This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more.X

Tool reveals Apple user locations

Share this article:

An Australian researcher has created a tool that uses Apple's location services to potentially reveal where users live.

The tool works by accessing Apple's database of wireless access points, which is collected by iPhones and iPads that have GPS and WiFi location services enabled. Most iPhones and iPads regularly submit information about access points within range to Apple, regardless of whether users connect to them.

Apple uses this 'crowd-sourced' data to run its location services, however the location database is not meant to be public.

According to independent penetration tester Hubert Seiwert, Apple will reveal Mac address and GPS information on hundreds of nearby access points if a user queries the location of a single WiFi router's Mac address. 

His proof-of-concept Python application, iSniff GPS, uses this process to allow users to view maps of nearby access points. “You can send Apple a single Mac address of a WiFi router and they will send back a result set including the GPS coordinates of that Mac address and about 400 others,” Seiwert said.

“You can plug that Mac address into Apple's location service through iSniff GPS and you will get very precise information back from that.”

The tool makes use of a discovery last year by Immunity's Mark Wuergler, who discovered that iPhones and iPads sometimes disclose sensitive information about previously joined access points when joining a new WiFi network.

If captured, this data could previously be used with Google's location services to discover the locations of targeted devices.

Seiwert said Apple devices when joining networks will sometimes disclose via ARP requests the Mac addresses of the last three WiFi routers they have previously connected to, which will frequently include the device owner's home WiFi router.

His tool captures these ARP requests along with multicast DNS and SSID name probes for previously joined networks.

“This could be used to locate where people live,” he said.

In a test run at BlackHat last year, Seiwert used iSniff GPS to collect data from 1,337 devices probing for 3,543 unique networks. The tool contains Python code that uses Scapy to sniff live networks or to read pcap files, and presents the data collected using Google Maps views within a Django web interface.

Share this article:

SC webcasts on demand

This is how to secure data in the cloud


Exclusive video webcast & Q&A sponsored by Vormetric


As enterprises look to take advantage of the cloud, they need to understand the importance of safeguarding their confidential and sensitive data in cloud environments. With the appropriate security safeguards, such as fine-grained access policies, a move to the cloud is as, or more, secure than an on-premise data storage.


View the webcast here to find out more

More in News

VC cyber security funding tops £850 million

VC cyber security funding tops £850 million

A new study from US-based research firm CBI Insights reveals that corporate cyber security investments have risen five-fold since 2009, with 30 percent growth in the last year alone.

Russian/Chinese cyber-security pact raises concerns

Russian/Chinese cyber-security pact raises concerns

News that Russia and China are set to sign a cyber-security treaty next month have left Western cyber experts unsure whether it is a threat or a promising development.

UK police arrest trio over £1.6 million cyber theft from cash machines

UK police arrest trio over £1.6 million cyber ...

London Police have arrested three suspected members of an Eastern European cyber-crime gang who installed malware on more than 50 bank ATM machines across the UK to steal £1.6 million.