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Canadian Engineers Develop WiFi-Enabled Drone That Sees Through Walls, Inspired by James Bond

The capacity to see through walls is the one thing that every kid who has dreamed of becoming a spy or a superhero wishes they possessed. An engineering team from Canada has made progress that might one day let real-life spies achieve this feat.

Engineers and scientists at the University of Waterloo have created a drone with night vision. Almost, anyhow. The developers have created a drone that can detect and navigate to WiFi hotspots, allowing it to map out the general layout of a space and pinpoint the precise location of all the gadgets inside it.

The University of Waterloo has developed a drone that can map the layout of a room based on the locations of WiFi-enabled gadgets, such as mobile phones, smartwatches, laptops, and tablets.

Drone pilots may call their device Wi-Peep. The operator will next fly the gadget as near to the target structure as feasible. As it nears the room it wants to inspect, the operator will launch a software that taps into the residents’ WiFi networks to identify any WiFi-enabled gadgets in the vicinity.

The Wi-Peep then takes advantage of a security vulnerability in WiFi networks known as “nice WiFi.” Smart devices will still react to contact attempts from other devices if they are in range, even if the network is password secured. The Wi-Peep can pinpoint the position of nearby devices by sending several messages and measuring how long it takes for each to respond. Every laptop, smartphone, or tablet may be pinpointed to within a metre of their actual location thanks to the precise computations.

Dr. Ali Abedi, an adjunct professor of computer science at Waterloo, has compared Wi-Peep devices to visible light bulbs and walls to transparent panes of glass.

A similar system may be used to monitor the whereabouts of bank security personnel through their mobile devices. Similarly, a potential burglar might be identified by the presence and configuration of smart home equipment such as security cameras, laptops, and smart TVs. Because it is operated by a drone, the gadget may be deployed rapidly and secretly from a distance, as Abedi pointed out.

The Wi-Peep was created by Abedi’s team, who used a commercially available drone and $20 in components. “As soon as the Polite WiFi flaw was identified, we recognised that this type of attack was conceivable,” Abedi was quoted.

The experiment and the equipment weren’t designed to help spies in any way. The goal was to show how simple it is to uncover security flaws in the way we now set up our networks and how to fix them.

So that “our gadgets do not react to strangers,” Abedi said, “on a basic level, we need to eliminate the Polite WiFi loophole.” Perhaps their work in the field will be considered for next-generation protocols.