“Wi-Peep” technology allows Wi-Fi-enabled devices to be seen through walls
If someone was planning to break into a building, it would help if they knew in advance where valuable gadgets like smart TVs and laptops are located. A new study suggests that a drone equipped with a cheap “Y-Peep” device could allow them to do this by observing the walls of a building.
The potential security problem was discovered by a team of scientists from the University of Waterloo in Canada, led by Dr. Ali Abedi.
It exploits an existing technical weakness that researchers call “humble Wi-Fi.” This nickname refers to the fact that even within a password-protected Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi-enabled devices still respond to contact attempts made by another device within range.
This is where Y-Peep comes into play.
Created by scientists from off-the-shelf electronics worth only $20, the 10-gram (0.4-oz) device is mounted on an ordinary consumer drone, which is then flown outside a building. As the drone does this, Wi-Peep transmits Wi-Fi signals – these travel through walls and into the building, where they are detected by any Wi-Fi-connected devices present.
Those devices respond with their own signal, which is picked up by the Y-Peep. By measuring the time elapsed between the initial signal being sent and the response being received, it is possible to determine the location of the equipment inside the building, within a range of 1 m (3.3 ft).
As well as being used to weed out buildings for potential burglary, the technology could also be used to see where guards at businesses like banks are located by tracking the locations of their smartphones or smart watches.
It should be noted that there Huh already experimental system who use Wi-Fi to locate and track people through walls by emitting signals and then tracking reflections of which signals from the body of the people. Such setups are still quite complex and cumbersome, however, as they would be far less covert than a small remotely controlled, Y-Peep-equipped drone.
“At a fundamental level, we need to fix polite Wi-Fi flaws so that our devices don’t respond to strangers,” Abedi said. “We hope our work will inform the design of the next generation of protocols.”
One of their suggested short-term solutions involves introducing an artificial, random variation in instrument response time, which would mask their location relative to a Y-Peep-like instrument.
a paper The research was presented recently at the 28th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking.
Source: University of Waterloo
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