AutoCog: Measuring the description-to-permission fidelity in android applications

Zhengyang Qu, Vaibhav Rastogi, Xinyi Zhang, Yan Chen, Tiantian Zhu, Zhong Chen

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

136 Scopus citations


The booming popularity of smartphones is partly a result of application markets where users can easily download wide range of third-party applications. However, due to the open nature of markets, especially on Android, there have been several privacy and security concerns with these applications. On Google Play, as with most other markets, users have direct access to natural-language descriptions of those applications, which give an intuitive idea of the functionality including the security-related information of those applications. Google Play also provides the permissions requested by applications to access security and privacy-sensitive APIs on the devices. Users may use such a list to evaluate the risks of using these applications. To best assist the end users, the descriptions should reflect the need for permissions, which we term description-to-permission fidelity. In this paper, we present a system AutoCog to automatically assess description-to-permission fidelity of applications. AutoCog employs state-of-the-art techniques in natural language processing and our own learning-based algorithm to relate description with permissions. In our evaluation, Auto-Cog outperforms other related work on both performance of detection and ability of generalization over various permissions by a large extent. On an evaluation of eleven permissions, we achieve an average precision of 92.6% and an average recall of 92.0%. Our large-scale measurements over 45,811 applications demonstrate the severity of the problem of low description-to-permission fidelity. AutoCog helps bridge the long-lasting usability gap between security techniques and average users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCCS 2014 - Proceedings of the 21st ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781450329576
StatePublished - Nov 3 2014
Event21st ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2014 - Scottsdale, United States
Duration: Nov 3 2014Nov 7 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
ISSN (Print)1543-7221


Other21st ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Android
  • Google play
  • Machine learning
  • Mobile
  • Natural language processing
  • Permissions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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