Wi-Fi routers are surprisingly good spy tools. Researchers have discovered numerous ways to spy on unsuspecting network users by using various router features.
Wi-Fi Routers Can Do So Much More; Researchers Demonstrate Spying Techniques
The Wi-Fi routers that everyone uses on their home and office networks can turn out to be devastating espionage tools. Researchers have demonstrated numerous ways where these devices can spy on users and provide detailed information to malicious users. Several experiments have proven that Wi-Fi routers can be used to identify individual people by using Wi-Fi signals alone. This is done by analysis of the signal propagation. By viewing the way the signals are absorbed and altered when a human moves through a particular area, a user can see certain activities. People who can understand the signals can even read a person’s lips with a good measure of accuracy. These actions can even be observed when the router is located in another room. For best results, the system must first be trained with the target user’s body structure. Security researchers have even proposed more complex scenarios where the Wi-Fi routers can even communicate with other connected devices (such as IoT products) to control light and appliance controls for customization of the environment.
Back in 2013 MIT experts announced that they had used Wi-Fi routers to detect the number of people inhabiting a room and their hand gestures through a wall by Wi-Fi router signals. Their method was able to tell messages drawn in the air with a hundred percent accuracy. Using more advanced equipment the same team developed a system that can remotely monitor breathing and heart rate with 99% accuracy.
Another system called “WiKey” was presented at a conference last year. It allows researchers to expose key activity by monitoring finger movements. Upon training the system could recognize a sentence with 93.5% accuracy.
Berkeley Ph.D. researchers demonstrated another type of system using Wi-Fi routers that could hear what people were saying. Their technique analyzed the distortions and reflections of the Wi-Fi signals that were created by the movement of the users. Using a dictionary list, the method was successful in 91% of all case studies.
For now, these methods stay in the realm of academic research. However, a lot of experts envision a day when malicious users could use these techniques in attack campaigns. Wi-Fi routers can be utilized to do much more than their usual functionality by embedding “sensing” features like the ones presented by the research groups. But what would happen if those are utilized by malicious users?