A story appeared on the New York Times blog (read it here) about security researcher Brendan O’Connor and his self-spying using homemade boxes he calls “creepyDOLs”. The story sheds light on something most of us never consider, but that is opening us up to snooping every day.
WiFi is arguably one of the most useful modern technologies to proliferate. We use it to connect our smart phones, tablets, notebook computers, and countless devices to one another or to networks to access the Internet in an inexpensive, low power usage way. It has a far longer range than Bluetooth, better spectrum options than most radio frequencies, and is now the basic standard for all wireless communications between devices.
What O’Connor was able to do was build a small box for about $57 that would monitor nearby WiFi networks and collect data from them and the users who connect to them. A lot of data. Things like email addresses, websites visited, and just about anything else that wasn’t encrypted – which was nearly everything, it turns out.
To be fair, in order to avoid breaking the law, O’Connor only spied on himself, but the implications are clear: this could easily be used to spy on anyone or everyone, depending on how many devices you’re willing to make and how many places you’d like to deploy them.
The little creepyDOL boxes are small enough (roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes) to be placed under the table at a cafe, in a person’s house or room, or just about anywhere else and remain inconspicuous. They could be camouflaged as other items or even attached to some items to make them look like they’re part of it, such as the back of a TV or the underside of a piece of furniture.
His name is right: it’s creepy. And it’s so simple to do, that it’d be naive to believe there aren’t already people out there doing it, laws or no.