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How Smart Is Your Smartphone?


Is your smartphone intelligent enough to prevent its Wi-Fi from being compromised? 

That was the central question at the session “How Smart Are Your Smartphones?” presented by Md Zakirul Alam Bhuiyan, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer and information science at Fordham, on July 23. Bhuiyan has written more than 120 papers published by IEEE and ACMtwo of the most prestigious professional societies in his field. 

On the second day of the 2019 International Conference on Cyber Security, he spoke about the pros of using Wi-Fi, potential drawbacks of a network’s security and privacy concerns, and possible solutions. What’s wonderful about Wi-Fi, he said, is it piggybacks on already deployed infrastructure and works through thick walls. These days, people can even use Wi-Fi to transform themselves into human remote controls in their homes. Using simple hand gestures and a nearby Wi-Fi network, they can turn off lights and TVs, he said, showing a few sample videos on a projector screen. 

However, Wi-Fi has its fair share of cons. There are too many interferences, he said, leaving a network vulnerable to channel state information (CSI) attacks. A person sitting a few feet away from you in a cafe could compromise your confidential info, he said. 

In order to hack a person’s Wi-Fi network, a hacker needs to achieve four things, said Bhuiyan: force a victim’s device to be a Wi-Fi sender, locate CSI segments generated by password input, reduce noise in raw CSI data, and infer the person’s password using CSI. 

But smartphones are smart enough to deter some hackers. One possible way to protect people from hacking is CSI fingerprint localization, he said. Another method is one he’s currently working on: a non-cryptography-based authentication technique. 

After spending a good deal of the session on the vulnerabilities of Wi-Fi, Bhuiyan talked about a new, innovative purpose for those network signals: using them to detect guns in a non-invasive way. The signals can scan a person’s body and, through signal variations, distinguish the difference between soft, human flesh and a weapon’s hard metal exterior. Compared to cameras and probing human hands, they are less invasive. More research is needed, he said, but this method holds promise for the future—a future where Wi-Fi will remain ubiquitous. 

“We are talking, we are sitting, moving … wherever we are, our Wi-Fi can be utilized to monitor us everywhere,” Bhuiyan said. 


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