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On the Privacy and Security of the Ultrasound Ecosystem

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Abstract: Ultrasound tracking systems are gaining traction in the marketing industry because of the high accuracy they offer, and the low deployment cost they come with. For instance, ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT) products use the ultrasonic spectrum as a communication channel to “pair” devices and enable marketers to “follow” users across the different devices.

Unfortunately, despite the novelty of the technology, security experts and the authorities (e.g., the Federal Trade Commission) have raised concerns about its privacy implications. Our work is the first comprehensive privacy and security analysis of the ultrasound tracking ecosystem.

In this talk, we will describe and demonstrate the practical security and privacy risks that loom in the ultrasound ecosystem. First, we will showcase how an adversary can exploit an ultrasound tracking framework to launch attacks against users. Subsequently, we will formally analyze the security shortcomings of the ecosystem, and then based on our findings introduce countermeasures that aim to alleviate existing and future threats.

Bio: Vasilios Mavroudis is a doctoral researcher in the Information Security Group at University College London. His work focuses on privacy and security aspects of digital ecosystems, as he enjoys doing practically applicable research on the intersection of these two areas. His recent work includes an in-depth analysis of the ultrasound tracking ecosystem, as well as the development of a secure hardware platform from untrusted components. In the past, he has also worked on detection systems for evasive web-malware, and on mitigation techniques for telecommunication network attacks.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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