Datapp Monitors Unencrypted Mobile Connections

Last year a group of researchers from the University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group (UNHcFREG) released a shocking study that a large number of Android Apps, including some of the top apps from the largest companies in the world, sent data over an insecure and unencrypted connection.

Following the research, the UNHcFREG was bombarded with requests to use their mobile data monitoring tool used within their recent study. The University researchers have since revealed Datapp, a Windows 7 program that acts as its own WiFi hotstop for mobile devices to connect to, and has the function to monitor unencrypted HTTP traffic. The information can be stored on the computer for the hotspot owner to investigate later.

“Our goal was to create a system where a layman could click a button and see whether the images they’re sending are encrypted,” said Dr. Ibrahim Baggili, the assistant professor of computer science at the Tagliatla College of Engineering, and a forensics security expert. Baggili supervised the Datapp project, alongside lead developer Robert Mejia and developer Kyle Anthony.

Developers released the Datapp application for free, releasing a Windows only version that allows your machine to act as its own mobile hotspot. Users are allowed then connect to the network and the application will monitor traffic and show the user what data is being sent in real time.

The application has two built in filters, one listing HTTP connections, and another listing HTTPS connections, the application can even construct unencrypted images from the TCP/IP packets sent over the network. The application also allows you to map out where any mobile connections are being sent, allowing for precision pinpointing of datacenters and countries.

Datapp developers keeps in mind that the application idea is to be able to test any mobile application, and identify if the connections its using are secure. Datapp can easily identify such information without having to open another data monitoring application and map the server addresses yourself.

Baggili said Datapp has both consumer and business applications, allowing anyone in any setting to identify what is and isn’t secure on mobile devices.

Following UNHcFREG disclosures, mobile application vendors immediately started ensuring all mobile applications data was being sent over HTTPS encrypted connection.

Baggili said the university may open the application to further platforms and allow it to target protocols beyond average HTTP connections and have the ability to target specific traffic such as voice and camera connections.

“[Early testers] have really liked [Datapp]. We tried it at a couple of events where we had people connect and try out their apps,” Baggili said speaking on the release. “It’s eye opening in many ways when people actually see it. People are at a different layer of abstraction. If an app works, that’s cool and all most people care about. But once they see their data all over the place with their own two eyes, it’s a different experience.”

Datapp could help expose companies sending data in plain text and help the Internet move towards full encryption, securing communications from spying and interception. The University has not noted if Datapp will be released as opensource, if the application becomes public, security communities could build upon and take the application further with targeted uses.

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