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Security and Communication Networks
Volume 2018, Article ID 3182402, 22 pages
Research Article

Exploiting Proximity-Based Mobile Apps for Large-Scale Location Privacy Probing

1Institute of Information Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
2School of Cyber Security, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
3Department of Computing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
4MOE KLINNS Lab, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China
5Beijing One Scorpion Cyber Security Co., Ltd., Beijing, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Xiaobo Ma; nc.ude.utjx@sc.amx

Received 7 September 2017; Revised 17 December 2017; Accepted 27 December 2017; Published 14 February 2018

Academic Editor: Petros Nicopolitidis

Copyright © 2018 Shuang Zhao et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Proximity-based apps have been changing the way people interact with each other in the physical world. To help people extend their social networks, proximity-based nearby-stranger (NS) apps that encourage people to make friends with nearby strangers have gained popularity recently. As another typical type of proximity-based apps, some ridesharing (RS) apps allowing drivers to search nearby passengers and get their ridesharing requests also become popular due to their contribution to economy and emission reduction. In this paper, we concentrate on the location privacy of proximity-based mobile apps. By analyzing the communication mechanism, we find that many apps of this type are vulnerable to large-scale location spoofing attack (LLSA). We accordingly propose three approaches to performing LLSA. To evaluate the threat of LLSA posed to proximity-based mobile apps, we perform real-world case studies against an NS app named Weibo and an RS app called Didi. The results show that our approaches can effectively and automatically collect a huge volume of users’ locations or travel records, thereby demonstrating the severity of LLSA. We apply the LLSA approaches against nine popular proximity-based apps with millions of installations to evaluate the defense strength. We finally suggest possible countermeasures for the proposed attacks.