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How Wi-Fi Routers Spy on You

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine life without Internet access. And it’s good to know that Internet is accessible almost everywhere due to the existence of powerful computers and routers. Almost every house, office building and train station is constantly emitting strong Wi-Fi signals that keep us connected to the net.

We’ve gotten used to carrying and using laptops, tablets, smartphones, and the list of Internet-ready devices goes on. And yet, very few of us know for sure how these devices work. Most of us know that when a laptop connects to a router, for example, it sends data requests, which are then processed by a powerful server. Then, the server sends back the requested data to our laptop.

The router, which is one of the important links in this complex communication process, is also gathering information about the way in which the signals travel through the air, adjusting its power whenever the signal gets weaker. Most modern routers are also able to tweak their performance whenever they sense that the devices which are connected to them have the tendency to disconnect from the network.

Believe it or not, this router behavior can be used to track human beings as well – and with a surprising accuracy! Our bodies also absorb Wi-Fi signals and are able to reflect them. This way, scientists who analyze the Wi-Fi signal spectrum are able to tell when a person passes through a Wi-Fi signal, and even identify that person.

If this sounds like a SCI–FI movie to you, it’s time to face the hard evidence. A group of researchers from the Northwestern Polytechnic University of China have posted a paper that details a system which can identify people who walked through a door with an accuracy of about 90%.

Of course, their system must be trained, but it only has to be trained once, and then it can be used over and over. The Chinese researchers have built the system with the goal of identifying people who are living in the same home, and then turn on and off various appliances, set up the light levels, the desired temperature, and so on, depending on the person who has entered the room.

Another group of researchers from Australia and the UK have presented a similar technology in March 2016. Named Wi-Fi ID, their system is able to identify a person from a small group with an accuracy of about 95%. Wi-Fi ID could be used, according to the researchers, to sound an alarm when an unrecognized person enters a room.

Sounds intriguing? The video above shows a system built by a few MIT researchers who were able to track people in a room using a plain router back in 2013. And they managed to do that even through walls! According to researchers at Data Alliance, modern routers which operate using the 802.11ad protocol will also be able to monitor people’s heart rate from a distance, for example.

As you can guess, these technologies can easily be used to spy on people as well. A system called WiKey, which was presented at a conference in 2015, is able to monitor the keyboard keys pressed by a person with an accuracy of 94%, by monitoring finger movements.

It’s clear that the interested parties have access to more and more elaborate methods of spying on us, regular people. So let’s keep on being the nice guys, who don’t have anything to hide, and we’ll be safe 😉


Technology News

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Police Uses Lasers to Investigate Accident and Crime Scenes

The Niagara County Sheriff’s office recently started to use a 3D scanner to investigate crime scenes. Named FARO, the 3D scanner is compatible with several handheld devices.

In the past, officers had to make use of tape to delimit the perimeter that was including the key reference points at a scene. Then, the sheriff has started to use an electronic distance meter, which was able to track about 100 points at a time, significantly speeding up the process.


Today’s technology makes it much easier, though, because the 3D scanner can process hundreds of thousands of points per minute, increasing speed and – much more important – accuracy.

As it takes a full, 360-degree rotation, the scanner evaluates millions of points, which are then translated to vertices, and then recreate the 3D model of the scene. Then, you can use the generated model to look around, up and down, as if you were at the place of the accident.

The laser scanner can also be used inside vehicles, allowing the police to view the objects that may be hidden in areas that aren’t easily accessible to humans. FARO is also useful when it comes to evaluating bullet entry wounds, for example, which can’t be seen clearly under normal circumstances.


New Gadget Helps You Find That Font

If you do any design work, you know how frustrating it is to see a font that you like, but are unable to find on the web. Since most people have this problem, some merciful souls have thought about building websites that can identify fonts based on a few sample letters. And yet, this is not an ideal solution: often times, the results aren’t as accurate as we’d want them to be.


Fiona O’Leary wants to make it easier for all the designers to find that font they can’t stop thinking about. Spector, a pocket-sized phone scanner, is able to reveal the font name by comparing images with a huge font database. Spector can also analyze size, kerning and leading, allowing the designers to identify combinations of fonts and styles that work really good together. Let’s hope that this won’t make them lose their creativity juices for good, though.

Spector from Fiona O’Leary on Vimeo.


$10 Development Board Helps You Create Smart Devices

If you’ve ever wanted to build a smart gadget, the $10 Orange Pi board will be of great help. It’s the little sister (or brother) of the Raspberry Pi, if you will.


The tiny computer uses a 32-bit Cortex CPU. It includes a Wi-Fi chip, a camera interface, 2GB of RAM, 4GB of storage and runs the Ubuntu OS.

The board was announced at the Linaro Connect conference.