A cheap spying tool with a high creepy factor

August 6, 2013
cheap_spying_tool

With a handful of plastic boxes and over-the-counter sensors, including Wi-Fi adapters and a USB hub, Brendan O’Connor, a security researcher, was able to monitor all the wireless traffic emitted by nearby wireless devices (credit: Brendan O’Connor)

How easy would it be to monitor the movement of everyone on the street by a private citizen with a few hundred dollars to spare?

Brendan O’Connor, 27, bought some plastic boxes and stuffed them with a $25, credit-card size Raspberry Pi Model A computer and a few over-the-counter sensors, including Wi-Fi adapters, The New York Times reports.

He connected each of those boxes to a command and control system, and he built a data visualization system to monitor what the sensors picked up: all the wireless traffic emitted by every nearby wireless device, including smartphones.

Spying on himself, he could pick up the Web sites he browsed when he connected to a public Wi-Fi — say at a cafe — and he scooped up the unique identifier connected to his phone and iPad.

Even when he didn’t connect to a Wi-Fi network, his sensors could track his location through Wi-Fi “pings.” His iPhone pinged the iMessage server to check for new messages. When he logged on to an unsecured Wi-Fi, it revealed what operating system he was using on what kind of device, and whether he was using Dropbox or went on a dating site or browsed for shoes on an e-commerce site. One site might leak his e-mail address, another his photo. [...]

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