Fraunhofer USA Partners with Hebrew University, Georgia State University on Cybercrime Study

“Pocket Security” Research Examines Smartphone Users’ Habits and Risks of Data Theft

College Park, MD, July 23, 2019: Smartphones enable us to access information anywhere – but should we? Most of the world’s Internet usage occurs on mobile devices, which offer access to e-mail, banking information, fitness and health data, personal contacts, and other sensitive information. Selling or ransoming sensitive information is a central driver in much of the world’s cybercrime.

According to Dr. Adam Porter, Executive Director of the College Park-based Fraunhofer USA Center for Experimental Software Engineering (CMA), “Risks associated with smartphones extends beyond physical theft and virus, but live at the intersection of these two worlds. Curious eyes peer over shoulders to read what’s on the screen and our cars now access personal data to play music or issue navigation directions. Society does not yet understand the cybercriminal risk of using smartphones loaded with personal information during the course of daily activities. Understanding these risks is the first step to educating users and building risk mitigation into future systems.”

Leveraging earlier research funded by the National Science Foundation, and in partnership with the University of Maryland’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the Fraunhofer USA CMA is expanding this study through a new partnership with researchers at Hebrew University in Israel and Georgia State University to expand our understanding of how criminal activity and victimization are often facilitated by users’ unwitting or careless behaviors on smartphones.

Through the earlier funded research, Fraunhofer USA CMA has implemented Mobile Application Data Capture (MADCAP), a smartphone application that collects information about smartphones usage “in the wild”. The data collected from this smartphone app allows researchers to examine trends in risky smartphone behavior, such as determining whether users access sensitive apps (such as banking) in high crime neighborhoods, install suspicious apps late at night while tired, or ignore security warnings while they are distracted by driving.

This study extension will leverage this smartphone to further generalize the previously funded research. The app will be used to collect data on users’ physical location, app usage, texting habits, and responses to security warnings from 180 participants over three months.

The research is expected to yield new technologies and approaches that protect users from cybercrime. For example, predictive models that can alert users when they practice risky behaviors, system design and usage policies that nudge users away from those behaviors, and best practices training that teach system developers how to build less risky systems in the first place.

Barry Bogage, Executive Director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center said, “The Fraunhofer agreement with Hebrew University to bring the “Pocket Security” project to Israel is another great example of Maryland and Israel R&D collaboration. University of Maryland President Wallace Loh participated in a Maryland/Israel Development Center organized trade mission to Israel in 2013 and signed a memorandum of understanding with Hebrew University for R&D collaboration.” Fraunhofer CMA is a University of Maryland affiliated organization and supports multiple researchers on campus with advanced software and systems engineering solutions.

Maryland/Israel Development Center Newsletter

Maryland/Israel Development Center Press Release


About Fraunhofer USA

Fraunhofer USA, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charitable organization incorporated in Rhode Island that is dedicated to the advancement of applied research. Fraunhofer USA was founded in 1994 to conduct applied R & D for customers in industry, academia and state and federal government agencies in the United States. Working closely with Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest application-oriented research and development organization and its sole corporate member, Fraunhofer USA can offer both domestic and international resources to enhance its portfolio of research and development. For more information, visit


Contact: Peter O'Neill

Fraunhofer USA, CMA

Phone: (410) 858-6373                    5700 Rivertech Court, Ste 210

Email:          Riverdale, MD 20737-1250