Meddle: Enabling Transparency and Control for Mobile Internet Traffic

Ashwin Satish Rao, Arash Molavi Kahki, Abbas Razaghpanah, Anke Li, David Choffnes, Arnaud Legout, Alan Mislove, Phillipa Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleProfessional


Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed the way we interact with the Internet—and each other—in many positive ways. Underlying this enormous success are several core challenges that remain difficult to address. Apps track users and leak their personal data; the network performance and neutrality of mobile Internet service providers (ISPs) are generally unknown; and apps inefficiently use available networking resources, leading to suboptimal network performance and energy consumption. Addressing these problems requires not only visibility into the traffic generated by devices, but also control over how, when, and where that traffic is sent to and handled by third parties. Previous approaches to address these problems, such as TaintDroid [21], Glasnost [19], and performance-enhancing proxies, [55] improve visibility and control, but each faces limitations that hamper its effectiveness.

With Meddle, we explore a simpler and more effective strategy to address these problems: using network redirection to improve visibility and control for network traffic from mobile devices. Specifically, we use natively supported OS features (namely, VPN connectivity) to redirect a device’s Internet traffic over a secure channel to a trusted server. We developed new systems running atop this server to characterize and control network traffic using controlled and in situ studies. Our research builds upon this platform to improve privacy, policy transparency and performance in the mobile environment. We present summary results from our experience using this tool to reveal private information leaked in network traffic from mobile devices. We then show how to reveal mobile ISP performance and policies using Meddle as an in-path vantage point located outside mobile networks
Original languageEnglish
Article number2015103003
JournalTechnology Science Online Forum
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2015
MoE publication typeD1 Article in a trade journal

Fields of Science

  • 113 Computer and information sciences

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