Real-time Analysis of Privacy-(un)aware IoT Applications

Authors: Leonardo Babun (Florida International University), Z. Berkay Celik (Purdue University), Patrick McDaniel (Pennsylvania State University), A. Selcuk Uluagac (Florida International University)

Volume: 2021
Issue: 1
Pages: 145–166
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2021-0009

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Abstract: Users trust IoT apps to control and automate their smart devices. These apps necessarily have access to sensitive data to implement their functionality. However, users lack visibility into how their sensitive data is used, and often blindly trust the app developers. In this paper, we present IoTWatcH, a dynamic analysis tool that uncovers the privacy risks of IoT apps in real-time. We have designed and built IoTWatcH through a comprehensive IoT privacy survey addressing the privacy needs of users. IoTWatcH operates in four phases: (a) it provides users with an interface to specify their privacy preferences at app install time, (b) it adds extra logic to an app’s source code to collect both IoT data and their recipients at runtime, (c) it uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to construct a model that classifies IoT app data into intuitive privacy labels, and (d) it informs the users when their preferences do not match the privacy labels, exposing sensitive data leaks to users. We implemented and evaluated IoTWatcH on real IoT applications. Specifically, we analyzed 540 IoT apps to train the NLP model and evaluate its effectiveness. IoTWatcH yields an average 94.25% accuracy in classifying IoT app data into privacy labels with only 105 ms additional latency to an app’s execution.

Keywords: Internet of Things, privacy, security, NLP

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