Too Quiet in the Library: An Empirical Study of Security Updates in Android Apps’ Native Code
Fri 28 May 2021 09:10 - 09:30 at Blended Sessions Room 1 - 3.6.1. Security Vulnerabilities: Different Domains
Android apps include third-party native libraries to increase performance and to reuse functionality. Native code is directly executed from apps through the Java Native Interface or the Android Native Development Kit. Android developers add precompiled native libraries to their projects, enabling their use. Unfortunately, developers often struggle or simply neglect to update these libraries in a timely manner. This results in the continuous use of outdated native libraries with unpatched security vulnerabilities years after patches became available.
To further understand such phenomena, we study the security updates in native libraries in the most popular 200 free apps on Google Play from Sept. 2013 to May 2020. A core difficulty we face in this study is the identification of libraries and their versions. Developers often rename or modify libraries, making their identification challenging. We create an approach called LibRARIAN (LibRAry veRsion IdentificAtioN) that accurately identifies native libraries and their versions as found in Android apps based on our novel similarity metric bin2sim. LibRARIAN leverages different features extracted from libraries based on their metadata and identifying strings in read-only sections.
We discovered 53/200 popular apps (26.5%) with vulnerable versions with known CVEs between Sept. 2013 and May 2020, with 14 of those apps remaining vulnerable. We find that app developers took, on average, 528.71±40.20 days to apply security patches, while library developers release a security patch after 54.59 ± 8.12 days—a 10 times slower rate of update.