Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Iulian Neamtiu

Second Advisor

Michael J. Lee

Third Advisor

Salam Daher

Fourth Advisor

Tomer Weiss

Fifth Advisor

Zhiyong Shan


The Android mobile system is home to millions of apps that offer a wide range of functionalities. Users rely on Android apps in various facets of daily life, including critical, e.g., medical, settings. Generally, users trust that apps perform their stated purpose safely and accurately. However, despite the platform’s efforts to maintain a safe environment, apps routinely manage to evade scrutiny. This dissertation analyzes Android app behavior and has revealed several weakness: lapses in device authentication schemes, deceptive practices such as apps covering their traces, as well as behavioral and descriptive inaccuracies in medical apps. Examining a large corpus of applications has revealed that suspicious behavior is often the result of lax oversight, and can occur without an explicit intent to harm users. Nevertheless, flawed app behavior is present, and is especially problematic in apps that perform critical tasks. Additionally, manufacturer’s and app developer’s claims often do not mirror actual functionalities, e.g., as we reveal in our study of LG’s Knock Code authentication scheme, and as evidenced by the removal of Google Play medical apps due to overstated functionality claims. This dissertation makes the following contributions: (1) quantifying the security of LG’s Knock Code authentication method, (2) defining deceptive practices of self-hiding app behavior found in popular apps, (3) verifying abuses of device administrator features, (4) characterizing the medical app landscape found on Google Play, (5) detailing the claimed behaviors and conditions of medical apps using ICD codes and app descriptions, (6) verifying errors in medical score calculator app implementations, and (7) discerning how medical apps should be regulated within the jurisdiction of regulatory frameworks based on their behavior and data acquired from users.



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