On Demystifying the Android Application Framework: Re-Visiting Android Permission Specification Analysis
Erik Derr, Sebastian Weisgerber, Sven Bugiel, Michael Backes, Damien Octeau, and Patrick McDaniel.
In Proceedings of 25th USENIX Security Symposium (SEC ‘16). August 2016. [Paper]


In contrast to the Android application layer, Android’s application framework’s internals and their influence on the platform security and user privacy are still largely a black box for us. In this paper, we establish a static runtime model of the application framework in order to study its internals and provide the first high-level classification of the framework’s protected resources. We thereby uncover design patterns that differ highly from the runtime model at the application layer.

We demonstrate the benefits of our insights for security-focused analysis of the framework by re-visiting the important use-case of mapping Android permissions to framework / SDK API methods. We, in particular, present a novel mapping based on our findings that significantly improves on prior results in this area that were established based on insufficient knowledge about the framework’s internals. Moreover, we introduce the concept of permission locality to show that although framework services follow the principle of separation of duty, the accompanying permission checks to guard sensitive operations violate it.


@inproceedings {197193,
author = {Michael Backes and Sven Bugiel and Erik Derr and Patrick McDaniel and Damien Octeau and Sebastian Weisgerber},
title = {On Demystifying the Android Application Framework: Re-Visiting Android Permission Specification Analysis},
booktitle = {25th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 16)},
year = {2016},
isbn = {978-1-931971-32-4},
address = {Austin, TX},
pages = {1101--1118},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity16/technical-sessions/presentation/backes_android},
publisher = {USENIX Association},

Permission Maps / Statistics

We moved the permission maps and auxiliary data from the axplorer project to GitHub.
The new repository is hosted at https://github.com/reddr/axplorer


Mail to  Erik Derr in case you have questions or feedback for this project.