iPod as tracking devices, easy as a walk in the park

Next time you strap on your Nikes and plug in your iPod for a casual jog around the block, it might be a good idea to don a tin-foil cap too, as newly discovered security flaws in the Nike + iPod Sport Kit can expose the device to home-made tracking devices.

Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered security flaws in the RFID powered Nike + iPod combo that can potentially allow stalkers, thieves and even corporations to track your movements with a cheaply constructed receiver.

The Nike + iPod Sports Kit works by placing a small RFID transmitter in the sole of specially-designed Nike shoes. As a user jogs or walks, the transmitter communicates real-time updates about the speed and length of work-outs by broadcasting the information to a small receiver plugged into an accompanied iPod.

According to the report, titled Devices That Tell On You: The Nike+ iPod Sport Kit, the vulnerability of the device stems from the RFID sensor in the Nike shoes, which constantly transmits its unique signal, thanks to its on-board power source, regardless whether the user has the iPod accessory turned on or not.

"The wireless capabilities in this new gadget can negatively impact a consumer's personal privacy and safety," read the report. "Someone could use the sensor's broadcast messages to track which locations you visit, and when you visit them."

The report stated that a potential stalker within 20 metres of a user with the Nike + iPod kit could track individuals with a simple home-made surveillance device.

Putting their theory to the test, the researchers designed a number of surveillance tools to track users with the Nike sensor. From a simple Wi-Fi capable notebook, to a tiny $100 Linux-based gumstix computer, the researchers showed tracking a user with the Nike + iPod device was easier than a run in the park.

The report provides a number of examples that would-be trackers could employ to snare users for nefarious uses, including thieves using the vulnerability to scout several houses at once to determine when Nike-wearing owners were at home or not. By overlaying the collected surveillance data over Google Maps in real-time, they also showed how corporations could use the technology to track consumer behaviour.

Despite the examples, how much of a threat this presents remains to be seen, especially considering the close proximity (20 metres, or in other words within eyesight) with which the potential tracker must be for the home-made surveillance device to function.

Regardless of the practical methods for use of the Nike + iPod scenario, issues of user privacy remain. The research paper offers a simple solution; design RFID sensors that speak to only one reader as well as more thorough accountability from manufacturers to avoid unwittingly building surveillance capacity into their devices.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?