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Researchers Turn Home Wi-Fi Router Into Spy Device 108

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the no-warrant-required dept.
hypnosec writes "Researchers at University College of London have applied principles of radar used in defense and designed a detector using home based Wi-Fi routers to spy on people across walls. Using the principles behind the Doppler effect ... Karl Woodbridge and Kevin Chetty, at University College London, have built a prototype unit that uses Wi-Fi signals and recognizes frequency changes to detect moving objects. The size of the prototype unit is more or less the size of a suitcase. The unit contains a radio receiver comprising of two antennas and a signal-processing unit. The duo carried out test runs and ... they managed to determine a person's location, speed, and direction (even through a one foot thick brick wall). The device could be used to spot intruders, monitor children or the elderly, and could even be used in military applications."
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Researchers Turn Home Wi-Fi Router Into Spy Device

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Would be nice to see how this might be used for good, not just evil.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In the hand of all good US army and intelligence everything is used for good... anyone else using it will be for bad bad terrorism...

    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:26AM (#40876793) Homepage

      Ok, it can be used to detect if you are about to be attacked by zombies or RIAA agents.

      • Nice rationalization for a wallhack there. Personally, I think even in the case of a zombie apocalypse you have to have *some* standards. Otherwise, what is the difference between you and a zombie?

        • WWJD (Score:5, Funny)

          by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:34AM (#40876825)

          So cheating with wallhacks is bad? Not for a christian -- Jesus abused an item cloning bug [wikipedia.org] himself.

          • by holysin (549880)
            if only I had mod points, thanks for the good LOL before bed.
          • I hope cloning food is one of those glitches that will end up as a feature someday, like rocket jumping. At any rate, since he shared the bread and fishes with all on the server, I wouldn't call it abusing the bug, especially since they were all just idling anyway, there wasn't a match in progress at that time.

            • Re:WWJD (Score:4, Funny)

              by indeterminator (1829904) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @08:01AM (#40876897)

              At any rate, since he shared the bread and fishes with all on the server, I wouldn't call it abusing the bug, especially since they were all just idling anyway, there wasn't a match in progress at that time.

              Some other cases of him exploting glitches also come to mind. But being a son of the server admin, I don't think there was any chance of him getting banned...

              • Well yeah, there's that ^^ But as I said, I don't think it counts as cheating, since he wasn't really fragging anyone... IIRC he mostly warned of the impending crash of the server they were on, while handing out the access details for the new one ("the admin's private server has many slots") to those who agreed to installing punkbuster and having their score reset. He exploited glitches to get the attention of players for that purpose, sure, but I'm not sure that sounds as cheating?

                • by Phrogman (80473)

                  I dunno, in the end the Roman Empire guild crucified him after all.
                  Besides its not entirely clear that he was the son of the server admin, there's been these confusing references to an account named Holy Ghost, as well as the Jesus account and the Admin account itself of course, suggesting that all three are "one, but separate" etc. Might be the same player administering the server and then playing on 2 other accounts as well.

                  • Re:WWJD (Score:4, Insightful)

                    by Johann Lau (1040920) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:37AM (#40877497) Homepage Journal

                    Didn't Jesus let them kill him on purpose, so he could respawn 3 days later as a further demonstration of him being (endorsed by) the admin? But yeah, it's hard to make sense of it going just by a bunch of server logs which may have been tampered with.

                    • by Phrogman (80473)

                      Good point, I had forgotten it was more or less ordained.

                      As for the partial server logs, remember that whole confusing "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" statement when all along he claimed to be uninterested in PvP entirely? Very confusing.
                      His followers seemed to be heavily into PvP mind you...

        • what is the difference between you and a zombie?
          I smell better.

          • Do zombies go by smell? Because in that case peppering the walls with bullets where you detect silhouettes will just help them find you quicker, and smelling nice just makes it worse :/

            I on the other hand won't have to change a thing. I'll just sit here like I always do, quietly, reading slashdot covered in a thick crust of dead skin and feces, waiting to get last post. I'm ready!

            • by Fjandr (66656)

              Nope, I've got to go with sound primarily, followed by movements faster than a typical zombie. This conclusion is the result of many hours of studying documentary footage of zombies hunting in their natural habitat.

        • Nice rationalization for a wallhack there. Personally, I think even in the case of a zombie apocalypse you have to have *some* standards. Otherwise, what is the difference between you and a zombie?

          Brainsss!

      • Or Sectoids and Mutons. Clearly this is an X-Com motion scanner.

      • You forgot ghosts! If it detects vaguely moving, inaccurately shaped blobs through a wall but isn't real clear if something is really there or not and it can't tell the difference between an owl, a coffee table, and a human, the Ghost Hunters will be all over it! This will spark a whole new series of their show! ERMEHGERD!!! BLOB! MUST B GHOSTZ!
      • by unitron (5733)

        Ok, it can be used to detect if you are about to be attacked by zombies or RIAA agents.

        How does one tell the difference?

        Zombies do less damage and have more respect for individual rights?

  • The tinfoil house will be near us soon. Makes me wonder if the tech will be used as an indication that you "have something to hide" if no signal is detected.

    • by DamonHD (794830)

      1) The foil vapour-control-layer just behind the plasterboard on my aerogel internal wall insulation seems to be starting to to that job quite well already.

      2) I don't have an FB a/c so I really must be a terrrrrist, yes?

      Rgds

      Damon

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by maxwell demon (590494)

        Well, just wait for the FUCK act (Facebook Update Complete Knowledge act). That will make it illegal to not put everything about yourself on Facebook.

    • Well, you can just claim that you just want to shield from the evil phone radiation.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Dont need to. just buy "magnetic paint" at home depot and paint your walls. it's a very high concentration of iron in the paint and it blocks RF quite well.

  • Wrong history... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Jorgensen (313325)

    The article gets off to a bad start in the very first sentence:

    In the 1930s, U.S. Navy researchers stumbled upon the concept of radar when...

    Rubish. The US Navy did not invent radar as it implies. Nicola Tesla descibed the concept in 1917 and others were playing with similar ideas before then. Sorry. Im not going to bother reading the rest. Isnt there an actual paper on the subject we can read instead of this badly-informed junk?

    • Rubbish ^2 - The quote does not imply the navy invented radar. "Stumbled upon the concept" directly implies the concept already existed, ie: the Navy heard about it in the 1930's and put it to practical use. Even then, nobody was really interested until WW2.
      • Even then, nobody was really interested until WW2.

        Maybe they got interested in radars to avoid icebergs and ships a problem encountered by Olympic, Titanic, Lusitania .... and installed one on the Normandie

        • Maybe they did? I'm not making any specific claims. I'm just offering an alternative interpretation of the quote that upset the OP so much that he "stopped reading". Doing that based on the quote alone is a bit like not reading a newspaper because it includes a horoscope.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Rubbish ^2 - The quote does not imply the navy invented radar.

        YMMV but it certainly sounded that way to me...

  • "...and could even be used in military applications."

    The naiveté is overwhelming. Military applications, if even remotely plausible, would be the first to get this technology, not high-tech baby monitors.

  • NSA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rant-a-Holic (2700617) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @05:52AM (#40876509)
    Hi there. NSA here. We'd like to ask everyone to stop copying our ideas. Unfortunately we can't patent them for obvious reasons, but we can block you just as much under the 'National Security' stamp, so just forget about it. Also just letting you know we are pushing for legislation to ban auto-frequency shifting routers and any rapidly moving iron object in the premises that may scatter signals. But for the record; this works just as well with your cordless phone, cellphone, radio controlled car and microwave, so switching of your router really doesn't help you. And since you propagate the radio signals voluntarily the fourth amendment also doesn't apply. (Please don't conclude we care about the constitution - We've had this argument already) Oh yeah, before I forget; dwellings that emit NO radio signals are automatically marked for surveillance and occupants placed on the no-fly list.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also just letting you know we are pushing for legislation to ban[...] any rapidly moving iron object in the premises that may scatter signals.

      NSA wants do ban ammunition? I need popcorn to watch the battle between NRA and NSA, not sure which side will be surviving this epic fight.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Hi there. NSA here. We'd like to ask everyone to stop copying our ideas. Unfortunately we can't patent them for obvious reasons, but we can block you just as much under the 'National Security' stamp, so just forget about it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_Secrecy_Act [wikipedia.org]
      You can apply for a classified patent and the government can retroactively classify an already granted/applied for patent.
      Once your patent is classified, your only customer is the government or government contractors with clearance.

    • by anubi (640541)
      When I saw this article, I immediately thought of something I had seen done for years.

      Basically, this device is a digital signal processor looking at two antennas and looking at the phase shifts induced by a moving reflective object.

      The effect is quite pronounced, and only needs some source of RF to illuminate the area. An OTA TV transmitter transmitting its normal fare does very nicely. If you have ever used a TV with rabbit ears, I am sure you have seen the effect yourself. You move about the room
  • whoa, whoa cowboy, slow down there....that last "even" just made the entire rest of the article padded filler to justify what anyone would expect anyway, but seeing it couched in such pathetically blatant terms only makes it stand out all the more. We all saw Real Genius son, we all know how this works, you're not on our side.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, come on, you are exaggerating. We haven't all seen real genius. I mean I do, every morning in the mirror, but since I rarely leave my house the rest of you sad fucks are out of luck.

  • by l3v1 (787564) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:26AM (#40876613)
    Passive radar has been researched and used for a while now, which is cool. And the reported thing would be cool too, if it would be passive and if it would not require a custom-built active-signal based wifi device with the size of a suitcase which is anything but covert. Also, through-the-wall radars have been used for a time, which don't provide too much detail, but can tell at least the number of moving objects and locate them. Again, this would be quite nice if it wouldn't require the placement of a custom device, or if it does, then it should be quite much smaller and not different in size or looks from any other router you can buy, and then at least they could place them in banks or wherever.
  • Passive radar (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:43AM (#40876659)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_radar [wikipedia.org]

    Passive radar uses radio sources, like TV and FM stations, instead of having its own transmitter. The receiver detects the direct signal from the transmitter and the signal reflected from the target. The trick is to separate the two. Using the doppler effect does that nicely for moving targets.

    The advantage of passive radar is that it can't be detected.

    The radar in TFA doesn't need to be undetectable, the targets probably don't have detectors. It could have its own transmitter. That would simplify the receiver design a lot. The transmitter is quite simple and cheap, being a GUNN diode or something like that. It would also require a directional transmitting antenna. Developing such a device would be much cheaper and it would work much better.

    Given that the researchers did the job the hard way, their accomplishment is quite impressive. On the other hand, we haven't seen a fully field tested version. There is a large gap between a lab demo under controlled circumstances and an actual useable device.

  • Home Wi-Fi Router? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @06:47AM (#40876681)
    The headline is a bit misleading. They did not convert a Wifi station to a spy device, but created a completely separate device to interpret Wifi signals and their reflections in a building.
    • The headline is a bit misleading. They did not convert a Wifi station to a spy device, but created a completely separate device to interpret Wifi signals and their reflections in a building.

      Well, actually they converted a Wifi station to HALF of a spy device.

      They simply created the other half.

  • Sigh.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gallondr00nk (868673) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:10AM (#40876747)

    Finding new ways to spy on people is something we seem to be really good at here in the UK

  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:21AM (#40876779) Homepage
    Now I have to run Wild Weasel missions against my own router.
  • So if it uses Wifi-range signals, we could prolly make a "spy device detector" or even "spy device blocker" in dd-wrt?
    With everyone using wifi, I don't understand how results could be so accurate. Please enlighten me:)

  • While it is super neat to see this being done with routers by mere humans, it hardly compares to what our overlords have been doing for a long time. An old friend who was a low-level translator for the NSA (spying on Russians), had once described a patented device which was used for remote eavesdropping. For example, it would use the radiation from something like a television, or a monitor, etc., and through extremely sensitive observation, determine words by the electro-magnetic interference caused by the
  • Reminds me of this 2008 Google Tech Talks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PiMimSrP7A [youtube.com]

  • I watched an episode of Continuum last night where they used the the signal from a cell tower to map peoples movements and I thought it was the most ridiculous idea in a scifi show ever. I was wrong.
  • ... initiate a call to the perps, precisely triangulate the location of the phone source through common RF firection finding, use passive detection using your own cell and responding perps cell signals (add in others for more precision). Would have been complicated to do once upon a time but tech is there to do it now. Reply to this post if you want to take this idea to market :-)

  • Reminds me of the monitoring enabled by the mesh network from Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town [craphound.com].

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