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Research Topics

Challenges in Mobile Application Development

Background

The rising popularity of modern mobile devices leads to a literally flood of new, more or less useful, applications every day. Each vendor of a mobile platform (e.g. Google, Apple, RIM, etc.) pursues a different strategy concerning the extent of application developer support. As especially Android has an extremely liberal attitude towards this issue, the number of new third-party application published every day for this OS is very high.

Among these third-party applications, however, are not only good-natured applications, but also malicious ones, whose sole purpose is to spy on the user’s privacy or to do harm to his or her data and / or hardware. Examples thereof are frequently in the news (e.g. Android’s sim card virus or the photo leak in Android systems). Even though all vendors are trying to reduce those hazards, currently neither Apple’s wallet garden model nor the user controlled privacy model by Google leads to success. This is mainly due to the fact that a user gets insufficient information about the device features an application needs access to, and thus is hardly able to estimate the possible consequences. But even if the user detects a potential threat, nevertheless s/he must grant all requested permissions to an application, if s/he wants to use them.


Privacy Management

Therefore we are working on a different privacy preserving approach, where a user can define extendable, fine-granular and context-dependent privacy rules at application run-time. In addition to this, our system has to be crash safe (even if major permissions are revoked while the application is currently running) and should give a comprehensive feedback about the limitations the privacy settings imply without overwhelming the user thereby. For this purpose an application has to possess different service features, which can be individually enabled and disabled.

Application Adaptation

In order to support the development of applications providing different service features, respectively the enhancement of existing applications by these functions, new development methods are necessary. We are working on a framework for customizable mobile context-aware applications and services. However, thus not only the implementation of service features is supported but also the analysis of user behavior. Based on this knowledge a feedback loop should auto-adapt the application in order to satisfy all user requirements.

Smart Application Repositories

Another important key factor, besides our privacy policy in combination with adaptable applications, concerning security issues on mobile devices are the software repositories—often referred as markets—providing mobile applications. We are studying to what extent e.g. context-awareness, user roles, application signing or application encryption could be useful for an application market and how these features can be integrated in the momentarily existing provisioning infrastructure.