Written by IEEE | April 9, 2018   |   Updated: May 11, 2018

The security of the Internet of Things is a constant topic of discussion, with the focus typically on the devices it connects. However, the IoT also intersects with the worlds of law enforcement and public safety, and that connection has been growing in recent years.

Though not yet well known, the Human-as-a-Sensor (HaaS) paradigm is one worth focusing on. Unlike much of what we talk about with the IoT, HaaS doesn’t rely on automated sensors at all — instead, it’s based on people reporting incidents they witness through mobile apps. Law enforcement is then able to aggregate this data in order to build a better sense of the emergencies at hand, and which ones to respond to first.

As you might expect, this technology is not without its cybersecurity threats. A team of researchers from the University of Greenwich set out to determine the exact ways in which cybercriminals can manipulate HaaS, and how law enforcement can ensure that it gets credible real-time information. You can find the full paper on IEEE Xplore here, but three of the key threats are as follows:

  1. Location spoofing: “Would-be attackers are able to send false reports that would appear to originate from any specific physical location of their choice.” This can throw responders off the trail of the crime.
  2. DDoS attacks: “Network-based denial of service attacks against mobile devices can result in crime report messages being queued or dropped completely when network connectivity is lost or saturated.”
  3. GPS spoofing: “Here, the location is spoofed not programatically, but by generating fake GPS signals using a software-defined radio (SDR) transmitter.”

As for how to combat these threats, the researchers had a few ideas. Doing so isn’t simple, determining whether a device is under attack or not doesn’t give law enforcement a sense of whether any of the data is useful. “A more practical approach would be to utilize the class probability of a report (i.e., the likeliness of the device being under attack / an attacker or not) to evaluate a mobile device’s cyber trustworthiness.”

The trick, according to the researchers, is to score reports based on features of the mobile device that can be monitored in real time. For example, CPU and RAM usage can be a clue – random upticks when the phone isn’t being used are red flags. Location accuracy is another since location services can be compared to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth information.

Read the full paper to learn about the other detection methods they identified, and what role machine learning is playing in facilitating emergency response.

For More Information


Assessing the cyber-trustworthiness of human-as-a-sensor reports from mobile devices

The Human-as-a-Sensor (HaaS) paradigm, where it is human users rather than automated sensor systems that detect and report events or [...]


Harnessing and Sustaining our Natural Resources

Exceptional Infrastructure Challenges, Technology and Humanity

The Global Impact of IEEE's 802 Standards

Scenes of our Cyber Lives: The Security Threats and Technology Solutions Protecting Us

How Millennial Parents are Embracing Health and Wellness Technologies for Their Generation Alpha Kids

Space Exploration, Technology and Our Lives

Global Innovation and the Environment

How Technology, Privacy and Security are Changing Each Other (And Us)

Find us in booth 31506, LVCC South Hall 3 and experience the Technology Moon Walk

Virtual and Mixed Reality

How Robots are Improving our Health

IEEE Experts and the Robots They are Teaching

See how millennial parents around the world see AI impacting the lives of their tech-infused offspring

Take the journey from farm to table and learn how IoT will help us reach the rising demand for food production

Watch technical experts discuss the latest cyber threats

Explore how researchers, teachers, explorers, healthcare and medical professionals use immersive technologies

Follow the timeline to see how Generation AI will be impacted by technology

Learn how your IoT data can be used by experiencing a day in a connected life

Listen to technical experts discuss the biggest security threats today

See how tech has influenced and evolved with the Games

Enter our virtual home to explore the IoT (Internet of Things) technologies

Explore an interactive map showcasing exciting innovations in robotics

Interactively explore A.I. in recent Hollywood movies

Get immersed in technologies that will improve patients' lives