A Systematic Security Evaluation of Android’s Multi-User Framework

A Systematic Security Evaluation of Android’s Multi-User Framework [Paper] [Slides]
Paul Ratazzi, Yousra Aafer, Amit Ahlawat, Hao Hao, Yifei Wang and Wenliang Du (Syracuse University)


Like many desktop operating systems in the 1990s, Android is now in the process of including support for multi-user scenarios. Because these scenarios introduce new threats to the system, we should have an understanding of how well the system design addresses them. Since the security implications of multi-user support are truly pervasive, we developed a systematic approach to studying the system and identifying problems. Unlike other approaches that focus on specific attacks or threat models, ours systematically identifies critical places where access controls are not present or do not properly identify the subject and object of a decision. Finding these places gives us insight into hypothetical attacks that could result, and allows us to design specific experiments to test our hypothesis.

Following an overview of the new features and their implementation, we describe our methodology, present a partial list of our most interesting hypotheses, and describe the experiments we used to test them. Our findings indicate that the current system only partially addresses the new threats, leaving the door open to a number of significant vulnerabilities and privacy issues. Our findings span a spectrum of root causes, from simple oversights, all the way to major system design problems. We conclude that there is still a long way to go before the system can be used in anything more than the most casual of sharing environments.