Visible to the public Biblio

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Rogerio de Lemos, Holger Giese, Hausi Muller, Mary Shaw, Jesper Andersson, Marin Litoiu, Bradley Schmerl, Gabriel Tamura, Norha Villegas, Thomas Vogel et al..  2013.  Software engineering for self-adaptive systems: A second research roadmap.

The goal of this roadmap paper is to summarize the stateof-the-art and identify research challenges when developing, deploying and managing self-adaptive software systems. Instead of dealing with a wide range of topics associated with the field, we focus on four essential topics of self-adaptation: design space for self-adaptive solutions, software engineering processes for self-adaptive systems, from centralized to decentralized control, and practical run-time verification & validation for self-adaptive systems. For each topic, we present an overview, suggest future directions, and focus on selected challenges. This paper complements and extends a previous roadmap on software engineering for self-adaptive systems published in 2009 covering a different set of topics, and reflecting in part on the previous paper. This roadmap is one of the many results of the Dagstuhl Seminar 10431 on Software Engineering for Self-Adaptive Systems, which took place in October 2010.

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Nariman Mirzaei, Hamid Bagheri, Riyadh Mahmood, Sam Malek.  2015.  SIG-Droid: Automated System Input Generation for Android Applications. 2015 IEEE 26th International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering (ISSRE).

Pervasiveness of smartphones and the vast number of corresponding apps have underlined the need for applicable automated software testing techniques. A wealth of research has been focused on either unit or GUI testing of smartphone apps, but little on automated support for end-to-end system testing. This paper presents SIG-Droid, a framework for system testing of Android apps, backed with automated program analysis to extract app models and symbolic execution of source code guided by such models for obtaining test inputs that ensure covering each reachable branch in the program. SIG-Droid leverages two automatically extracted models: Interface Model and Behavior Model. The Interface Model is used to find values that an app can receive through its interfaces. Those values are then exchanged with symbolic values to deal with constraints with the help of a symbolic execution engine. The Behavior Model is used to drive the apps for symbolic execution and generate sequences of events. We provide an efficient implementation of SIG-Droid based in part on Symbolic PathFinder, extended in this work to support automatic testing of Android apps. Our experiments show SIG-Droid is able to achieve significantly higher code coverage than existing automated testing tools targeted for Android.

Nariman Mirzaei, Joshua Garcia, Hamid Bagheri, Alireza Sadeghi, Sam Malek.  2016.  Reducing Combinatorics in GUI Testing of Android Applications. ICSE '16 Proceedings of the 38th International Conference on Software Engineering. :559-570.

The rising popularity of Android and the GUI-driven nature of its apps have motivated the need for applicable automated GUI testing techniques. Although exhaustive testing of all possible combinations is the ideal upper bound in combinatorial testing, it is often infeasible, due to the combinatorial explosion of test cases. This paper presents TrimDroid, a framework for GUI testing of Android apps that uses a novel strategy to generate tests in a combinatorial, yet scalable, fashion. It is backed with automated program analysis and formally rigorous test generation engines. TrimDroid relies on program analysis to extract formal specifications. These speci- fications express the app’s behavior (i.e., control flow between the various app screens) as well as the GUI elements and their dependencies. The dependencies among the GUI elements comprising the app are used to reduce the number of combinations with the help of a solver. Our experiments have corroborated TrimDroid’s ability to achieve a comparable coverage as that possible under exhaustive GUI testing using significantly fewer test cases.

Naeem Esfahani, Eric Yuan, Kyle Canavera, Sam Malek.  2016.  Inferring Software Component Interaction Dependencies for Adaptation Support. ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems (TAAS). 10(4)

A self-managing software system should be able to monitor and analyze its runtime behavior and make adaptation decisions accordingly to meet certain desirable objectives. Traditional software adaptation techniques and recent “models@runtime” approaches usually require an a priori model for a system’s dynamic behavior. Oftentimes the model is difficult to define and labor-intensive to maintain, and tends to get out of date due to adaptation and architecture decay. We propose an alternative approach that does not require defining the system’s behavior model beforehand, but instead involves mining software component interactions from system execution traces to build a probabilistic usage model, which is in turn used to analyze, plan, and execute adaptations. In this article, we demonstrate how such an approach can be realized and effectively used to address a variety of adaptation concerns. In particular, we describe the details of one application of this approach for safely applying dynamic changes to a running software system without creating inconsistencies. We also provide an overview of two other applications of the approach, identifying potentially malicious (abnormal) behavior for self-protection, and improving deployment of software components in a distributed setting for performance self-optimization. Finally, we report on our experiments with engineering self-management features in an emergency deployment system using the proposed mining approach.

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Mahmoud Hammad, Hamid Bagheri, Sam Malek.  2017.  DELDroid: Determination and Enforcement of Least-Privilege Architecture in Android. 2017 IEEE International Conference on Software Architecture.

Modern mobile platforms rely on a permission model to guard the system's resources and apps. In Android, since the permissions are granted at the granularity of apps, and all components belonging to an app inherit those permissions, an app's components are typically over-privileged, i.e., components are granted more privileges than they need to complete their tasks. Systematic violation of least-privilege principle in Android has shown to be the root cause of many security vulnerabilities. To mitigate this issue, we have developed DELDROID, an automated system for determination of least privilege architecture in Android and its enforcement at runtime. A key contribution of our approach is the ability to limit the privileges granted to apps without the need to modify them. DELDROID utilizes static program analysis techniques to extract the exact privileges each component needs for providing its functionality. A Multiple-Domain Matrix representation of the system's architecture is then used to automatically analyze the security posture of the system and derive its least-privilege architecture. Our experiments on hundreds of real world apps corroborate DELDROID's ability in effectively establishing the least-privilege architecture and its benefits in alleviating the security threats.

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Hamid Bagheri, Eunsuk Kang, Sam Malek, Daniel Jackson.  2015.  Detection of Design Flaws in the Android Permission Protocol Through Bounded Verification. 20th International Symposium on Formal Methods.

The ever increasing expansion of mobile applications into nearly every aspect of modern life, from banking to healthcare systems, is making their security more important than ever. Modern smartphone operating systems (OS) rely substantially on the permission-based security model to enforce restrictions on the operations that each application can perform. In this paper, we perform an analysis of the permission protocol implemented in Android, a popular OS for smartphones. We propose a formal model of the Android permission protocol in Alloy, and describe a fully automatic analysis that identifies potential flaws in the protocol. A study of real-world Android applications corroborates our finding that the flaws in the Android permission protocol can have severe security implications, in some cases allowing the attacker to bypass the permission checks entirely.

Hamid Bagheri, Alireza Sadeghi, Sam Malek, Joshua Garcia.  2015.  COVERT: Compositional Analysis of Android Inter-App Permission Leakage. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering . 41(9)

 

Android is the most popular platform for mobile devices. It facilitates sharing of data and services among applications using a rich inter-app communication system. While access to resources can be controlled by the Android permission system, enforcing permissions is not sufficient to prevent security violations, as permissions may be mismanaged, intentionally or unintentionally. Android's enforcement of the permissions is at the level of individual apps, allowing multiple malicious apps to collude and combine their permissions or to trick vulnerable apps to perform actions on their behalf that are beyond their individual privileges. In this paper, we present COVERT, a tool for compositional analysis of Android inter-app vulnerabilities. COVERT's analysis is modular to enable incremental analysis of applications as they are installed, updated, and removed. It statically analyzes the reverse engineered source code of each individual app, and extracts relevant security specifications in a format suitable for formal verification. Given a collection of specifications extracted in this way, a formal analysis engine (e.g., model checker) is then used to verify whether it is safe for a combination of applications-holding certain permissions and potentially interacting with each other-to be installed together. Our experience with using COVERT to examine over 500 real-world apps corroborates its ability to find inter-app vulnerabilities in bundles of some of the most popular apps on the market.

Hamid Bagheri, Alireza Sadeghi, Reyhaneh Jabbarvand, Sam Malek.  2016.  Practical, Formal Synthesis and Automatic Enforcement of Security Policies for Android. 2016 46th Annual IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN).

As the dominant mobile computing platform, Android has become a prime target for cyber-security attacks. Many of these attacks are manifested at the application level, and through the exploitation of vulnerabilities in apps downloaded from the popular app stores. Increasingly, sophisticated attacks exploit the vulnerabilities in multiple installed apps, making it extremely difficult to foresee such attacks, as neither the app developers nor the store operators know a priori which apps will be installed together. This paper presents an approach that allows the end-users to safeguard a given bundle of apps installed on their device from such attacks. The approach, realized in a tool, called SEPAR, combines static analysis with lightweight formal methods to automatically infer security-relevant properties from a bundle of apps. It then uses a constraint solver to synthesize possible security exploits, from which fine-grained security policies are derived and automatically enforced to protect a given device. In our experiments with over 4,000 Android apps, SEPAR has proven to be highly effective at detecting previously unknown vulnerabilities as well as preventing their exploitation.

Hamid Bagheri, Sam Malek.  2016.  Titanium: Efficient Analysis of Evolving Alloy Specifications. FSE 2016: ACM SIGSOFT International Symposium on the Foundations of Software.

The Alloy specification language, and the corresponding Alloy Analyzer, have received much attention in the last two decades with applications in many areas of software engineering. Increasingly, formal analyses enabled by Alloy are desired for use in an on-line mode, where the specifications are automatically kept in sync with the running, possibly changing, software system. However, given Alloy Analyzer’s reliance on computationally expensive SAT solvers, an important challenge is the time it takes for such analyses to execute at runtime. The fact that in an on-line mode, the analyses are often repeated on slightly revised versions of a given specification, presents us with an opportunity to tackle this challenge. We present Titanium, an extension of Alloy for formal analysis of evolving specifications. By leveraging the results from previous analyses, Titanium narrows the state space of the revised specification, thereby greatly reducing the required computational effort. We describe the semantic basis of Titanium in terms of models specified in relational logic. We show how the approach can be realized atop an existing relational logic model finder. Our experimental results show Titanium achieves a significant speed-up over Alloy Analyzer when applied to the analysis of evolving specifications.

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Eric Yuan, Naeem Esfahani, Sam Malek.  2014.  Automated Mining of Software Component Interactions for Self-Adaptation. SEAMS 2014 Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Software Engineering for Adaptive and Self-Managing Systems. :27-36.

A self-adaptive software system should be able to monitor and analyze its runtime behavior and make adaptation decisions accordingly to meet certain desirable objectives. Traditional software adaptation techniques and recent “models@runtime” approaches usually require an a priori model for a system’s dynamic behavior. Oftentimes the model is difficult to define and labor-intensive to maintain, and tends to get out of date due to adaptation and architecture decay. We propose an alternative approach that does not require defining the system’s behavior model beforehand, but instead involves mining software component interactions from system execution traces to build a probabilistic usage model, which is in turn used to analyze, plan, and execute adaptations. Our preliminary evaluation of the approach against an Emergency Deployment System shows that the associations mining model can be used to effectively address a variety of adaptation needs, including (1) safely applying dynamic changes to a running software system without creating inconsistencies, (2) identifying potentially malicious (abnormal) behavior for self-protection, and (3) our ongoing research on improving deployment of software components in a distributed setting for performance self-optimization.

Eric Yuan, Sam Malek, Bradley Schmerl, David Garlan, Jeffrey Gennari.  2013.  Architecture Based Self-Protecting Software Systems. QoSA '13 Proceedings of the 9th international ACM Sigsoft conference on Quality of software architectures.

Since conventional software security approaches are often manually developed and statically deployed, they are no longer sufficient against today's sophisticated and evolving cyber security threats. This has motivated the development of self-protecting software that is capable of detecting security threats and mitigating them through runtime adaptation techniques. In this paper, we argue for an architecture-based self- protection (ABSP) approach to address this challenge. In ABSP, detection and mitigation of security threats are informed by an architectural representation of the running system, maintained at runtime. With this approach, it is possible to reason about the impact of a potential security breach on the system, assess the overall security posture of the system, and achieve defense in depth. To illustrate the effectiveness of this approach, we present several architecture adaptation patterns that provide reusable detection and mitigation strategies against well-known web application security threats. Finally, we describe our ongoing work in realizing these patterns on top of Rainbow, an existing architecture-based adaptation framework.

Eric Yuan, Naeem Esfahani, Sam Malek.  2014.  A Systematic Survey of Self-Protecting Software Systems. ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems (TAAS) - Special Section on Best Papers from SEAMS 2012 . 8(4)

Self-protecting software systems are a class of autonomic systems capable of detecting and mitigating security threats at runtime. They are growing in importance, as the stovepipe static methods of securing software systems have been shown to be inadequate for the challenges posed by modern software systems. Self-protection, like other self-* properties, allows the system to adapt to the changing environment through autonomic means without much human intervention, and can thereby be responsive, agile, and cost effective. While existing research has made significant progress towards autonomic and adaptive security, gaps and challenges remain. This article presents a significant extension of our preliminary study in this area. In particular, unlike our preliminary study, here we have followed a systematic literature review process, which has broadened the scope of our study and strengthened the validity of our conclusions. By proposing and applying a comprehensive taxonomy to classify and characterize the state-of-the-art research in this area, we have identified key patterns, trends and challenges in the existing approaches, which reveals a number of opportunities that will shape the focus of future research efforts.

Eric Yuan, Sam Malek.  2016.  Mining Software Component Interactions to Detect Security Threats at the Architectural Level. 13th Working IEEE/IFIP Conference on Software Architecture (WICSA 2016).

Conventional security mechanisms at network, host, and source code levels are no longer sufficient in detecting and responding to increasingly dynamic and sophisticated cyber threats today. Detecting anomalous behavior at the architectural level can help better explain the intent of the threat and strengthen overall system security posture. To that end, we present a framework that mines software component interactions from system execution history and applies a detection algorithm to identify anomalous behavior. The framework uses unsupervised learning at runtime, can perform fast anomaly detection “on the fly”, and can quickly adapt to system load fluctuations and user behavior shifts. Our evaluation of the approach against a real Emergency Deployment System has demonstrated very promising results, showing the framework can effectively detect covert attacks, including insider threats, that may be easily missed by traditional intrusion detection methods. 

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Bradley Schmerl, Jeffrey Gennari, Alireza Sadeghi, Hamid Bagheri, Sam Malek, Javier Camara, David Garlan.  2016.  Architecture Modeling and Analysis of Security in Android Systems. 10th European Conference on Software Architecture (ECSA 2016).

Software architecture modeling is important for analyzing system quality attributes, particularly security. However, such analyses often assume that the architecture is completely known in advance. In many modern domains, especially those that use plugin-based frameworks, it is not possible to have such a complete model because the software system continuously changes. The Android mobile operating system is one such framework, where users can install and uninstall apps at run time. We need ways to model and analyze such architectures that strike a balance between supporting the dynamism of the underlying platforms and enabling analysis, particularly throughout a system’s lifetime. In this paper, we describe a formal architecture style that captures the modifiable architectures of Android systems, and that supports security analysis as a system evolves. We illustrate the use of the style with two security analyses: a predicatebased approach defined over architectural structure that can detect some common security vulnerabilities, and inter-app permission leakage determined by model checking. We also show how the evolving architecture of an Android device can be obtained by analysis of the apps on a device, and provide some performance evaluation that indicates that the architecture can be amenable for use throughout the system’s lifetime. 

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Alireza Sadeghi, Hamid Bagheri, Sam Malek.  2015.  Analysis of Android Inter-App Security Vulnerabilities Using COVERT. ICSE '15 Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Software Engineering. 2

The state-of-the-art in securing mobile software systems are substantially intended to detect and mitigate vulnerabilities in a single app, but fail to identify vulnerabilities that arise due to the interaction of multiple apps, such as collusion attacks and privilege escalation chaining, shown to be quite common in the apps on the market. This paper demonstrates COVERT, a novel approach and accompanying tool-suite that relies on a hybrid static analysis and lightweight formal analysis technique to enable compositional security assessment of complex software. Through static analysis of Android application packages, it extracts relevant security specifications in an analyzable formal specification language, and checks them as a whole for inter-app vulnerabilities. To our knowledge, COVERT is the first formally-precise analysis tool for automated compositional analysis of Android apps. Our study of hundreds of Android apps revealed dozens of inter-app vulnerabilities, many of which were previously unknown. A video highlighting the main features of the tool can be found at: http://youtu.be/bMKk7OW7dGg.

Alireza Sadeghi, Naeem Esfahani, Sam Malek.  2014.  Mining the Categorized Software Repositories to Improve the Analysis of Security Vulnerabilities. Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Fundamental Approaches to Software Engineering . 8411

Security has become the Achilles’ heel of most modern software systems. Techniques ranging from the manual inspection to automated static and dynamic analyses are commonly employed to identify security vulnerabilities prior to the release of the software. However, these techniques are time consuming and cannot keep up with the complexity of ever-growing software repositories (e.g., Google Play and Apple App Store). In this paper, we aim to improve the status quo and increase the efficiency of static analysis by mining relevant information from vulnerabilities found in the categorized software repositories. The approach relies on the fact that many modern software systems are developed using rich application development frameworks (ADF), allowing us to raise the level of abstraction for detecting vulnerabilities and thereby making it possible to classify the types of vulnerabilities that are encountered in a given category of application. We used open-source software repositories comprising more than 7 million lines of code to demonstrate how our approach can improve the efficiency of static analysis, and in turn, vulnerability detection.

Alireza Sadeghi, Hamid Bagheri, Joshua Garcia, Sam Malek.  2016.  A Taxonomy and Qualitative Comparison of Program Analysis Techniques for Security Assessment of Android Software. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON SOFTWARE ENGINEERING. 99

In parallel with the meteoric rise of mobile software, we are witnessing an alarming escalation in the number and sophistication of the security threats targeted at mobile platforms, particularly Android, as the dominant platform. While existing research has made significant progress towards detection and mitigation of Android security, gaps and challenges remain. This paper contributes a comprehensive taxonomy to classify and characterize the state-of-the-art research in this area. We have carefully followed the systematic literature review process, and analyzed the results of more than 300 research papers, resulting in the most comprehensive and elaborate investigation of the literature in this area of research. The systematic analysis of the research literature has revealed patterns, trends, and gaps in

Alireza Sadeghi, Hamid Bagheri, Joshua Garcia, Sam Malek.  2017.  A Taxonomy and Qualitative Comparison of Program Analysis Techniques for Security Assessment of Android Software. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. 43(6)

In parallel with the meteoric rise of mobile software, we are witnessing an alarming escalation in the number and sophistication of the security threats targeted at mobile platforms, particularly Android, as the dominant platform. While existing research has made significant progress towards detection and mitigation of Android security, gaps and challenges remain. This paper contributes a comprehensive taxonomy to classify and characterize the state-of-the-art research in this area. We have carefully followed the systematic literature review process, and analyzed the results of more than 300 research papers, resulting in the most comprehensive and elaborate investigation of the literature in this area of research. The systematic analysis of the research literature has revealed patterns, trends, and gaps in the existing literature, and underlined key challenges and opportunities that will shape the focus of future research efforts.

Alireza Sadeghi, Naeem Esfahani, Sam Malek.  2017.  Ensuring the Consistency of Adaptation through Inter- and Intra-Component Dependency Analysis. ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM). 26(1)

Dynamic adaptation should not leave a software system in an inconsistent state, as it could lead to failure. Prior research has used inter-component dependency models of a system to determine a safe interval for the adaptation of its components, where the most important tradeoff is between disruption in the operations of the system and reachability of safe intervals. This article presents Savasana, which automatically analyzes a software system’s code to extract both inter- and intra-component dependencies. In this way, Savasana is able to obtain more fine-grained models compared to previous approaches. Savasana then uses the detailed models to find safe adaptation intervals that cannot be determined using techniques from prior research. This allows Savasana to achieve a better tradeoff between disruption and reachability. The article demonstrates how Savasana infers safe adaptation intervals for components of a software system under various use cases and conditions.