Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2024-06-25, 12:54 authored by Reham Mohamed Sa AburasReham Mohamed Sa Aburas

The pervasive integration of mobile devices in today’s modern world, e.g., smartphones, IoT, and mixed-reality devices, has transformed various domains, enhancing user experiences, yet raising concerns about data security and privacy. Despite the implementation of various measures, such as permissions, to protect user privacy-sensitive data, vulnerabilities persist. These vulnerabilities pose significant threats to user privacy, including the risk of side-channel attacks targeting low-permission sensors. Additionally, the introduction of new permissions, such as the App Tracking Transparency framework in iOS, seeks to enhance user transparency and control over data sharing practices. However, these framework designs are accompanied by ambiguous developer guidelines, rendering them susceptible to deceptive patterns. These patterns can influence user perceptions and decisions, undermining the intended purpose of these permissions. Moreover, the emergence of new mobile technologies, e.g., mixed-reality devices, presents novel challenges in ensuring secure data sharing among multiple users in collaborative environments, while preserving usability.

In this dissertation, I focus on developing user-centered methods for enhancing the security and privacy of mobile system, navigating through the complexities of unsolicited data access strategies and exploring innovative approaches to secure device authentication and data sharing methodologies.

To achieve this, first, I introduce my work on the iStelan system, a three-stage side-channel attack. This method exploits the low-permission magnetometer sensor in smartphones to infer user sensitive touch data and application usage patterns. Through an extensive user study, I demonstrate the resilience of iStelan across different scenarios, surpassing the constraints and limitations of prior research efforts.

Second, I present my analysis and study on the App Tracking Transparency permission in iOS. Specifically, my work focuses on analyzing and detecting the dark patterns employed by app developers in the permission alerts to obtain user consent. I demonstrate my findings on the dark patterns observed in permission alerts on a large-scale of apps collected from Apple’s store, using both static and dynamic analysis methods. Additionally, I discuss the application of a between-subject user study to evaluate users’ perceptions and understanding when exposed to different alert patterns.

Lastly, I introduce StareToPair, a group pairing system that leverages multi-modal sensing technologies in mixed-reality devices to enable secure data sharing in collaborative settings. StareToPair employs a sophisticated threat model capable of addressing various real-world scenarios, all while ensuring high levels of scalability and usability.

Through rigorous investigation, theoretical analysis and user studies, my research endeavors enhance the field of security and privacy for mobile systems. The insights gained from these studies offer valuable guidance for future developments in mobile systems, ultimately contributing to the design of user-centered secure and privacy-aware mobile ecosystems.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Z. Berkay Celik

Additional Committee Member 2

Antonio Bianchi

Additional Committee Member 3

Jing (Dave) Tian

Additional Committee Member 4

Sonia Fahmy

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