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Proceedings Paper

Investigating weaknesses in Android certificate security
Author(s): Daniel E. Krych; Stephen Lange-Maney; Patrick McDaniel; William Glodek
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Paper Abstract

Android's application market relies on secure certificate generation to establish trust between applications and their users; yet, cryptography is often not a priority for application developers and many fail to take the necessary security precautions. Indeed, there is cause for concern: several recent high-profile studies have observed a pervasive lack of entropy on Web-systems leading to the factorization of private keys.1 Sufficient entropy, or randomness, is essential to generate secure key pairs and combat predictable key generation. In this paper, we analyze the security of Android certificates. We investigate the entropy present in 550,000 Android application certificates using the Quasilinear GCD finding algorithm.1 Our results show that while the lack of entropy does not appear to be as ubiquitous in the mobile markets as on Web-systems, there is substantial reuse of certificates only one third of the certificates in our dataset were unique. In other words, we find that organizations frequently reuse certificates for different applications. While such a practice is acceptable under Google's specifications for a single developer, we find that in some cases the same certificates are used for a myriad of developers, potentially compromising Android's intended trust relationships. Further, we observed duplicate certificates being used by both malicious and non-malicious applications. The top 3 repeated certificates present in our dataset accounted for a total of 11,438 separate APKs. Of these applications, 451, or roughly 4%, were identified as malicious by antivirus services.

Paper Details

Date Published: 22 May 2015
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 9478, Modeling and Simulation for Defense Systems and Applications X, 947804 (22 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2177498
Show Author Affiliations
Daniel E. Krych, The Pennsylvania State Univ. (United States)
Stephen Lange-Maney, The Pennsylvania State Univ. (United States)
Patrick McDaniel, The Pennsylvania State Univ. (United States)
William Glodek, U.S. Army Research Lab. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9478:
Modeling and Simulation for Defense Systems and Applications X
Eric J. Kelmelis, Editor(s)

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