Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ultrasound-firewall for mobile phones

29.05.2018

Defence against unwanted audio tracking by acoustic cookies

The permanent networking of mobile devices can endanger the privacy of users and lead to new forms of monitoring. New technologies such as Google Nearby and Silverpush use ultrasonic sounds to exchange information between devices via loudspeakers and microphones (also called "data over audio").


This is an ultrasound-firewall for mobile phones.

Credit: St. Poelten UAS / Matthias Zeppelzauer

More and more of our devices communicate via this inaudible communication channel. Ultrasonic communication allows devices to be paired and information to be exchanged. It also makes it possible to track users and their behaviour over a number of devices, much like cookies on the Web. Almost every device with a microphone and a loudspeaker can send and receive ultrasonic sounds. Users are usually unaware of this inaudible and hidden data transmission.

The SoniControl project of St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences has developed a mobile application that detects acoustic cookies, brings them to the attention of users and if desired, blocks the tracking. The app is thus, in a sense, the first available ultrasound-firewall for smartphones and tablets. "The most challenging part of developing the app was to devise a method that can detect different existing ultrasound-transmission techniques reliably and in real time", said Matthias Zeppelzauer, Head of the project and Senior Researcher in the Media Computing research group of the Institute of Creative\Media/Technologies at St. Pölten UAS.

Determining interests and location

Such ultrasonic signals can be used for so-called "cross-device tracking". This makes it possible to track the user's behaviour across multiple devices, and relevant user profiles can be merged with one other. In this way, more accurate user profiles can be created for targeted advertising and filtering of internet content.

Unlike their electronic counterparts when visiting web pages, up to now it has not been possible to block acoustic cookies. "In order to accept voice commands, the mobile phone microphone is often permanently active. Every mobile application that has access to the microphone as well as the operating system itself can at any time without notice: activate the microphone of a mobile device, listen to it, detect acoustic cookies and synchronise it over the Internet", said Zeppelzauer. Users are often not informed of this information transmission during ongoing operation. Only a permanent deactivation of the microphone would help, whereby the device as a telephone would become unusable.

Masking of ultrasound cookies

In the project SoniControl, Zeppelzauer and his colleagues, Peter Kopciak, Kevin Pirner, Alexis Ringot und Florian Taurer have developed a procedure to expose the cookies and inform device users. For masking and blocking the ultrasonic data transfer, interference signals are transmitted via the loudspeaker of the mobile device. Thus, acoustic cookies can be neutralized before operating systems or mobile applications can access them. Users can selectively block cookies without affecting the functionality of the smartphone.

The masking of the cookies occurs by means of ultrasound, which is inaudible to humans. "There is currently no technology on the market that can detect and block acoustic cookies. The application developed in this project represents the first approach that gives people control over this type of tracking", said Zeppelzauer.

All project results and the application have been made publicly available. The system is therefore directly usable and expandable for everyone. All project results have been released under Creative-Commons license.

Data exchange via ultrasound in the Internet-of-Things

The technology is now being further developed in a follow-up project, SoniTalk. Through Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies an increasing number of devices are communicating with one another. Ultrasonic communication is increasingly used for data exchange between mobile phones and devices. Thus, ultrasonic communication is an alternative technology for ad-hoc data exchange, near-field communication (NFC) and as a channel for two-factor authentication that proves the identity of users by combining two different and independent components.

The new project SoniTalk wants to give users full control over what is allowed to be sent by which app and should effectively help to protect user privacy. The goal of SoniTalk is an open source, transparent and fully private-sphere oriented protocol for ultrasonic communication. SoniTalk seeks to lay the groundwork for a new free standard in the field of ultrasonic communication that enables secure communication and protects user privacy.

###

Project SoniControl

The project was funded by the netidee initiative (http://www.netidee.at). The support campaign was organised and financed by the non-profit Internet Foundation Austria (IPA).

Project website: http://sonicontrol.fhstp.ac.at

Project results: https://www.netidee.at/sonicontrol

SoniControl App in the Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=at.ac.fhstp.sonicontrol

Source Code: https://git.nwt.fhstp.ac.at/m.zeppelzauer/SoniControl

Project SoniTalk

The project is funded by the netidee initiative (http://www.netidee.at). The support campaign is organised and financed by the non-profit Internet Foundation Austria (IPA).

Project website: http://sonitalk.fhstp.ac.at/

Project video (in German): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RPoQcCSkmk&list=PLYYKWQ_3XKi27sUajltMFINLT3ilpbCU1&index=15

Scientific contact:

FH-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Mag. Dr. Matthias Zeppelzauer
Senior Researcher Research Group Media Computing
Institute of Creative\Media/Technologies
Department of Media and Digital Technologies
T: +43/2742/313 228 652
E: matthias.zeppelzauer@fhstp.ac.at
https://www.fhstp.ac.at/en/about-us/staff-a-z/zeppelzauer-matthias

Press contact:

Mag. Mark Hammer
Marketing and Communications
T: +43/2742/313 228 269
M: +43/676/847 228 269
E: mark.hammer@fhstp.ac.at
I: https://www.fhstp.ac.at/de/presse

Press text and photos are available for download at: https://www.fhstp.ac.at/de/presse.

General press photos are available for download at: https://www.fhstp.ac.at/de/presse/pressefotos-logos.

Naturally, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/fhstp, https://twitter.com/FH_StPoelten.

Media Contact

Mark Hammer
mark.hammer@fhstp.ac.at
43-274-231-322-8269

 @fh_stpoelten

http://https://www.fhstp.ac.at/en 

Mark Hammer | EurekAlert!

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Next stop Morocco: EU partners test innovative space robotics technologies in the Sahara desert
09.11.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

nachricht A burst of ”synchronous” light
08.11.2018 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>