17.05.2019

No Chance for Datakraken Any More

Researchers at KIT have developed an app protecting mobile phone data without restricting the usability of popular applications

Smartphones are a never-ending data source for app providers. The application AVARE pulls the plug of such tappers. (Photo: Lydia Albrecht, KIT)

Messengers, games, fitness trainers: Large Internet companies offer millions of apps for download in their stores.  And many of them cost apparently nothing.However, for many app and advertising network providers users are a data source from which cash flows and is skimmed. Researchers of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and of the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, an innovation partner of KIT, have now developed an app that protects your own data better.

Location, communication, purchases, film and music preferences, everything is captured by app providers. Those who put emphasis on data economy, have so far only been able to avoid digitalisation as far as possible – for many, this is not a viable option. Researchers have now found a remedy and developed a data security app on behalf of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung gGmbH, which still allows an unrestricted use of popular applications that however are hungry for information.

Whereas it was previously necessary to change the right of every single app on the smartphone manually, in order to prevent the involuntary flow of data – in many cases it is not even possible, because the app in question then strikes – just a few clicks are enough now. The programme AVARE can be installed on Android devices like an app that creates then a restricted area, in which other apps can be wrapped up and that controls the entire communication between these apps and the operating system. "We were looking for a way of using all applications unrestrictedly and at the same time only passing on own data in a controlled way," says Dr. Gunther Schiefer, manager of the working group "Mobile Business" at the Institute of Applied Informatics and Formal Description Methods (AIFB) of KIT. If now an app wrapped up in AVARE tries to access the contacts in the address book, AVARE enables the user to release individual contacts and to restrict the release, for example, onto the mobile phone number, first and last name. "The address or date of birth are not necessary for a chat," states Schiefer.

Moreover, AVARE can reduce the accuracy of the location and extend it to a radius of several kilometres, so that, for example a weather app can continue to make reliable forecasts without capturing the location of the user exact to the building. In the case of apps that do not work without general access rights, AVARE will go further in the future: "We then import wrong data, which are identifiable as such. The interface of the microphone then gets a hissing, the interface of the camera a black surface or a cloud-image, the interface of the address book emergency numbers of fire-brigades and breakdown services.

The AVARE code is available as an open source software at: www.avare.app. The researchers hope that their programme will be taken up by other developers who help to further develop the current beta version, in order to create a version 1.0.

The project AVARE was funded by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung gGmbH (www.bwstiftung.de) in the framework of the research programme "IKT-Sicherheit" (ICT security).

Further information and a video can be found at: www.avare.app

Details on the KIT Center Information · Systems · Technologies (in English): http://www.kcist.kit.edu

Being "The Research University in the Helmholtz Association", KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment.It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information.For this, about 9.300 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences.KIT prepares its 25.100 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs.Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life.

Further contact:
Dr. Felix Mescoli, editor/press officer, Phone: +49 721 608 48120, Email: felix.mescoli@kit.edu