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An assessment of Wi-Fi 5 and 6 and its effects on location tracking

AlMusalam, Salman; Rezaeifar, Zeinab


Salman AlMusalam

Zeinab Rezaeifar


Location tracking is a privacy attack within the Wi-Fi protocol that recently gained the attention of researchers. Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as smartphones and watches, constantly broadcast probe requests to connect to an Access Point. These requests contain valuable information, such as MAC addresses, that can be used to identify the individuals. Furthermore, these requests are not encrypted where it can get captured using off-the-shelf hardware and publicly available software. To tackle this problem, MAC address randomization was introduced in 2018. Limited research has been done in this area and most of it has been implemented using Wi-Fi 5, with no research done in the newly released Wi-Fi 6. This project investigates the effect of location tracking in Wi-Fi 6 compared to Wi-Fi 5, outlining the changes within Wi-Fi 6. The investigation is done through a series of experiments in two different environments (Wi-Fi 5 and 6) through two approaches; passive and active using an iOS and Android device. In addition, the effect of MAC address randomization is also investigated in Wi-Fi 5 and 6. Data is collected using a set of tools in the two different approaches, the effectiveness of location tracking in both environments is compared and the strengths and limitations of the two approaches for location tracking are outlined. The main findings show that location tracking in Wi-Fi 6 is still achievable when compared with Wi-Fi 5, but the accuracy and certainty of identifying devices are lower due to new features within Wi-Fi 6.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Conference Name ICITST-2023 in cooperation with WCST-2023
Start Date Nov 13, 2023
Online Publication Date Dec 31, 2023
Publication Date Dec 31, 2023
Deposit Date Jun 20, 2024
Pages 28-34
Public URL