One of the biggest advantages of a smartphone running on Google’s Android system, say its proponents, is its open source spirit and lack of the “Big Brother” attitude that looms over everything that enters or exits the realm of Apple’s iPhone.
One of the biggest flaws of a smartphone running on Google’s Android system, say its detractors, is its wide open invitation to hackers and malware designers to claim new turf and victimize its users because, without a “Big Brother” like Apple guarding the door, security can never be as complete as it needs to be.
Well, Android proponents may feel especially vindicated by news from researchers at North Carolina State University who have developed software, called Taming Information-Stealing Smartphone Applications (TISSA), that creates a privacy mode for Android users and adds a level of security not before seen for the popular platform. TISSA creates a privacy setting manager that governs the level of access that each of its neighboring Android smartphone applications have based on settings customized by the user. There are four settings that can be toggled varying by degree of trust the user has for any given application:
- Trusted: The highest level. With this setting, TISSA assumes the user knows what’s best and won’t interfere with data shared between the user’s Android phone and the application for which this setting is used.
- Anonymized: The minimal amount of data required for an application to run is what’s shared with this setting.
- Bogus: This allows your phone to outright lie to the application and give it fake data when personal information is requested. In a world where even computers are giving each other fake information, what chance does that poor dope at the end of the bar have for scoring a real phone number tonight while carousing among the wolves and wildcats of the deceitful pickup scene? Incidentally, this setting is also handy when dealing with brain-damaged (but well-meaning) duos of time travelers, dude.
- Empty: This setting lets your Android phone lie in a different way. It just flat out denies that requested information exists. I suppose that’s nicer than giving an application false information, but I guess you’ll only worry about that if you believe that software has feelings, you cold-hearted bastard.
Team member Dr. Xuxian Jiang says: “These settings may be further specialized for different types of information, such as your contact list or your location; the settings can also be specialized for different applications.”
The paper detailing this research, Taming Information-Stealing Smartphone Applications (on Android), will be presented in June at the 4th International Conference on Trust and Trustworthy Computing, in Pittsburgh, PA.