SmartAuth: User-Centered Authorization for the Internet of Things


Yuan Tian, Carnegie Mellon University; Nan Zhang, Indiana University, Bloomington; Yueh-Hsun Lin, Samsung; Xiaofeng Wang, Indiana University, Bloomington; Blase Ur, University of Chicago; Xianzheng Guo and Patrick Tague, Carnegie Mellon University


Internet of Things (IoT) platforms often require users to grant permissions to third-party apps, such as the ability to control a lock. Unfortunately, because few users act based upon, or even comprehend, permission screens, malicious or careless apps can become overprivileged by requesting unneeded permissions. To meet the IoT’s unique security demands, such as cross-device, context-based, and automatic operations, we present a new design that supports user-centric, semantic-based “smart” authorization. Our technique, called SmartAuth, automatically collects security-relevant information from an IoT app’s description, code and annotations, and generates an authorization user interface to bridge the gap between the functionalities explained to the user and the operations the app actually performs. Through the interface, security policies can be generated and enforced by enhancing existing platforms. To address the unique challenges in IoT app authorization, where states of multiple devices are used to determine the operations that can happen on other devices, we devise new technologies that link a device’s context (e.g., a humidity sensor in a bath room) to an activity’s semantics (e.g., taking a bath) using natural language processing and program analysis. We evaluate SmartAuth through user studies, finding participants who use SmartAuth are significantly more likely to avoid overprivileged apps.

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@inproceedings {203866,
author = {Yuan Tian and Nan Zhang and Yueh-Hsun Lin and XiaoFeng Wang and Blase Ur and Xianzheng Guo and Patrick Tague},
title = {SmartAuth: User-Centered Authorization for the Internet of Things},
booktitle = {26th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 17)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-40-9},
address = {Vancouver, BC},
pages = {361--378},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},