Security, functionality gaps exist in beacon deployments
Security and functionality gaps exist in beacon deployments at retailers and other early adopters, warns Mobiquity Labs, an applied tech lab set up by mobility firm Mobiquity.
These gaps in monitoring, authentication and authorization could significantly degrade the benefits of the beacons, warns Mobiquity Labs.
"Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware--small enough to attach to a wall or countertop--that utilize battery-friendly low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet," explains a report by Business Insider.
"Retail outlets are adopting beacons to provide customers with product information, flash sales or deals, and to speed up the checkout process with a completely contactless payments system," the report adds.
Mobiquity Labs found that there are no processes in place to monitor beacons, making it difficult to measure whether they are effective. This not only impacts the value of the beacon program, but it could lead to significant security risks, such as stolen beacons.
"With no consistent tracking and monitoring system, there is no stopping the movement of beacons from one location to another, and no way to track whether a beacon is truly effective. This can--and should--be a concern for anyone looking to deploy beacon technology," says Ty Rollin, chief technology officer at Mobiquity.
In addition, Mobiquity Labs was able to clone beacon identifiers onto new equipment, meaning unprotected systems can be hacked by crowd steering and other spoofing attacks.
Unfortunately, beacons are inaccurate when translating close distances. "When put closer than 12 feet together--a real possibility in a retail setting, for example--they interfered with each other, making it difficult to decipher one from the other," Mobiquity Labs explains.
Once there is wide adoption of beacon technology, "consumers will experience a barrage of signals, similar to spamming, likely making it difficult to understand the content being shared," the lab added.
For the study, Mobiquity Labs purchased beacon hardware from multiple vendors, built beacons using Raspberry Pis as well as mobile applications and services. The lab team tested the technology in real-world scenarios, such as receiving welcome messages and awards at specific points of interest identified by multiple beacons.