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To Catch a Wireless Thief

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Representation of a malicious character.

The University of Utah School of Computing has received a National Science Foundation grant to develop a system to identify those who steal radio frequency bandwidth.

Credit: Thinkstockphotos

Crowdsourcing programs one day could help authorities track down unauthorized radio bandwidth and malicious radio disruptions.

The University of Utah School of Computing has received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to devise a system that will enable cellphone and laptop users to locate individuals who have stolen bandwidth on radio frequency waves, tightening the security of the radio spectrum.

As more mobile devices utilize software-defined radio technology, which adjusts the functions of a radio device by updating its software, unauthorized bandwidth use is expected to rise. Hackers could be able to create software designed to steal radio bandwidth or disrupt radio and satellite communications, potentially staging an attack on emergency-services radio frequencies.

The Utah researchers are working on a system in which mobile apps or software can detect unauthorized bandwidth of a certain frequency range, and alert authorities to the strength and originating location of the signal.

"We thought that there should be a better way of doing this, and then we started thinking of ideas about crowdsourcing," says Utah professor Sneha Kumar Kasera. "Our goal is to be able to monitor for unauthorized use 100 percent of the time, cover 100 percent of the area, and cover 100 percent of the frequency, and that can only be achieved at that scale through crowdsourcing."

From University of Utah News
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