Linking wireless devices using information contained in Wi-Fi probe requests

Mathieu Cunche*, Mohamed-Ali Kaafar, Roksana Boreli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Active service discovery in Wi-Fi involves wireless stations broadcasting their Wi-Fi fingerprint, i.e. the SSIDs of their preferred wireless networks. The content of those Wi-Fi fingerprints can reveal different types of information about the owner. We focus on the relation between the fingerprints and the links between the owners. Our hypothesis is that social links between devices' owners can be identified by exploiting the information contained in the fingerprint. More specifically we propose to consider the similarity between fingerprints as a metric, with the underlying idea: similar fingerprints are likely to be linked. We first study the performances of several similarity metrics on a controlled dataset and then apply the designed classifier to a dataset collected in the wild. Finally we discuss potential countermeasures and propose a new one based on geolocation. This study is based on a dataset collected in Sydney, Australia, composed of fingerprints belonging to more than 8000 devices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-69
Number of pages14
JournalPervasive and Mobile Computing
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • IEEE 802.11
  • link prediction
  • privacy
  • social matching systems
  • Wi-Fi
  • Link prediction
  • Privacy
  • Social matching systems


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