A research team from the University of Bonn, Germany, is currently developing a system to detect burglaries using Wi-Fi routers.
The name of the two-year program translates to ‘Project Security Guard’ and aims to increase the low percentage of solved burglary cases.
In cooperation with local police, the researchers are trying to detect and track perpetrators based on their smartphones.
How wi-fi router detects works in details?
Let’s look at how this technology is supposed to work in detail and why, in my opinion, it already seems to have severe flaws.
Even though German police have received multiple controversial tools for digital investigations in the last years like cell site analysis or eavesdropping devices, the percentage of burglary cases solved has not changed considerably.
This project is now supposed to change that since according to the researchers, most homes don’t have alarm systems but many do have Wi-Fi routers.
Wi-Fi router detection explained?
Each Wi-Fi capable device is constantly sending out so called probe requests, even if Wi-Fi is disabled. This is normally used to check for available wireless networks. Each request contains the device’s MAC address, a unique identifier of the Wi-Fi chip, at least according to the proposal.
If the router logged all probe requests in the area and were able to distinguish between confirmed trusted MAC addresses and unknown addresses, meaning potential intruders, it could alert the owner or police in certain situations.
The system could classify visitors as unsuspicious while the owner is home but create an alert when the owner is away as soon as an unknown MAC address enters the area.
The owner could respond to the alert by either approving it or calling the police. I’m not sure how this is supposed to work with people walking by outside or close neighbors and their visitors. Wi-Fi signals usually don’t stop at the walls of a home.
Additional information about Wi-Fi router detection
Additionally to simple detection of intruders, the researchers are also planning to extend this system to fleeing suspects.
All Wi-Fi networks taking part in this program could be used to reconstruct a burglars escape route by analyzing the order in which a suspicious MAC address has been detected by different routers.
The data could then be used for further investigation, for example checking surveillance cameras. This by the way confirms that this task force is aware that Wi-Fi signals can travel to the outside which kind of contradicts the efficiency of their proposed burglar detection.
Logging and analyzing all captured MAC addresses from private routers is obviously an enormous privacy issue and also would definitely lead to significant legal trouble.
The researchers do broach these problems by suggesting to only save MAC addresses pseudonymously and handing over plain data to police only in special conditions but they don’t seem to have any definitive solutions yet.
Maybe that will change in the future but the project has so many weak spots, I’m surprised they received federal funding for it. Any phone these days can switch MAC addresses randomly, it’s a built-in privacy feature in both iOS and Android.
This alone would make tracking MAC addresses useless. What if burglars don’t even carry their phone during break-ins? What if the owner is home but sleeping? In my opinion, the potential negative consequences of building, let’s call it a ‘government sponsored tracking network’, far outweigh the potential benefits.
The concept is still in an early stage though, maybe they ARE able to make this system both privacy friendly and effective. I’ll keep an eye on it.
In this article, we have talked about Wi-Fi router detection. Here we have discussed about the upcoming technology of wi-fi router detection. This is going to help many security sectors like police, etc. Wi-Fi router detection technology is in it’s starting stage, let’s see if it’s become successful or not.
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