0

A couple years ago Fox News aired a short clip on how smartphones track and upload user location/physical state data. The clip is freely available on youtube and it shows how two Android smartphones tracked user coordinates and the physical states (e.g., sitting, walking, driving and others available via Google's ActivityRecognitionClient).

Hardly any of these observations are surprising (Google is transparent about such tracking in its terms and conditions), however, what is surprising is the device that was used to sniff out the packets containing said data. The journalist calls it "the man in the middle device" and argues that it was able to capture the packets containing decrypted data. The exact clip with the device is at the 2 minute mark

  1. What is this device? (is it something that the general public can access?)
  2. Is it actually possible what they did? (Isn't the traffic encrypted?)
  3. If it is possible, how would one do this experiment in 2018?
1

What is this device? (is it something that the general public can access?)

This one I can't answer. I'm not sure of the actual model/brand, maybe someone else can answer this specific question.

Is it actually possible what they did? (Isn't the traffic encrypted?)

Yes it is possible to do this even if the traffic is encrypted. Typically you will install the MITM proxy's certificate on the device and then the device will have no idea anything "bad" is happening. For example, you can perform this type of MITM with a Wifi Pineapple and Burp Suite as long as you install the Burp certificate on your device (which is straightforward).

You can also perform this kind of analysis (sniffing TLS-encrypted traffic) using a variety of other proxies, for example, Charles Proxy.

If it is possible, how would one do this experiment in 2018?

This can be done in 2018 using one of the methods described above.

3
  • Wouldn't it be more likely that they are talking about sniffing the 3/4G/LTE connection? – forest Sep 10 '18 at 3:09
  • @forest The man in the video at the 2 minute mark says: "This is our man in the middle device. It's basically a WiFi network..." – hft Sep 10 '18 at 3:23
  • @forest They say early on in the video that neither device has a SIM in it, so it has no data connection. – Steve Sether Sep 10 '18 at 5:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.