FEB 10 2018

Your Mobile Phone Can Give Away Your Location Evemobile phonen If You Tell It Not To

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Apps can access most of these sensors without asking for permission from the user. And by combining readings from two or more devices, its often possible to do things that users, phone designers and app creators alike may not expect.

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By measuring a sequence of turns, and stringing them together as a person travels, we could make a map of their movements. In our work, we knew which city we were tracking people through, but a similar approach could be used to figure out what city a person was in.

Most people expect that turning their phones location services off disables mobile surveillance, but there are ways apps can avoid or escape those restrictions

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We developed an algorithm to match those movements up against a digitized map of the streets of the city the user was in, and determined which were the most likely routes a person might take. Those movements could identify a route driving from Fenway Park, along the Back Bay Fens, past the Museum of Fine Arts and arriving at Northeastern University.

hour ago Savvy Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen

We were even able to refine our algorithm to incorporate information about curves in roads and speed limits to help narrow options. We produced our results as alist of possible pathsranked by how likely the algorithm thought they were to match the actual route. About half the time, in most cities we tried, the real path a user followed was in the top items on the list. Further refining the map data, sensor readings and the matching algorithm could substantially improve our accuracy. Again, this of capability could be added to any app by a malicious developer, letting innocentappearing apps snoop on their users.

There have been many other attacks through the years using all sorts of different approaches. The recentMeltdown and Spectrevulnerabilities that exploit design flaws in computer processors, are also sidechannel attacks. They enable malicious applications to snoop on other applications data in the computer memory.

U.S. military officials were recently caught off guard by revelations that servicemembers digital fitness trackers werestoring the locationsof their workoutsincluding at or nearmilitary bases and clandestine sitesaround the world. But this threat is not limited to Fitbits and similar devices. My groups recent research has shown how mobile phones can also track their users through stores and cities and around the worldeven when users turn off their phones locationtracking services.

This article was originally published onThe Conversation. Read theoriginal article.

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Mobile devices are perfect targets for this sort of attack from an unexpected direction. They arestuffed with sensors, usually including at least one accelerometer, a gyroscope, a magnetometer, a barometer, up to four microphones, one or two cameras, a thermometer, a pedometer, a light sensor and a humidity sensor.

When a user taps on the screen in different locations, the phone itself rotates slightly in ways that can be measured by thethreeaxis micromechanical gyroscopesfound in most current phones. Further, tapping on a phone screen produces a sound that can be recorded on each of a phones multiple microphones. A tap close to the center of the screen will not move the phone much, will reach both microphones at the same time, and will sound roughly the same to all the microphones. However, a tap at the bottom left edge of the screen will rotate the phone left and down; it will reach the left microphone ster; and it will sound louder to microphones near the bottom of the screen and quieter to microphones elsewhere on the device.

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Your Mobile Phone Can Give Away Your Location, Even If You Tell It Not To

Our research group is continuing to investigate how sidechannel attacks can be used to reveal a variety of private information. For instance, measuring how a phone moves when its owner is walking could suggest how old a person is, whether they are male with the phone in a pocket or female typically with the phone in a purse, or even health information about how steady a person is on his feet or how often she stumbles. We assume there is more your phone can tell a snoopand we hope to find out what, and how, to protect against that sort of spying.

We then wondered whether a malicious application could infer a users whereabouts, including where they lived and worked, and what routes they traveledinformation most people consider very private.

Processing the movement and sound data together let us determine what key a user pressed, and we were right over percent of the time. This sort of function could be added secretly to any app and could run unnoticed by a user.

Most people expect that turning their phones location services off disables this sort of mobile surveillance. But the research I conduct with my colleaguesSashank NarainTriet VoHuuKen BlockandAmirali Sanatiniaat Northeastern University, in a field called sidechannel attacks, uncovers ways that apps can avoid or escape those restrictions. We have revealed how a phone can listen in on a users fingertyping to discover a secret passwordand how simply carrying a phone in your pocket can tell data companies where you are and where youre going.

Imagine we observe aperson in Boston heading southwest, turning degrees to the right, a sharp Uturn to the left to head southeast, turning slightly to the right, continuing straight, then following a shallow curve to the left, a quick jog to the right, bumping up and down more than usual on a road, turning degrees right, and turning degrees left and then a slight curve right before stopping.

Most people expect that turning their phones location services off disables mobile surveillance, but there are ways apps can avoid or escape those restrictions

When designing protection for a device or a system, people make assumptions about what threats will occur. Cars, for instance, are designed to protect their occupants from crashes with other cars, buildings, guardrails, telephone poles and other objects commonly found in or near roads. Theyre not designed to keep people safe in cars driven off a cliff or smashed by huge rocks dropped on them. Its just not costeffective to engineer defenses against those threats, because theyre assumed to be extremely uncommon.

Guevara Noubir is a Professor of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University.

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Similarly, people designing software and hardware make assumptions about what hackers might do. But that doesnt mean devices are safe. One of the first sidechannel attacks was identified back in by cryptographer Paul Kocher, who showed he could break popular and supposedly secure cryptosystems bycarefully timing how long it tooka computer to decrypt an encrypted message. The cryptosystem designers hadnt imagined that an attacker would take that approach, so their system was vulnerable to it.

The following essay is reprinted with permission fromThe Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.

We wanted to find out whether a users location could be identified using only sensors that dont require users permission. The route taken by a driver, for instance, can be simplified into a series of turns, each in a certain direction and with a certain angle. With another app, we used a phones compass to observe the persons direction of travel. That app also used the phones gyroscope, measuring the sequence of turn angles of the route traveled by the user. And the accelerometer showed whether a user was stopped, or moving.

Inone recent project, we developed an app that could determine what letters a user was typing on a mobile phones onscreen keyboardwithout reading inputs from the keyboard. Rather, we combined information from the phones gyroscope and its microphones.

Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.

The vulnerability comes from the wide range of sensors phones are equipped withnot just GPS and communications inteces, but gyroscopes and accelerometers that can tell whether a phone is being held upright or on its side and can measure other movements too. Apps on the phone can use those sensors to perform tasks users arent expectinglikefollowing a users movements turn by turnalong city streets.Your Mobile Phone Can Give Away Your Location Evemobile phonen If You Tell It Not To

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