Tag: WiFi

Boffins work out how your fingers can grass you up

Fingers crossedA team of insecurity experts has worked out that that it is possible to hack a smartphone by listening into the way a user’s fingers move across the keypad.

If you listen carefully to a phone, usually with specialist gear, you can hear the way your fingers move across a phone’s touchscreen. This is because the wifi signals transmitted by a mobile phone change when the touchscreen is activated, causing interruptions that an attacker can intercept, analyse, and reverse engineer to accurately guess what the user has typed on his phone or in password input fields.

Dubbed WindTalker, the attack sounds like the user is suffering from a bad case of beans.  Fortunately it is less smelly and can only be done when the attacker controls a rogue wifi access point to collect WiFi signal disturbances.

This control is needed because the attacker must also know when to collect WiFi signals from the victim, to work out the exact moment when the target enters a PIN or password.

The attacker uses access over the WiFi access point to sniff the user’s traffic and detect when he’s accessing pages with authentication forms.

The attack uses radio signals called Channel State Information(CSI) which is part of the WiFi protocol, and it provides general information about the status of the WiFi signal.

When the user’s finger moves across the smartphone his hand alters CSI properties for the phone’s outgoing WiFi signals, which the attacker can collect and log on the rogue access point.

According to Bleeping computer  the attack as a 68 per cent accuracy.

Cisco wins key wireless patent dispute

the Cisco kidCisco has reversed a near $64 million judgment against it in a long running battle over wi-fi patents.

A US appeals court ruled that Cisco did not infringe Commil, a patent holding company’s wifi technology.

The court added that Cisco was not liable for directly infringing or inducing others to infringe a patent held by Commil USA as a method to spread wireless signals over a large area, where multiple access points wereneeded.

Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler said the company was “gratified” by the ruling. “The patent never had anything to do with our products and the millions of dollars spent defending this unmeritorious suit are a travesty.”

Commil USA sued Cisco in 2007, shortly after buying the patent from an Israeli company, Commil Ltd, according to court documents.

In 2011, a federal jury in Texas found that Cisco induced infringement by encouraging its customers to use Cisco products that infringe Commil’s patent. The jury awarded Commil almost $63.8 million in damages. A judge subsequently added $10.3 million in interest.

In 2013, the Washington, D.C.-based Federal Circuit, the nation’s top appeals court specialising in patent issues, ordered a new trial, saying that Cisco should have been able to mount a defence based on its “good faith belief” that Commil’s patent was invalid.

The Supreme Court in May said that defenxe was not legitimate, throwing out the ruling and sending the case back to the Federal Circuit.

A three judge Federal Circuit panel again ruled in favour of Cisco.

The panel said that when it last considered the case, it did not consider some of Cisco’s arguments that it did not infringe the patent. In weighing those arguments this time, the panel said that “substantial evidence did not support the jury’s findings”.

Boffins speed up Wi-Fi by 10 times

technic, funk, man at short-wave receiver, 1961, 1960s, 60s, 20th century, historic, historical, radio operator, radio operatorsResearchers at Oregon State University emerged from their smoke filled labs with a technology that can increase the bandwidth of Wi-Fi systems by 10 times.

The technology, which uses LED lights, can be integrated with existing Wi-Fi systems to reduce bandwidth problems in crowded locations, such as airport terminals or coffee shops.

LED technology developments have made it possible to modulate the LED light rapidly, meaning that a “free space” optical communication system is possible.

The system uses inexpensive components.

The prototype, called Wi-FO, uses LEDs that are beyond the visual spectrum for humans and creates an invisible cone of light about one metre square in which the data can be received. To address the problem of a small area of usability, the researchers created a hybrid system that can switch between several LED transmitters installed on a ceiling, and the existing Wi-Fi system.

Thinh Nguyen, an OSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering said the Wi-FO system could be easily transformed into a marketable product, and he was looking for a company that is interested in further developing and licensing the technology.

The system can potentially send data at up to 100 megabits per second. Although some current Wi-Fi systems have similar bandwidth, it has to be divided by the number of devices, so each user might be receiving just five to 10 megabits per second, whereas the hybrid system could deliver 50-100 megabits to each user.

In a home where telephones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, and televisions may all be connected to the internet, increased bandwidth would eliminate problems like video streaming that stalls and buffers.

The receivers are small photodiodes that cost less than a dollar each and could be connected through a USB port for current systems, or incorporated into the next generation of laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

A patent has been secured on the technology, and a paper was published in the 17th ACM International Conference on Modeling, Analysis and Simulation of Wireless and Mobile Systems.

Wi-fi networks can get sick

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have created a wi-fi virus which spreads through populated areas as efficiently as the common cold spreads between humans.

The team designed and simulated an attack by a virus, it dubbed “Chameleon”. It found it spread quickly between homes and businesses, but it was able to avoid detection and identify the points at which wi-fi access is least protected by encryption and passwords.

Fortunately the wi-fi attack was just a computer simulation, but researchers from the University’s School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and Electronics, found that “Chameleon” behaved like an airborne virus.

This is partly because areas that are more densely populated have more APs in closer proximity to each other, which meant that the virus propagated more quickly, particularly across networks connectable within a 10-50 metre radius.

Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security at the University, said that when “Chameleon” attacked an AP it did not affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other wi-fi users who connected to it. The virus then used this data to connect to and infect other users.

When an APs was encrypted and password protected, the virus simply moved on to find those which weren’t strongly protected. Coffee shops and airports became hotbeds of infection.

Professor Marshall said that it was assumed that it was not possible to develop a virus that could attack wi-fi networks but the research demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. 

Intel coming in the air tonight

Intel has come up with a new form of ultra-high-speed wireless tech which lets small base stations handle shedloads of data.

The technology is based around Chipzilla’s modular antenna arrays.

Intel has prototyped a chip-based antenna array that can sit in a milk-carton-sized cellular base station. If it works, and Intel claims that it does, the technology could turbocharge future wireless networks by using ultrahigh frequencies.

The tech is a millimeter wave modular antenna array, and will be shown off today at the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Spain.

It takes ultrafast capabilities that Samsung and researchers at New York University demonstrated last year using benchtop-scale equipment and packs it into a box-sized gadget. Cities would be carpeted with such small stations with one every block or two—and be capable of handling huge amounts of data at short ranges.

One cell could send and receive data at speeds of more than a gigabit per second over up to few hundred metres far more at shorter distances. It knocks the socks off 4G LTE which can only manage 75 megabits per second.

Both the Intel and Samsung technologies could eventually use frequencies of 28 or 39 gigahertz or higher. These frequencies are known as millimeter wave and carry far more data than those used in mobile networks. The downside is that they are easily blocked by objects in the environment.  Even rain can stuff them up.

To get around the blockage problem, processors dynamically shape how a signal is combined among 64, 128, or even more antenna elements, controlling the direction in which a beam is sent from each antenna array, making changes in response to changing conditions.

Intel says its version is more efficient than what has been seen so far.

It can scale up the number of modular arrays as high as practical to increase transmission and reception sensitivity.

If Chipzilla is right, the only barriers to the technology are regulatory not technological.

Germany sets wi-fi speed record

A team of German researchers from the Fraunhofer Instiute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has come up with a new technique to boost wi-fi speeds, much like MW-50 injection on interceptor variants of Kurt Tank’s FW-190.

Their technology uses what they simply call “better hardware” and it works on a high radio frequency of 240GHz. It can deliver speeds up to 40GB/s to a distance of about 0.6 miles, and is up to 2,300 times faster than 802.11n. The technology is 46 times faster than the upcoming 802.11ad standard.

Running at full speed, it could fill a 4TB drive in under 100 seconds, at least in theory, as no SSD, let alone an HDD could keep up with it.

Although it sounds lightning fast, it is relatively compact and the size of the transmitter and receiver chip measures just 4 x 1.5 mm². Researchers believe it could be integrated into compact ICs and provide much greater range due to its high frequency. The atmosphere shows low attenuation at such frequencies, which should also improve performance in poor weather. 

The new technology could eliminate the need for optical cables in some environments and present an alternative to “fibre to home”. The team already used it to establish a connection between two skyscrapers, attaining a range of over a kilometre. 

Researchers turn LED displays into 'Li-Fi' wireless

Scientists from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland have emerged from their smoke filled labs having come up with a Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) technology that could turn ordinary LED computer displays into a sophisticated wireless communications network like wi-fi.

The process is based on German development. German researchers came up with an 800Mbps capable wireless network by using red, blue, green and white LED light bulbs in 2011.

But the University of Strathclyde’s idea uses micron sized LEDs and will mean that an LED array beside a motorway could light the road, displaying the latest traffic updates and transmitting internet information wirelessly to passengers’ laptops, netbooks and smartphones.

Micron-sized LEDs are able to flicker on and off around 1,000 times quicker than the larger LEDs and this means faster data transfers and they also take up less space.

Each micron-sized LED can also act as a tiny pixel which can be used to light a living room. It could also be used as a screen displaying information, at exactly the same time.

It does have some limits. Since light cannot penetrate through most walls it means that the signal is easily blocked by somebody simply walking in front of the LED source. In Scotland that could mean fog and rain shutting down the network.

Boeing replaces humans with sacks of potatoes

Boeing has found a way to test wireless signals onboard its planes, using the pinnacle of aviation technology – a sack of potatoes.

The aircraft manufacturer’s engineers were faced with a quandary when testing inflight radio signal quality. Planes are increasingly making use of in-flight wireless systems, but there is the potential that they can interfere with a plane’s electrical systems.

Ensuring that there is a strong enough signal to meet regulatory standards, while also delivering a usable wireless signal, requires engineers tweaking the systems, and that can take a lot of time, even up to two weeks.    

To accurately replicate flight situations, testing would also require the presence of a cabin full of humans sitting in passenger seats on a dummy flight.

However, Boeing engineers found a way to resolve testing problems was by substituting humans for large sacks of potatoes.

Apparently the vegetables behave in a very similar way to humans on a plane.  This means they are able to block out radio waves as they pass through the cabin, just as a human would, though they are less likely to demand free beer or ask to meet the pilot. 

To speed up wireless signal testing, Boeing staff filled seats on one of its decommissioned aircraft with 20,000 sacks of potatoes.

Aside from doing little to dispel perceptions that modern airlines treat passengers little better than freighted cargo, the test enabled engineers to successfully tweak wireless signals in a fraction of the time, taking just ten hours.

Test data was then validated with non-vegetable passengers, with Boeing claiming that the end result is greater reliability and safety on its flights.

And the name of the tuber testing method put in place by the engineers?  That would be Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution, or, abbreviated, SPUDS – of course.


London's black cabs get free wi-fi next year

London’s famous black cabs are to provide free wi-fi to passengers, thanks to technology provided by a TechCity startup. Passengers using the CabWifi service will gain access to fifteen minutes of free wi-fi after watching a 15 second advert.

Startup firm Eyetease has been pushing the system for two years, aiming to offer internet usage without racking up huge fees. This is particularly true for tourists that have to pay increased costs for data usage abroad, but according to Eyetease founder Richard Corbett taxi drivers themselves have also seen data costs rising.

“With dwell times averaging 15 minutes in the back of a taxi, what better way to pass the time than to use your laptop, tablet, book reader or phone with guilt free internet access,” Corbett said.  “Tourists and business travellers can now access their emails, talk on Skype or surf the web without the fear of being hit with high data roaming charges when they return home.”

Eyetease is currently speaking to major brands to sponsor the scheme, in return for videos in the back of taxis across the capital when the service rolls out next year.

Wi-fi is becoming increasingly ubiquitous across London, with Virgin getting the contract to provide internet access at tube stations in time for the Olympics.

Researchers boost wi-fi speeds by 700 percent

Researchers at NC State University (NCSU) have emerged from their smoke filled labs having worked out how to use software to boost wi-fi speeds by 700 percent.

Because the cunning plan uses software, it means that it could be rolled out to existing wi-fi networks easily and instantly improving the throughput and latency of the network.

A wi-fi access point, along with every device connected to it, operates on the same wireless channel. This channel is a single-lane road which occasionally gets clogged with the odd driver who thinks it is important to tow a caravan long distances so that he can sit by the roadside, watch television and drink tea.

Each channel, depending on the wireless technology being used, has a maximum bandwidth and the bandwidth is distributed between all connected devices.

That works well at home where you don’t have competition for the bandwidth, but on public wi-fi means you are fighting tens or hundreds of people for space.

According to ExtremeTech, NC State University created something called WiFox which runs on a wi-fi access point and keeps track of the congestion level. If WiFox detects a backlog of data due to congestion, it enables high-priority mode. This gives it complete control of the wireless network channel and can run things so that the caravan driver does not cause too much trouble.

The WiFox protocol will be presented at the ACM CoNEXT conference in December. We are not sure if it can handle the erratic nature of data which has a flat cap and a shooting stick on the back windscreen.

NCSU researchers report that their testbed was made up of a single wi-fi access point with 45 connected devices, and had a 700 percent increase in throughput. In a 802.11n network, that would mean a jump from 1Mbps to around 7Mbps. Furthermore, latency is also decreased by 30-40 percent.