The increasingly widespread use of drones has raised many questions about security, privacy and data ownership in recent years. And the technological evolution continues…
The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada has created an app it calls “Wi-Peep”. What does this app do? A team of robotics experts in Waterloo "taught" a drone to use local WiFi to see through walls.
To put it another way, a drone that can see through solid objects using the signals of the WiFi network present in the house. An exciting advance for drone and imaging technologies. Of course there are bound to be problems when we all start using drones to see what's going on in other people's homes.
To her credit though, the Waterloo team presented her findings as a security loophole and made the working parameters of its technology widely available. It all depends on the technology that experts in Waterloo call “Polite WiFi” from Polite WiFi.
In short, even on password-protected networks, smart devices often automatically connect to any incoming signal. By sending multiple messages and measuring response time, Wi-Peep can map smart devices around an indoor space, creating a functional map of what's inside.
This technology is extremely affordable. Dr. Ali Abedi, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, built a drone that uses the Wi-Peep app from a standard $20 drone.
According to Abedi:
“Wi-Peep devices make walls look like glass. Using similar technology, one could track the movements of security guards inside a bank by tracking the location of their phones or smartwatches. Similarly, a thief could determine the location and type of smart devices in a home, such as security cameras, laptops and smart TVs, by mapping the home before entering."
Using such an exciting yet potentially dangerous device in everyday life will clearly have challenges. At the same time, given the accessibility and ease of use of the technology, it is likely to become part of the everyday technological landscape very soon.