Defining and detecting environment discrimination in android apps

Yunfeng Hong, Yongjian Hu, Chun Ming Lai, S. Felix Wu, Iulian Neamtiu, Patrick McDaniel, Paul Yu, Hasan Cam, Gail Joon Ahn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Environment discrimination—a program behaving differently on different platforms—is used in many contexts. For example, malware can use environment discrimination to thwart detection attempts: as malware detectors employ automated dynamic analysis while running the potentially malicious program in a virtualized environment, the malware author can make the program virtual environment-aware so the malware turns off the nefarious behavior when it is running in a virtualized environment. Therefore, an approach for detecting environment discrimination can help security researchers and practitioners better understand the behavior of, and consequently counter, malware. In this paper we formally define environment discrimination, and propose an approach based on abstract traces and symbolic execution to detect discrimination in Android apps. Furthermore, our approach discovers what API calls expose the environment information to malware, which is a valuable reference for virtualization developers to improve their products. We also apply our approach to the real malware and third-party-researcher designed benchmark apps. The result shows that the algorithm and framework we proposed achieves 97% accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSecurity and Privacy in Communication Networks - 13th International Conference, SecureComm 2017, Proceedings
EditorsAli Ghorbani, Xiaodong Lin, Kui Ren, Sencun Zhu, Aiqing Zhang
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9783319788128
StatePublished - 2018
Event13th EAI International Conference on Security and Privacy in Communication Networks, SecureComm 2017 - [state] ON, Canada
Duration: Oct 22 2017Oct 25 2017

Publication series

NameLecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social-Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, LNICST
ISSN (Print)1867-8211


Other13th EAI International Conference on Security and Privacy in Communication Networks, SecureComm 2017
City[state] ON

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Android
  • Environment discrimination
  • Malware detection


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