Code between the Lines: Semantic Analysis of Android Applications

Johannes Feichtner*, Stefan Gruber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


Static and dynamic program analysis are the key concepts researchers apply to uncover security-critical implementation weaknesses in Android applications. As it is often not obvious in which context problematic statements occur, it is challenging to assess their practical impact. While some flaws may turn out to be bad practice but not undermine the overall security level, others could have a serious impact. Distinguishing them requires knowledge of the designated app purpose.

In this paper, we introduce a machine learning-based system that is capable of generating natural language text describing the purpose and core functionality of Android apps based on their actual code. We design a dense neural network that captures the semantic relationships of resource identifiers, string constants, and API calls contained in apps to derive a high-level picture of implemented program behavior. For arbitrary applications, our system can predict precise, human-readable keywords and short phrases that indicate the main use-cases apps are designed for.

We evaluate our solution on 67,040 real-world apps and find that with a precision between 69% and 84% we can identify keywords that also occur in the developer-provided description in Google Play. To avoid incomprehensible black box predictions, we apply a model explaining algorithm and demonstrate that our technique can substantially augment inspections of Android apps by contributing contextual information.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICT Systems Security and Privacy Protection - 35th IFIP TC 11 International Conference, SEC 2020, Proceedings
EditorsMarko Hölbl, Tatjana Welzer, Kai Rannenberg
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-58201-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-58200-5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020
Event35th International Conference on ICT Systems Security and Privacy Protection - Maribor, Slovenia
Duration: 21 Sep 202023 Sep 2020

Publication series

NameIFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology
Volume580 IFIP
ISSN (Print)1868-4238
ISSN (Electronic)1868-422X


Conference35th International Conference on ICT Systems Security and Privacy Protection
Abbreviated titleIFIP SEC 2020
Internet address


  • Android
  • TF-IDF
  • Deep Learning
  • NLP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems and Management
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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  • A-SIT - Secure Information Technology Center Austria

    Stranacher, K., Dominikus, S., Leitold, H., Marsalek, A., Teufl, P., Bauer, W., Aigner, M. J., Rössler, T., Neuherz, E., Dietrich, K., Zefferer, T., Mangard, S., Payer, U., Orthacker, C., Lipp, P., Reiter, A., Knall, T., Bratko, H., Bonato, M., Suzic, B., Zwattendorfer, B., Kreuzhuber, S., Oswald, M. E., Tauber, A., Posch, R., Bratko, D., Feichtner, J., Ivkovic, M., Reimair, F., Wolkerstorfer, J. & Scheibelhofer, K.


    Project: Research area

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