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Xue, Minhui, Ballard, Cameron, Liu, Kelvin, Nemelka, Carson, Wu, Yanqiu, Ross, Keith, Qian, Haifeng.  2016.  You Can Yak but You Can'T Hide: Localizing Anonymous Social Network Users. Proceedings of the 2016 Internet Measurement Conference. :25–31.

The recent growth of anonymous social network services – such as 4chan, Whisper, and Yik Yak – has brought online anonymity into the spotlight. For these services to function properly, the integrity of user anonymity must be preserved. If an attacker can determine the physical location from where an anonymous message was sent, then the attacker can potentially use side information (for example, knowledge of who lives at the location) to de-anonymize the sender of the message. In this paper, we investigate whether the popular anonymous social media application Yik Yak is susceptible to localization attacks, thereby putting user anonymity at risk. The problem is challenging because Yik Yak application does not provide information about distances between user and message origins or any other message location information. We provide a comprehensive data collection and supervised machine learning methodology that does not require any reverse engineering of the Yik Yak protocol, is fully automated, and can be remotely run from anywhere. We show that we can accurately predict the locations of messages up to a small average error of 106 meters. We also devise an experiment where each message emanates from one of nine dorm colleges on the University of California Santa Cruz campus. We are able to determine the correct dorm college that generated each message 100\textbackslash% of the time.

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Chen, Sen, Fan, Lingling, Meng, Guozhu, Su, Ting, Xue, Minhui, Xue, Yinxing, Liu, Yang, Xu, Lihua.  2020.  An Empirical Assessment of Security Risks of Global Android Banking Apps. 2020 IEEE/ACM 42nd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE). :1310—1322.
Mobile banking apps, belonging to the most security-critical app category, render massive and dynamic transactions susceptible to security risks. Given huge potential financial loss caused by vulnerabilities, existing research lacks a comprehensive empirical study on the security risks of global banking apps to provide useful insights and improve the security of banking apps. Since data-related weaknesses in banking apps are critical and may directly cause serious financial loss, this paper first revisits the state-of-the-art available tools and finds that they have limited capability in identifying data-related security weaknesses of banking apps. To complement the capability of existing tools in data-related weakness detection, we propose a three-phase automated security risk assessment system, named Ausera, which leverages static program analysis techniques and sensitive keyword identification. By leveraging Ausera, we collect 2,157 weaknesses in 693 real-world banking apps across 83 countries, which we use as a basis to conduct a comprehensive empirical study from different aspects, such as global distribution and weakness evolution during version updates. We find that apps owned by subsidiary banks are always less secure than or equivalent to those owned by parent banks. In addition, we also track the patching of weaknesses and receive much positive feedback from banking entities so as to improve the security of banking apps in practice. We further find that weaknesses derived from outdated versions of banking apps or third-party libraries are highly prone to being exploited by attackers. To date, we highlight that 21 banks have confirmed the weaknesses we reported (including 126 weaknesses in total). We also exchange insights with 7 banks, such as HSBC in UK and OCBC in Singapore, via in-person or online meetings to help them improve their apps. We hope that the insights developed in this paper will inform the communities about the gaps among multiple stakeholders, including banks, academic researchers, and third-party security companies.