wifi whisperer

wifi

Wireless is one of the most ubiquitous means of digital connectivity, shaping our experience of networks and the internet. But far from being a neutral medium, these networks often betray their users. This can happen when an internet provider decides to monitor or manipulate your data, but also when someone nearby listens in on your activity, or even tricks your device into telling them more than it should. 





The WiFi Whisperer is an art installation that explores the social nature of the WiFi protocol, introducing some important technical concepts for understanding WiFi and networks, and creatively interprets data from the air.

IF YOU’RE CONNECTED to a wireless network, odds are high that little bits of data are trickling out of your device like water from a leaky faucet. “Our phones leak data in a bunch of different ways,” says artist Kyle McDonald. “Sometimes it’s really insidious or unexpected.”

Recently at Moogfest, a music and technology festival in Durham, N.C., McDonald with the help of fellow artist Surya Mattu created an installation called WiFi Whisperer that called attention to all that data your phone is giving away for free. As festivalgoers walked past the installation, the artwork grabbed insecure data and display it on monitors, while a hidden speaker whispered the stream of data—what networks you’ve recently connected to and websites you’ve visited, for example—like a creepy, demon-voiced Big Brother. “It’s sort of like looking over someone’s shoulder,” says McDonald, “except you’re doing it without actually looking over their shoulder.”

The artists built sniffers made from eight Raspberry Pis and wireless antennas, tuned to the different frequencies of open wireless channels. “We know where the data is in the air,” McDonald explains. “Normally these packets are getting sent from one device to another, but there’s no reason you can’t just stand nearby and listen to that same data as though you were the device it was intended for.”

wifi

 

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