PIAnalyzer: A Precise Approach for PendingIntent Vulnerability Analysis

  • Sascha GroßEmail author
  • Abhishek Tiwari
  • Christian Hammer
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11099)


PendingIntents are a powerful and universal feature of Android for inter-component communication. A PendingIntent holds a base intent to be executed by another application with the creator’s permissions and identity without the creator necessarily residing in memory. While PendingIntents are useful for many scenarios, e.g., for setting an alarm or getting notified at some point in the future, insecure usage of PendingIntents causes severe security threats in the form of denial-of-service, identity theft, and privilege escalation attacks. An attacker may gain up to SYSTEM privileges to perform the most sensitive operations, e.g., deleting user’s data on the device. However, so far no tool can detect these PendingIntent vulnerabilities.

In this work we propose PIAnalyzer, a novel approach to analyze PendingIntent related vulnerabilities. We empirically evaluate PIAnalyzer on a set of 1000 randomly selected applications from the Google Play Store and find 1358 insecure usages of PendingIntents, including 70 severe vulnerabilities. We manually inspected ten reported vulnerabilities out of which nine correctly reported vulnerabilities, indicating a high precision. The evaluation shows that PIAnalyzer is efficient with an average execution time of 13 seconds per application.


Android Intent analysis Information flow control Static analysis 



This work was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) through the project SmartPriv (16KIS0760).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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