Mobile Malware Detection Based on Energy Fingerprints - A Dead End?

Johannes Hoffmann, Stephan Neumann, Thorsten Holz

Research in Attacks, Intrusions and Defenses (RAID) Symposium, St. Lucia, October 2013


With the ever rising amount and quality of malicious software for mobile phones, multiple ways to detect such threats are desirable. Next to classical approaches such as dynamic and static analysis, the idea of detecting malicious activities based on the energy consumption introduced by them was recently proposed by several researchers. The key idea behind this kind of detection is the fact that each activity performed on a battery powered device drains a certain amount of energy from it. This implies that measuring the energy consumption may reveal unwanted and possibly malicious software running next to genuine applications on such a device: if the normal energy consumption is known for a device, additional used up energy should be detectable.

In this paper, we evaluate whether such an approach is indeed feasible for modern smartphones and argue that results presented in prior work are not applicable to such devices. By studying the typical energy consumption of different aspects of common Android phones, we show that it varies quite a lot in practice. Furthermore, empirical tests with both artificial and real-world malware indicate that the additional power consumed by such apps is too small to be detectable with the mean error rates of state-of-the art measurement tools.


tags: mobile, security