johns Hopkins University), Yinzhi Cao (Johns Hopkins University), Yuan Tian (University of Virginia)

Permission-based access control enables users to manage and control their sensitive data for third-party applications. In an ideal scenario, third-party application includes enough details to illustrate the usage of such data, while the reality is that many descriptions of third-party applications are vague about their security or privacy activities. As a result, users are left with insufficient details when granting sensitive data to these applications.

Prior works, such as WHYPER and AutoCog, have addressed the aforementioned problem via a so-called permission correlation system. Such a system correlates third-party applications' description with their requested permissions and determines an application as overprivileged if a mismatch is found. However, although prior works are successful on their own platforms, such as Android eco-system, they are not directly applicable to new platforms, such as Chrome extensions and IFTTT, without extensive data labeling and parameter tuning.

In this paper, we design, implement, and evaluate a novel system, called TKPERM, which transfers knowledges of permission correlation systems across platforms. Our key idea is that these varied platforms with different use cases---like smartphones, IoTs, and desktop browsers---are all user-facing and thus allow the knowledges to be transferrable across platforms. Particularly, we adopt a greedy selection algorithm that picks the best source domains to transfer to the target permission on a new platform.

TKPERM achieves 90.02% overall F1 score after transfer, which is 12.62% higher than the one of a model trained directly on the target domain without transfer. Particularly, TKPERM has 91.83% F1 score on IFTTT, 89.13% F1 score on Chrome-Extension, and 89.1% F1 score on SmartThings. TKPERM also successfully identified many real-world overprivileged applications, such as a gaming hub requesting location permissions without legitimate use.