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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

February 11, 2015 at 5:24 PM

Fluke Networks gear sniffs out cellphones, drones and Glass

If you want to know whether someone’s snooping around your property with a drone or a cellphone, you might be interested in the latest version of the Air Magnet, a wireless monitoring and security system from Everett-based Fluke Networks.

The company today released an updated version of the Air Magnet that can pinpoint the location of an unauthorized cellphone being used nearby. Previous versions could only detect that someone was using a phone within range of its sensors, which may reach up to 1,000 meters.

Mostly the system is used to monitor and secure wireless access points, checking activity against a library of threats that the Fluke Networks group updates from offices in Santa Clara, Calif.

Fluke began making electronics testing tools in 1948 and steadily expanded its product range. It was sold to Washington, D.C.-based conglomerate Danaher in 1998.

Fluke Networks, a spinoff operating under the Fluke umbrella, was created in 2000. To broaden its offerings, it bought Air Magnet, a Silicon Valley vendor of Wi-Fi security and management products, in 2009.

Air Magnet customers include big companies that have 50, 100 or more wireless access points. Other buyers include universities and hotels, which can remotely monitor access points at multiple locations. I wonder if Air Magnets might also be used on the estates of tech tycoons living on Lake Washington’s Gold Coast.

Here’s a screenshot of the system console:

Fluke image

Fluke image

Air Magnets can’t block a cellphone signal — that’s against federal regulations — but they can detect and block unauthorized Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals.

That gives them the ability to detect devices like Google Glass headsets. Air Magnets can also take down a Wi-Fi controlled drone, according to David Tran, product manager at Fluke Networks.

If a Wi-Fi controlled drone such as a Parrot AR model is detected, the Air Magnet can de-authenticate or block the signal between the drone and iOS or Android device being used to control the craft. The drone will basically stop moving and eventually come down when its battery runs out, Tran said.

If a drone is using a GoPro video camera to record, the filming can’t be blocked — yet.

“We’re still working on trying to figure out how to do something there,” Tran said. “We can detect the drone is there, we just can’t block it. It’s more of an alarm.”

That’s also the case with cellphones detected by the Air Magnet. Its sensors can now triangulate where a phone is being used and identify which carrier it’s using. But someone still needs to physically intervene if it’s a security breach.

Air Magnet starter kits with three sensors and a software license cost $8,000 to $9,000. Then Fluke will suggest subscribing to an annual support and maintenance program.

Comments | Topics: Enterprise, fluke, gadgets and products

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