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Researchers fool WiFi positioning on iPhone, Touch

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. vasic

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Practical purpose of this effort is limited to Jason Bourne movies. A bunch of good/bad guys with laptops coordinate their activities to fool the opponent into thinking he's somewhere else and they foil his plan.

    I guess even for such a purpose (an action movie) the story would sound too contrived and implausible to majority of audiences. While this is intriguing and entertaining, it presents no real security problem (or any other kind of problem).

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969




    must be a slow news day.

  1. docnarc

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Quick. Everybody take their iphones back and demand a refund, because a couple of idiot programers with more time on their hands than common sense have figured out a way to trick the WIFI positioning feature!!!!! GOOD GRIEF!!! Why don't these people get a life. They just want to see themselves in print. No one gives a damn!! GET LOST. DON'T BUY AN IPHONE IF YOU DO NOT WANT ONE. OKAY. GEEEZE!!!!!

  1. dliup

    Joined: Dec 1969


    oh look

    If I plaster fake addresses all over the town, it will fool some people. Of course. duh!

  1. eldarkus

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Now i'm gonna have no idea where I am!!

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: pointless

    They didn't say it had a point, they were just pointing out that it isn't foolproof (which is not news, since it has been reported that some people are showing themselves in completely different states).

    But it is of a concern to some people. Maybe someone was planning on using the wifi location to tag pictures or other information on the iPhone, wouldn't it be nice to know that there is the possibility that information might not always be correct?

    Oh, right, no one cares because it's an Apple product and any report on such is all about getting press (because no one except readers on MacNN are smart enough to realize that these reports are meaningless).

  1. Marook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Does so without this

    The iPod Touch does this even when no one is trying to fool it. If you are in a low-covered area, say in Denmark, it might show some place in the US on the map... it really is not that great a feature unless you have a clue if it's telling you the right thing up front.

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