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What Is This Sensor and Does This App Need Access to It?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Maryam Mehrnezhad, Ehsan Toreini



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2019 by the authors. Mobile sensors have already proven to be helpful in different aspects of people’s everyday lives such as fitness, gaming, navigation, etc. However, illegitimate access to these sensors results in a malicious program running with an exploit path. While the users are benefiting from richer and more personalized apps, the growing number of sensors introduces new security and privacy risks to end users and makes the task of sensor management more complex. In this paper, first, we discuss the issues around the security and privacy of mobile sensors. We investigate the available sensors on mainstream mobile devices and study the permission policies that Android, iOS and mobile web browsers offer for them. Second, we reflect the results of two workshops that we organized on mobile sensor security. In these workshops, the participants were introduced to mobile sensors by working with sensor-enabled apps. We evaluated the risk levels perceived by the participants for these sensors after they understood the functionalities of these sensors. The results showed that knowing sensors by working with sensor-enabled apps would not immediately improve the users’ security inference of the actual risks of these sensors. However, other factors such as the prior general knowledge about these sensors and their risks had a strong impact on the users’ perception. We also taught the participants about the ways that they could audit their apps and their permissions. Our findings showed that when mobile users were provided with reasonable choices and intuitive teaching, they could easily self-direct themselves to improve their security and privacy. Finally, we provide recommendations for educators, app developers, and mobile users to contribute toward awareness and education on this topic.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mehrnezhad M, Toreini E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Informatics

Year: 2019

Volume: 6

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 24/01/2019

Acceptance date: 18/01/2019

Date deposited: 25/02/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2227-9709

Publisher: MDPI


DOI: 10.3390/informatics6010007


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