Smartphone applications pose interesting security problems because the same resources they use to enhance the user experience may also be used in ways that users might find objectionable. We performed a set of experiments to study whether attribution mechanisms could help users understand how smartphone applications access device resources. First, we performed an online survey and found that, as attribution mechanisms have become available on the Android platform, users notice and use them. Second, we designed new attribution mechanisms; a qualitative experiment suggested that our proposed mechanisms are intuitive to understand. Finally, we performed a laboratory experiment in which we simulated application misbehaviors to observe whether users equipped with our attribution mechanisms were able to identify the offending applications. Our results show that, for users who notice application misbehaviors, these attribution mechanisms are significantly more effective than the status quo.
Christopher Thompson, Maritza Johnson, Serge Egelman, David Wagner, and Jennifer King. When it’s better to ask forgiveness than get permission: attribution mechanisms for smartphone resources. In Proceedings of the Ninth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS ’13). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 14 pages. 2013.