If you can plug a device into the wall, or use it in Wi-Fi, it's easy to see the traffic with software like WireShark.

But it seems more tricky to do it with a device that uses LTE/3G or other cellular networks to communicate.

If I'm worried about a device that could send some personal information without my consent, is unplugging it and returning it to the store the only solution?

What about devices that communicate using LoRaWan/LPWAN?

  • 5
    I suppose if the data is encrypted even if we sniff the traffic using tools, it is of no use.
    – bravokeyl
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:19
  • 5
    Keep in mind that sniffing wireless traffic is illegal in many jurisdictions since you can't avoid sniffing other people's traffic.
    – Helmar
    Dec 6, 2016 at 23:21

3 Answers 3


I have been professionally developing a "device that use LTE/3G or other cellular networks" for decades now, and WireShark is one of our major test tools. Data can be encrypted (generally at layer 2, which is an option, or layer 4, by writing code to do so), but much (most?) is not.

If I'm worried about a device that could send some personal information without my consent is unplugging it and returning it to the store the only solution.

If you do not have access to the source code, then you cannot trust the device, or the communication channel.

  • 1
    So you are saying that most of traffic from IoT devices I use is - not secured and - can be easily read by a potential attacker ? That's scary!
    – WayToDoor
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:36
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    Just follow online publications. For instance theregister.co.uk regularly exposes flaws, including devices which transmit even password in cleartext. Google for more. Rule #1 is always to immediately change any passwords that the device may have.
    – Mawg
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:45
  • 1
    Recommended reading - theregister.co.uk/2016/12/05/…
    – Mawg
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:46
  • 3
    That doesn't answer the question of how to intercept LTE and 3G traffic (even assuming it isn't encrypted at the application level). Dec 7, 2016 at 0:55
  • 1
    Even if you do have access to the source code, how do you know that it's what's actually running on the device? And how do you know what the source code is really doing? Open source helps but it doesn't solve the problem. Dec 7, 2016 at 0:56
  1. 3g v Wifi Security
  2. Standard wifi v LoRaWan/LPWAN
  3. If I'm worried about a device that could send some personal information without my consent is unplugging it and returning it to the store the only solution.

3g v Wifi Security

It is possible to sniff 3G signals, e.g. , however of more concern might be ensuring the packets cannot be decrypted on the cloud receiver end, where they can be easily wiresharked. In order to avoid this a good device encryption level protocol could be used.

On the WiFi side, yes you can sniff more easily but again if the message is encrypted, it doesn't matter.

The AWS platform offers really strong security.

AWS IoT supports the following certificate-signing algorithms:


So using this security stack your data cannot be brute force sniffed at source as it would currently take billions of years. I am familiar with AWS but assume azure has a similar offering which of course you could implement separately.

In summary, the transport protocol does not matter. Take your security pick, (3G or wifi). If implemented properly both are secure assuming the hackers are not microscopically x-raying and modelling the silicon of your IoT device. Perhaps if you see someone in your house with a star trek type X-Ray machine it is time to worry?

Standard wifi v LoRaWan/LPWAN

Let's rate against SHA256withRSA


Each device is provisioned with a unique AES 128 key

To my knowledge AES 128 is un-crackable.


LPWAN is not a standard. It includes:

LoRa / SigFox/ WAVIoT NB-Fi. So you need to evaluate the security of each protocol falling under LPWAN. As we have seen LoRa is pretty secure.

If I'm worried..

I would suggest talk to the manufacturer first, see what data they collect, maybe it is harmless? If you are still suspicious and don't believe them and don't have access to the source code, then maybe it is time to return it.

  • 1
    "To my knowledge AES 128 is un-crackable." This is a common misconception. Yes, AES-128 itself is very good, but for this to work you have to exchange the keys somehow and this can make the system very vulnarable, see the reports about security flaws in ZigBee.
    – koalo
    Sep 20, 2018 at 10:35

You may use several different LPWAN technologies (NB-IoT, LoRaWAN, Sigfox, etc.) to connect an end-device to a Target Network. Most of these technologies encrypt the device-data and you cannot intercept the traffic just by listening to the radio traffic. However, please note that the Target Network, does not have to be the Internet. It can be your private network or your even Application Server. You can intercept the traffic there.

If your device vendor sells devices as part of an end to end solution including an Application Server in the cloud (Internet), you may still have concerns on whether your App Server provider uses your data properly. If you want to intercept the traffic in that scenario, you can set up a proxy app server in your private network that forwards the data to the real App Server and you can intercept the traffic there. Please note that this technic can only work because - at the time being - most of the LPWAN connectivity services decrypt the data (and optionally reencrypt it with the subscribers' key) before forwarding to the Target Network.

If your App Server provider implements E2E security, without sharing any keys with you, you have no way to intercept the traffic..

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