Smart Watches Allow Hackers to Collect Users’ Data

sales arial,sans-serif;”>They Look like the latest rage in jewelry and gadgetry, but like all computer devices, smart watches are vulnerable to hackers, say researchers at the University of Illinois.

Using a homegrown app on a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch, the researchers were able to guess what a user was typing through data “leaks” produced by the motion sensors on smart watches. The project, called Motion Leaks through Smartwatch Sensors, or MoLe, has privacy implications, as an app that is camouflaged as a pedometer, for example, could gather data from emails, search queries and other confidential documents.

According to Home Land Security News Wire ,the work, funded by the National Science Foundation, is being presented this week at the MobiCom 2015 conference in Paris.

The app uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to track the micro-motion of keystrokes as a wearer types on a keyboard. After collecting the sensor data, researchers ran it through a “Keystroke Detection” module, which analyzed the timing of each keystroke and the net 2D displacement of the watch. For example, the left wrist moves farther to type a “T” than an “F.”

While Illinois researchers developed MoLe, it is conceivable that hackers could build a similar app and deploy it to iTunes and other libraries.


Article courtesy : iHLSIsrael Homeland Security

The development team said the rapid proliferation of wearable devices made them ask the question: Just how secure is the data? They approached this topic from the perspective of an attacker. Rather than directly developing security measures for smart watches, they aimed to discern ways that attackers can decipher users’ information.

A possible solution to these motion leaks would be to lower the sample rate of the sensors in the watch. For instance, the sample rate is normally around 200 Hertz, meaning the system logs 200 accelerometer and gyroscope readings per second. However, if that number is lowered to below 15, the users’ wrist movements become extremely difficult to track.

While their work has yielded revolutionary results so far, there is still a long way to go in polishing the data-collection process. The release notes that the team’s current system can’t detect special characters such as numbers, punctuation and symbols that might appear in passwords. The “space” bar or key also poses an obstacle. In addition, researchers can only collect data from the hand wearing the watch and from people who have standard typing patterns.

“There’s a subset of people who don’t type like that,” said Ted Tsung-Te Lai, 30, a post-doctorate researcher at UIUC, who noted that the team will develop more models to account for typing differences in the future.

While a Samsung watch was used in this project, the researchers believe that any wearable device that uses motion sensors — from the Apple Watch to Fitbit — could be vulnerable as well.

Lai said, “We would just like to advise people who use the watch to enjoy it, but know that ‘Hey, there’s a threat’.”


Article courtesy : iHLSIsrael Homeland Security

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