University of Wisconsin-Madison law student and security researcher Brendan O'Connor has developed CreepyDOL, a monitoring system that uses a network of inexpensive sensors to track people by their mobile devices.
Analysts say CreepyDOL could lead privacy activists to focus more on the Internet of things.
O'Connor says the system he created highlights the privacy and security problems of having people carry around an always-on connection in their pockets.
The system uses a network of air-dropped sensors that listen for wireless traffic, enabling the tracking of anyone with a wireless-enabled mobile device. The disposable sensor platform costs less than $60 and can last for five days or more on two AA batteries.
"The CreepyDOL system takes the fundamental assumption of hiding in the crowd and does away with it," O'Connor says. "Even if you don't connect, if you are wired on a network, we will find you. If you are a person in a city, we will find you, and we will do it all for very little money."
Qualys' Wolfgang Kandek says systems increasingly will be developed to target publicly accessible signals. Veracode's Chris Wysopal believes regulations will be needed to keep everyone from tracking each other.
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