The Android Platform Security Model

Jeff Vander Stoep
Chad Brubaker
Nick Kralevich


Android is the most widely deployed end-user focused operating system. With its growing set of use cases encompassing communication, navigation, media consumption, entertainment, finance, health, and access to sensors, actuators, cameras, or microphones, its underlying security model needs to address a host of practical threats in a wide variety of scenarios while being useful to non-security experts. The model needs to strike a difficult balance between security, privacy, and usability for end users, assurances for app developers, and system performance under tight hardware constraints. While many of the underlying design principles have implicitly informed the overall system architecture, access control mechanisms, and mitigation techniques, the Android security model has previously not been formally published. This paper aims to both document the abstract model and discuss its implications. Based on a definition of the threat model and Android ecosystem context in which it operates, we analyze how the different security measures in past and current Android implementations work together to mitigate these threats. There are some special cases in applying the security model, and we discuss such deliberate deviations from the abstract model.