updated 05:10 pm EDT, Mon April 14, 2008
Researchers fool WPS
The iPhone's WiFi positioning system can be fooled into providing false results, a report claims from researchers at ETH Zurich. According to TG Daily, researchers were able to circumvent the Skyhook-owned service in a "fairly simple manner". The technology traditionally relies on detected MAC addresses that relay information to the central server, and by spoofing a real access point, users can generate any number of false points, as well as jam up real ones.
The research team used an Asus EeePC to impersonate several access points, as well as two software radio programs to jam valid signals. They used several MAC addresses available from WiGLE, IGiGLE, and Google earth - reportedly with access to over 13 million networks worldwide. The tests allowed them to trick an iPod touch into displaying a location in New York City, despite the test being carried out in Switzerland.
The iPhone is still vulnerable to this issue, but does include a failsafe mechanism. In addition to WiFi Positioning, the iPhone can also draw location estimates through the use of GSM towers. If the results from WiFi and GSM differ past a certain degree of severity, the device defaults to the results obtained over GSM.