Ambient light sensors can be used to snoop on us while we’re web browsing

Ccleaner
There are more ways to access your data than by exploiting the various software vulnerabilities and hardware bugs that we seem to hear about on a daily basis. Our gadgets actually have all kinds of weaknesses that could allow nefarious parties to steal our information, and some of them are things we’d probably never consider.

One of those weaknesses stems from the fact that our PCs, tablets, and smartphones are stocked with sensors that extract information from our environments and use that data to make our devices more useful. Some researchers have found a way to use the innocuous-seeming ambient light sensor to grab potentially sensitive browser data and pass it along.

The ambient light sensor is used for a couple of purposes. It detects background light levels and adjusts screen brightness, and it works as a proximity sensor to determine when to shut off a smartphone’s screen during a call. As the researchers point out, the ambient light sensor is quite precise, and can measure light intensity from completely dark to incredibly bright.

The specific hack that the researchers developed uses the ambient light sensor to pick up color and lighting information from the screen by tapping into the data the sensor passes to the system. Because the sensor’s data is affected by what’s being displayed on the screen, it can be used in a variety of ways to pick up browser information that affects the light that the screen is giving off.

One simple example is the colors of visited links, which are normally obfuscated by the browser to avoid just this kind of snooping. Essentially, the light sensor readings can be used to distinguish between visited and unvisited links and thus inform an attacker as to which links the user had previously visited.

Another example involves using the ambient light sensor data to grab QR codes. That data can be used for such things as hijacking a user’s account when a QR code is used to provide emergency access to an account.

So far, the researchers have managed to create attacks that work in Firefox and Chrome on Android devices and on PCs with ambient light sensors. Certain problems exists, such as changing lighting conditions in real-world situations, and also screen brightness variations. Nevertheless, the attack presents yet another reason to wonder who might be stealing our information in ways that we’d never imagine — or prepare against.

Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Computing

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use drone to map Icelandic cave in preparation for Mars exploration

Researchers from the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology have demonstrated a way that astronauts may be able to map Martian caves using a Lidar-equipped drone that can travel autonomously without GPS.
Cars

Tesla gives us a cryptic look at its cyberpunk, Blade Runner-inspired pickup

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself. It could make its debut in 2019.
Computing

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.
Computing

Get the new Dell XPS 13 for $750 with this limited-time deal

Dell is currently running a limited time deal lasting through Thursday, March 28, where you can bring home a version of this year's new XPS 13 for around $750 with the use of a special coupon code. 
Computing

Nvidia faces attacks from AMD, Intel, and even Google. Should it be worried?

Nvidia announced an expanded array of RTX server solutions designed to leverage the power of ray-tracing at GTC 2019. The effort will help Nvidia take on Google's Stadia in game streaming with GeForce Now, and the company's investments in…
Mobile

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.
Mobile

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.
Computing

Microsoft’s Clippy came back from the dead, but didn’t last very long

Before Cortana, Alexa, and Siri even existed, Microsoft Clippy dominated the screens of computers in the 1990s to help assist Microsoft Office users when writing letters. He recently made a bit of a comeback only to die off again.
Computing

How 5G networks will make low-latency game streaming a reality

Faster speeds and more bandwidth are some of the many promises that 5G can deliver, but for gamers, the most important thing is low latency. To achieve low latency, carriers like AT&T and Verizon are exploring hybrid models for game…
Deals

Time to do taxes? Save up to 50 percent on H&R Block tax software this weekend

Tax season is stressful, and with new tax laws in effect this year, it's not a bad idea to get some help. H&R Block has you covered: For two days only, you can save 50 percent on its great software so you can file your taxes online and save…
Computing

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.
Computing

The new iMacs push on iMac Pro territory, but how much power do you really need?

With Apple refreshing the higher-end iMacs with newer processors and graphics cards, it moves closer to the iMac Pro. In this guide, we consider the performance, features, and help make sense of the differences between the two.