News

Can Wi-Fi really track your passport?

Privacy
February 7, 2014

Last week the ongoing flurry of information from Edward Snowdon revealed that Canada’s electronic spying agency collected data on travelers via airport Wi-Fi access points. It is unclear from the

TonyAnscombe
Security Evangelist

Last week the ongoing flurry of information from Edward Snowdon revealed that Canada’s electronic spying agency collected data on travelers via airport Wi-Fi access points. It is unclear from the disclosure the exact method used but I am sure the fact they even did this (and may well still be doing this) raises concern of many travelers.

Tracking where people move about in airports is not something new.

Anyone that carries a passport with the biometric sign (below) on the front of it already has the potential of being tracked around an airport, and these days that is most of us.

Biometric

The passport includes contactless smart card technology, a processor and an antenna embedded in the cover, allowing the passport to be read remotely.

While this is designed for small distances, with the right equipment the detection range can be extended. This makes it fairly easy to identify where a traveler, or at least their passport, is at any given time.

Couple this wireless tracking with the fact that airports are full of CCTV and can realistically track travelers without smart passports; it begs the question of why authorities need to also track you via Wifi when they already know where you are. I will let you draw your own conclusions here.

Late in 2013 AVG released Wi-Fi Do Not Track, and brought to light for many people on the risk of Wi-Fi tracking as it was a little known issue and limited to a few retailers.

In very basic terms if you put up lots of Wi-Fi access points and someone walks past with their smartphone that is continually searching for Wi-Fi connections, then you can track the user’s movement by the networks their device is talking to. Some retailers and malls have realized that by doing this you could track a shopper’s habits and potentially use the information to send advertisements directly to their handset.

The disclosure that an official government agency is also using Wi-Fi to track users shows that the technology is clearly an interesting way to track people. In fact the article disclosing that Canada was doing this suggested that the tracking started at an airport and could potentially track the person at locations outside the airport through Wi-Fi too.

AVG Wi-Fi Do Not Track is available as part of the AVG PrivacyFix product and provides functionality that allows the user to define trusted locations, such as home and work. When roaming outside of these locations the Wi-Fi automatically is disabled on their device unless explicitly activated.

AVG Wi-Fi Do Not Track also helps extend battery life as your device does not use up energy continually searching for new networks to connect to.

Maybe with last week’s disclosure now is the time to download and install Wi-Fi Do Not Track on your Android phone.

You can follow me on Twitter as @TonyatAVG and you can find my Google+ profile here.

Tony Anscombe
February 7, 2014


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