HOMESPY: The Invisible Sniffer of Infrared Remote Control of Smart TVs


Kong Huang, YuTong Zhou, and Ke Zhang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Jiacen Xu, University of California, Irvine; Jiongyi Chen, National University of Defense Technology; Di Tang, Indiana University Bloomington; Kehuan Zhang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Infrared (IR) remote control is a widely used technology at home due to its simplicity and low cost. Most considered it to be "secure'' because of the line-of-sight usage within the home. In this paper, we revisit the security of IR remote control schemes and examine their security assumptions under the settings of internet-connected smart homes. We focus on two specific questions: (1) whether IR signals could be sniffed by an IoT device; and (2) what information could be leaked out through the sniffed IR control signals.

To answer these questions, we design a sniff module using a commercial-off-the-shelf IR receiver on a Raspberry Pi and show that the Infrared (IR) signal emanating from the remote control of a Smart TV can be captured by one of the nearby IoT devices, for example, a smart air-conditioner, even the signal is not aimed at the air-conditioner. The IR signal range and receiving angle are larger than most have thought. We also developed algorithms to extract semantic information from the sniffed IR control signals, and evaluated with real-world applications. The results showed that lots of sensitive information could be leaked out through the sniffed IR control signals, including account name and password, PIN code, and even payment information.

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