Detecting Cloned Applications on Android Markets

Attack of the Clones: Detecting
Cloned Applications on Android
Jonathan Crussell1,2, Clint Gibler1, and Hao Chen1
1 University of California, Davis
2 Sandia National Labs
Source: ESORICS 2012
• Introduction
• Background
• Threat Model
• Clone Detection Approaches and Related Work
• Methodology
• Evaluation
• Case Studies
• Discussion
• Conclusion
• Much of the user experience of Android relies on third-party apps.
• Android has numerous marketplaces.
• Protect users from malicious apps.
• Protect developers from plagiarists.
• Developers can charge directly for their apps.
• Offer free apps that are ad-supported or contain in-game billing.
• Some apps have two version.
• Paid app -> cracked & release for free
• Free app -> cloned & change ad libraries
• Android Markets
• Android Application Structure
Threat Model-Definition of “Clone”.
• Clones occur when two applications
have similar code
but have different ownership.
• Ignore
Third-party libraries
Multiple versions of the same application if they have the same
Resistance to Evasion Techniques.
• High level modifications
• Method Restructurings
• Control Flow Alterations
• Addition/Deletion
• Reordering
Non Goals
• Find cloning in native code.
• Determine which applications are the victims and which are clones.
Clone Detection Approaches-Feature Based
• Feature based approaches analyze a program and extract a set of
• Number or size of classes, methods, loops, or variables to included
• Low detection rate or high false positive rate.
Clone Detection Approaches-Structure Based
• Structure based systems convert programs into a stream of tokens
and then compare the streams between two programs.
• More robustly than feature based systems.
• JPLAG, Winnowing and MOSS.
• Comparing DEX byte code streams could be a quite quick and scalable
method to find exactly or near exactly copied code.
• But byte code streams contain no higher level semantic knowledge
about the code.
Clone Detection Approaches-PDG Based
• Program Dependence Graph:
each node is a statement
each edge shows a dependency between statements
two types of dependencies: data and control
• A data dependency edge between statements 1 and 2 exists if there
is a variable in 2 whose value depends on 1 .
• A control dependency between two statements exists if the truth
value of the first statement controls whether the second statement
Related Work
• Androguard, DEXCD and DroidMOSS.
• All these approaches are structure based or structure based
• None of these tools use any semantic information to aid in detecting
Selecting Potentially Cloned Applications
• The goal of an application plagiarist is to entice unwary users to
choose her cloned application instead of the original.
• Name and description.
Determining Application Similarity Based on Attributes
• We use Solr to mimic the search engines on Android markets.
• Attributes of the apps:
name, package, market, owner, and description
Constructing PDGs
• dex2jar: Convert both apps’ code from the DEX format to a JAR.
• WALA: Construct PDGs for each method in every class of the
• Only data dependency edges: More robust against statement
reordering, insertion and deletion.
Comparing PDGs-Excluding Common Libraries
• Ad library Admob, Facebook API, etc.
• Dumped both the package name and SHA-1 hash of known library
files and recorded the most frequent SHA-1 hashes for each library.
Lossless and Lossy Filters
• Lossless filter: Removes PDGs from consideration that are smaller
than a specified size (< 10 nodes).
• Lossy filter: Calculate a frequency vector for each of the methods in
the pair.
• This vector counts how many times a specific node type occurs in the
• Compare these two vectors using hypothesis testing (G-test).
Subgraph Isomorphism
• Find a mapping between nodes in  and nodes in  .
• Subgraph isomorphism is NPComplete.
• VF2 algorithm.
Computing Similarity Scores
• For each method  (excluding the methods in known libraries) in
application , let || be the number of nodes in this method’s PDG.
Find the best match of this PDG in ’s PDGs and denote it as ().
• Similarity score: () =
∈ |()|
∈ ||
• 75,000 free apps from 13 Android markets.
• Randomly selected 9,400 pairs from the potential clones.
• Hadoop: parallelize DNADroid.
• HDFS: share data across a small cluster.
• The average throughput of DNADroid on this small cluster is 0.71
application pairs per minute.
Similarity between Applications
Similarity between Applications
Clustering Cloned Applications
Clustering Cloned Applications
Filter Performance
Filter Performance
Visual and Behavioral Verification
Case Studies
“Benign” Cloning
• DNADroid found 30 pairs that both have a 100% similarity score.
• Translation.
Changes to Advertising Libraries
• We can see when an application has most likely been cloned for
monetary gain.
• Ex: XWind Downloader
• For the 141 apps, we found that 91 (65%) of these pairs had different
libraries, all of which included changes to advertising libraries.
Malware Added to an Application
• “HippoSMS” is a malicious application requires 10 permissions.
• It shares the same package name as a Chinese video player requires
11 permissions.
• 6 permissions that video player doesn’t use.
Two Variants of the Same Malware
• Two malicious apps that are identified by VirusTotal as being variants
of the “BaseBridge” malware family.
• Both applications have been stripped of meaningful class and method
• DNADroid found coverages of 35% and 28% between the two
Use of Freeware Cracking Tool in the Wild
• AntiLVL
Decompiling an app with baksmali
Inserts a new file: SmaliHook.class
And hide AntiLVL’s modifications from the app itself by returning the
original file size, MD5, and signatures.
• Android License Verification Library (LVL), Amazon Appstore DRM and
Verizon DRM.
• 189 of 310 applications containing SmaliHook.class
• 235 of 310 containing references to AntiLVL in their signature files.
• Only 8% of our total apps were acquired from Chinese markets, 88% of the
apps including AntiLVL traces were from Chinese markets.
False Positive
• Since it is a serious allegation to claim an application is a clone, we
design DNADroid to have a very low false positive rate.
False Negative
• Cloned applications often have similar attributes as the original. (?)
• There exist advanced program transformations that can evade PDGbased clone detection.
Comparison to Other Approaches
• Androguard: miss 18%
• DEXCD had problems running on the pairs DNADroid identified.
• DroidMOSS is not currently publicly available.
• DNADroid are more expensive but result in fewer false positives and
false negatives.
• DNADroid is a tool for finding clones on a large scale.
• We evaluated DNADroid on applications crawled from 13 Android
Identified at least 141 apps that have been cloned
An additional 310 apps that were cracked with AntiLVL
• We describe five case studies
• DNADroid has a very low false positive rate
• DNADroid is an effective tool.

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