How To Convince An iPhone It's In EthiopiaHow To Convince An iPhone It's In Ethiopia
Among the cool iPhone features touted by Apple is its "self-localization" ability: Turn it on, and it tells you where you are! Turns out, though, it's a simple matter to phool an iPhone.
April 16, 2008
Among the cool iPhone features touted by Apple is its "self-localization" ability: Turn it on, and it tells you where you are! Turns out, though, it's a simple matter to phool an iPhone.The iPhone determines its physical location by calculating the relation to a nearby Wi-Fi access point. Using the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) from Skyhook Wireless for its popular Maps application, the device simply detects a nearby hotspot and sends that information to the Skyhook servers. Based on the physical location information returned by Skyhook, the iPhone then computes its location.
Apparently having some extra time on their hands, a team of researchers under Professor Srdjan Capkun of the ETH Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology figured out that with a laptop, a Wi-Fi transmitter, and a database of hotspots, they could convince an iPhone that it's pretty much anywhere. They got an iPhone in Zurich to calculate its location as New York City. "First, access points from a known remote location were impersonated," says a release from the institute. "Second, signals sent by access points in the vicinity were eliminated by jamming." Sounds pretty easy. "Given the relative simplicity of the performed attacks," noted Capkun, "it is clear that the use of WLAN-based public localization systems, such as Skyhook's WPS, should be restricted in security and safety-critical applications." That settles it. Next time I'm caught in an avalanche, I won't be whipping out my iPhone.
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