Secure Integration of Web Content and Applications on Commodity Mobile Operating Systems


A majority of today’s mobile apps integrate web content of various kinds. Unfortunately, the interactions between app code and web content expose new attack vectors: a malicious app can subvert its embedded web content to steal user secrets; on the other hand, malicious web content can use the privileges of its embedding app to exfiltrate sensitive information such as the user’s location and contacts. In this paper, we discuss security weaknesses of the interface between app code and web content through attacks, then introduce defenses that can be deployed without modifying the OS. Our defenses feature WIREframe, a service that securely embeds and renders external web content in Android apps, and in turn, prevents attacks between embedded web and host apps. WIREframe fully mediates the interface between app code and embedded web content. Unlike the existing web-embedding mechanisms, WIREframe allows both apps and embedded web content to define simple access policies to protect their own resources. These policies recognize fine-grained security principals, such as origins, and control all interactions between apps and the web. We also introduce WIRE (Web Isolation Rewriting Engine), an offline app rewriting tool that allows app users to inject WIREframe protections into existing apps. Our evaluation, based on 7166 popular apps and 20 specially selected apps, shows these techniques work on complex apps and incur acceptable end-to-end performance overhead.

Proceedings of the 12th ACM on Asia Conference on Computer and Communications Security
Yaohui Chen
Yaohui Chen

I invent practical solutions to find severe bugs and improve system robustness.