Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario have developed a drone-powered device that can see through walls by using Wi-Fi networks. The airborne scanning devices are able to triangulate the location of any Wi-Fi-connected device in a person’s home.
This device was dubbed the Wi-Peep by researchers Ali Abedi and Deepak Vasisht, who recently presented their findings at the 28th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking. It can fly near a building and then use the Wi-Fi networks to identify and locate all Wi-Fi-enabled devices within seconds.
Wi-Peep is a location-revealing invasion of privacy that can manipulate data on Wi-Fi networks and use it to see through walls, or rather, to sneakily scan the location of devices. Even when a network is password-protected, smart devices automatically respond to contact attempts from any device within range. In-flight, the Wi-Peep sends multiple messages to a device and then measures the response time on each device, allowing it to pinpoint the location of the device to within one meter.
According to the researchers, the device exploits vulnerabilities in IEEE 802.11, a long-standing wireless protocol for local access networks that has a history of data interception and eavesdropping issues. The program employs a technique known as “time-of-flight” (ToF), which uses a trick to manipulate data to determine the physical distance between a signal and an object.
“The Wi-Peep devices are like lights in the visible spectrum, and the walls are like glass,” said Abedi. “Using similar technology, one could track the movements of security guards inside a bank by following the location of their phones or smartwatches. Likewise, a thief could identify the location and type of smart devices in a home, including security cameras, laptops and smart TVs, to find a good candidate for a break-in. In addition, the device’s operation via drone means that it can be used quickly and remotely without much chance of the user being detected.”
The sources for this piece include an article in TechXplore.