‘Snoopy’ drone steals data as you’re on street

Just how secure is the information on your phone? Not very, thanks to the latest information-grabbing technology hovering overhead while you walk down a busy street.

The snoopy drone that can steal phone data.

Hackers have developed a drone that can steal the contents of your smartphone — from your location data to your passwords.

The technology, innocently called Snoopy, searches for mobiles with their wifi settings turned on — which is the vast majority.

When a mobile or tablet tries to connect to the internet, it look for networks it has accessed in the past. Snoopy sends back a signal pretending to be networks to which you’ve previously connected.

When your device connects with the drone, Snoopy can intercept everything it sends or receives — including sites you visit, credit card information entered or saved on different sites, location data, usernames, and even passwords.

It can also connect to a number of different devices at the one time — all within a short distance of each other.

Each phone has a unique identification number, or MAC address, which the drone uses to tie traffic to the device. The names of the networks the phones visit can also be telling.

Sensepost security researcher Glenn Wilkinson took Snoopy out for a test flight in London on a Saturday afternoon in March. In less than an hour of flying, Mr Wilkinson obtained network names and GPS co-ordinates for about 150 mobile devices.

He was able to obtain usernames and passwords for Amazon, PayPal, and Yahoo! accounts set up specifically for demonstration purposes.

Mr Wilkinson developed the technology with Daniel Cuthbert at Sensepost Research Labs. He says he is an ethical hacker and that the Snoopy project is to raise awareness of the vulnerabilities of smart devices. The research will be presented at the Black Hat Asia cybersecurity conference in Singapore this week.

As well as raising awareness of potential threats, Mr Wilkinson said the technology can also be used for law-enforcement and public safety. His advice for now: Turn off wifi connections when not needed and make sure your phone asks before joining networks.

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