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Differentially Private Oblivious RAM

Abstract

In this work, we investigate if statistical privacy can enhance the performance of ORAM mechanisms while providing rigorous privacy guarantees. We propose a formal and rigorous framework for developing ORAM protocols with statistical security viz., a differentially private ORAM (DP-ORAM). We present Root ORAM, a family of DP-ORAMs that provide a tunable, multi-dimensional trade-off between the desired bandwidth overhead, local storage and system security.

We theoretically analyze Root ORAM to quantify both its security and performance. We experimentally demonstrate the benefits of Root ORAM and find that (1) Root ORAM can reduce local storage overhead by about 2× for a reasonable values of privacy budget, significantly enhancing performance in memory limited platforms such as trusted execution environments, and (2) Root ORAM allows tunable trade-offs between bandwidth, storage, and privacy, reducing bandwidth overheads by up to 2×-10× (at the cost of increased storage/statistical privacy), enabling significant reductions in ORAM access latencies for cloud environments. We also analyze the privacy guarantees of DP-ORAMs through the lens of information theoretic metrics of Shannon entropy and Min-entropy [16]. Finally, Root ORAM is ideally suited for applications which have a similar access pattern, and we showcase its utility via the application of Private Information Retrieval.

Open access
Diffusion of User Tracking Data in the Online Advertising Ecosystem

Abstract

Advertising and Analytics (A&A) companies have started collaborating more closely with one another due to the shift in the online advertising industry towards Real Time Bidding (RTB). One natural way to understand how user tracking data moves through this interconnected advertising ecosystem is by modeling it as a graph. In this paper, we introduce a novel graph representation, called an Inclusion graph, to model the impact of RTB on the diffusion of user tracking data in the advertising ecosystem. Through simulations on the Inclusion graph, we provide upper and lower estimates on the tracking information observed by A&A companies. We find that 52 A&A companies observe at least 91% of an average user’s browsing history under reasonable assumptions about information sharing within RTB auctions. We also evaluate the effectiveness of blocking strategies (e.g., AdBlock Plus), and find that major A&A companies still observe 40–90% of user impressions, depending on the blocking strategy.

Open access
Editors’ Introduction
Open access
Exploiting TLS Client Authentication for Widespread User Tracking

Abstract

TLS, and SSL before it, has long supported the option for clients to authenticate to servers using their own certificates, but this capability has not been widely used. However, with the development of its Push Notification Service, Apple has deployed this technology on millions of devices for the first time. Wachs et al. [42] determined iOS client certificates could be used by passive network adversaries to track individual devices across the internet. Subsequently, Apple has patched their software to fix this vulnerability. We show these countermeasures are not effective by demonstrating three novel active attacks against TLS Client Certificate Authentication that are successful despite the defenses. Additionally, we show these attacks work against all known instances of TLS Client Certificate Authentication, including smart cards like those widely deployed by the Estonian government as part of their Digital ID program. Our attacks include in-path man-in-the-middle versions as well as a more powerful on-path attack that can be carried out without full network control.

Open access
Feature Selection for Website Fingerprinting

Abstract

Website fingerprinting based on TCP/IP headers is of significant relevance to several Internet entities. Prior work has focused only on a limited set of features, and does not help understand the extents of fingerprint-ability. We address this by conducting an exhaustive feature analysis within eight different communication scenarios. Our analysis helps reveal several previously-unknown features in several scenarios, that can be used to fingerprint websites with much higher accuracy than previously demonstrated. This work helps the community better understand the extents of learnability (and vulnerability) from TCP/IP headers.

Open access
NoMoAds: Effective and Efficient Cross-App Mobile Ad-Blocking

Abstract

Although advertising is a popular strategy for mobile app monetization, it is often desirable to block ads in order to improve usability, performance, privacy, and security. In this paper, we propose NoMoAds to block ads served by any app on a mobile device. NoMoAds leverages the network interface as a universal vantage point: it can intercept, inspect, and block outgoing packets from all apps on a mobile device. NoMoAds extracts features from packet headers and/or payload to train machine learning classifiers for detecting ad requests. To evaluate NoMoAds, we collect and label a new dataset using both EasyList and manually created rules. We show that NoMoAds is effective: it achieves an F-score of up to 97.8% and performs well when deployed in the wild. Furthermore, NoMoAds is able to detect mobile ads that are missed by EasyList (more than one-third of ads in our dataset). We also show that NoMoAds is efficient: it performs ad classification on a per-packet basis in real-time. To the best of our knowledge, NoMoAds is the first mobile ad-blocker to effectively and efficiently block ads served across all apps using a machine learning approach.

Open access
Panoptispy: Characterizing Audio and Video Exfiltration from Android Applications

Abstract

The high-fidelity sensors and ubiquitous internet connectivity offered by mobile devices have facilitated an explosion in mobile apps that rely on multimedia features. However, these sensors can also be used in ways that may violate user’s expectations and personal privacy. For example, apps have been caught taking pictures without the user’s knowledge and passively listened for inaudible, ultrasonic audio beacons. The developers of mobile device operating systems recognize that sensor data is sensitive, but unfortunately existing permission models only mitigate some of the privacy concerns surrounding multimedia data.

In this work, we present the first large-scale empirical study of media permissions and leaks from Android apps, covering 17,260 apps from Google Play, AppChina, Mi.com, and Anzhi. We study the behavior of these apps using a combination of static and dynamic analysis techniques. Our study reveals several alarming privacy risks in the Android app ecosystem, including apps that over-provision their media permissions and apps that share image and video data with other parties in unexpected ways, without user knowledge or consent. We also identify a previously unreported privacy risk that arises from third-party libraries that record and upload screenshots and videos of the screen without informing the user and without requiring any permissions.

Open access
PIR-PSI: Scaling Private Contact Discovery

Abstract

An important initialization step in many social-networking applications is contact discovery, which allows a user of the service to identify which of its existing social contacts also use the service. Naïve approaches to contact discovery reveal a user’s entire set of social/professional contacts to the service, presenting a significant tension between functionality and privacy. In this work, we present a system for private contact discovery, in which the client learns only the intersection of its own contact list and a server’s user database, and the server learns only the (approximate) size of the client’s list. The protocol is specifically tailored to the case of a small client set and large user database. Our protocol has provable security guarantees and combines new ideas with state-of-the-art techniques from private information retrieval and private set intersection.

We report on a highly optimized prototype implementation of our system, which is practical on real-world set sizes. For example, contact discovery between a client with 1024 contacts and a server with 67 million user entries takes 1.36 sec (when using server multi-threading) and uses only 4.28 MiB of communication.

Open access
Power to peep-all: Inference Attacks by Malicious Batteries on Mobile Devices

Abstract

Mobile devices are equipped with increasingly smart batteries designed to provide responsiveness and extended lifetime. However, such smart batteries may present a threat to users’ privacy. We demonstrate that the phone’s power trace sampled from the battery at 1KHz holds enough information to recover a variety of sensitive information.

We show techniques to infer characters typed on a touchscreen; to accurately recover browsing history in an open-world setup; and to reliably detect incoming calls, and the photo shots including their lighting conditions. Combined with a novel exfiltration technique that establishes a covert channel from the battery to a remote server via a web browser, these attacks turn the malicious battery into a stealthy surveillance device.

We deconstruct the attack by analyzing its robustness to sampling rate and execution conditions. To find mitigations we identify the sources of the information leakage exploited by the attack. We discover that the GPU or DRAM power traces alone are sufficient to distinguish between different websites. However, the CPU and power-hungry peripherals such as a touchscreen are the primary sources of fine-grain information leakage. We consider and evaluate possible mitigation mechanisms, highlighting the challenges to defend against the attacks.

In summary, our work shows the feasibility of the malicious battery and motivates further research into system and application-level defenses to fully mitigate this emerging threat.

Open access
Privacy-Preserving Search of Similar Patients in Genomic Data

Abstract

The growing availability of genomic data holds great promise for advancing medicine and research, but unlocking its full potential requires adequate methods for protecting the privacy of individuals whose genome data we use. One example of this tension is running Similar Patient Query on remote genomic data: In this setting a doctor that holds the genome of his/her patient may try to find other individuals with “close” genomic data, and use the data of these individuals to help diagnose and find effective treatment for that patient’s conditions. This is clearly a desirable mode of operation. However, the privacy exposure implications are considerable, and so we would like to carry out the above “closeness” computation in a privacy preserving manner.

In this work we put forward a new approach for highly efficient secure computation for computing an approximation of the Similar Patient Query problem. We present contributions on two fronts. First, an approximation method that is designed with the goal of achieving efficient private computation. Second, further optimizations of the two-party protocol. Our tests indicate that the approximation method works well, it returns the exact closest records in 98% of the queries and very good approximation otherwise. As for speed, our protocol implementation takes just a few seconds to run on databases with thousands of records, each of length thousands of alleles, and it scales almost linearly with both the database size and the length of the sequences in it. As an example, in the datasets of the recent iDASH competition, after a one-time preprocessing of around 12 seconds, it takes around a second to find the nearest five records to a query, in a size-500 dataset of length- 3500 sequences. This is 2-3 orders of magnitude faster than using state-of-the-art secure protocols with existing edit distance algorithms.

Open access