Abuse Vectors: A Framework for Conceptualizing IoT-Enabled Interpersonal Abuse


Sophie Stephenson and Majed Almansoori, University of Wisconsin--Madison; Pardis Emami-Naeini, Duke University; Danny Yuxing Huang, New York University; Rahul Chatterjee, University of Wisconsin--Madison


Tech-enabled interpersonal abuse (IPA) is a pervasive problem. Abusers, often intimate partners, use tools such as spyware to surveil and harass victim-survivors. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence suggests that smart, Internet-connected devices such as home thermostats, cameras, and Bluetooth item finders may similarly be used against victim-survivors of IPA. To tackle abuse involving smart devices, it is vital that we understand the ecosystem of smart devices that enable IPA. Thus, in this work, we conduct a large-scale qualitative analysis of the smart devices used in IPA. We systematically crawl Google Search results to uncover web pages discussing how abusers use smart devices to enact IPA. By analyzing these web pages, we identify 32 devices used for IPA and detail the varied strategies abusers use for spying and harassment via these devices. Then, we design a simple, yet powerful framework—abuse vectors—which conceptualizes IoT-enabled IPA as four overarching patterns: Covert Spying, Unauthorized Access, Repurposing, and Intended Use. Using this lens, we pinpoint the necessary solutions required to address each vector of IoT abuse and encourage the security community to take action.

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@inproceedings {287242,
author = {Sophie Stephenson and Majed Almansoori and Pardis Emami-Naeini and Danny Yuxing Huang and Rahul Chatterjee},
title = {Abuse Vectors: A Framework for Conceptualizing {IoT-Enabled} Interpersonal Abuse},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {69--86},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity23/presentation/stephenson-vectors},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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