MSP430-Based CTF Hardware Hacking Challenge

Hardware 'Flag'

Hacking conferences often feature a Capture the Flag, or CTF event. Typically, this is a software hacking challenge that involves breaking into targets which have been set up for the event, and capturing them. It’s good, legal, hacking fun.

However, some people are starting to build CTFs that involve hardware hacking as well. [Balda]‘s most recent hardware hacking challenge was built for the Insomni’hack 2014 CTF. It uses an MSP430 as the target device, and users are allowed to enter commands to the device over UART via a Bus Pirate. Pull off the exploit, and the wheel rotates to display a flag.

For the first challenge, contestants had to decompile the firmware and find an obfuscated password. The second challenge was a bit more complicated. The password check function used memcpy, which made it vulnerable to a buffer overflow attack. By overwriting the program counter, it was possible to take over control of the program and make the flag turn.

The risk of memcpy reminds us of this set of posters. Only abstaining from memcpy can 100% protect you from overflows and memory disclosures!


Portable SMT Lab for Hacker On The Go


We admit it, we’re suckers for workbenches and toolboxes. [Jon] must feel the same way, because he built this portable surface mount electronics lab. It’s a beast of a project, which might be why it’s project #666 on [Jon] spends a lot of time working off site, and keeps finding himself without proper surface mount soldering tools. Ever tried to stack an 0603 resistor with a 40 watt pistol grip iron? Take our word for it, the results are not pretty.

[Jon] started with two cheap aluminum cases from Harbor Freight. He loaded them up with the typical lab supplies: soldering iron, oscilloscope, multimeter, dual lab supplies, and a good assortment of hand tools. He then added a few choice SMT tools: A hot air tool, a good LED light, and a stereo magnifier. Many of the tools are mounted on DIN rail along the rear of the cases.  All the low voltage equipment runs on  a common 12V bus.

We really like what [Jon] did with the tops of the cases. Each lid contains a plywood sheet. When the cases are opened, the plywood becomes a work surface. As an added bonus, the wood really strengthens the originally flimsy tool cases. The only thing we would add is a good portable anti-static mat.

The final build is really slick. Once the cases are open, four bolts act as feet. The microscope swings out, and the hot air gun hangs on the right side. Plug in power and you’ve gone from zero to SMT hero in under 1 minute.

Dispensing Solder Paste With A 3D Printer


There’s a strange middle ground in PCB production when it comes to making a few boards. Dispensing solder paste onto one board is easy enough with a syringe or toothpick, but when pasting up even a handful of boards, this method gets tiresome. Solder paste stencils speed up the process when you’re doing dozens or hundreds of boards, but making a stencil for just a few boards is a waste. The solution for this strange middle ground is, of course, to retrofit a 3D printer to dispense solder paste.

This project was a collaboration between [Jake] and [hzeller] to transform KiCAD files to G Code for dispensing solder paste directly onto a board. The machine they used was a Type A Machines printer with a solder paste dispenser in place of an extruder. The dispenser is hooked up to the fan output of the controller board, and from the looks of the video, they’re getting pretty good results for something that’s still very experimental.

All the code to turn KiCAD files into G Code are up on [hzeller]‘s github. If you’re wondering, the board they’re pasting up is a stepper driver board for the BeagleBone named Bumps.

Videos below.

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Reverse Engineering Programmable Logic


Despite what the cool kids are doing over on Hackaday Projects, the vast majority of vintage computers used some form of programmable logic for memory control, address decoding, and all that other stuff that can be done with just a few logic chips. It’s a great way to design a product for production, but what happens when the programmable chips go bad after 30 years?

[Clockmeister] got his hands on a Dick Smith VZ300 computer (a clone of the VTech Laser 310) with two broken 40-pin custom chips. After going through the schematics and theory of operation for this compy, he recreated the custom chips in 74 series logic.

The Dick Smith VZ300 is a fairly standard piece of equipment from 1985 – a Z80 CPU, 16k RAM, upgradable to 64k, a tape drive, and 32×16 character, 8 color display. Inside this computer are two 40-pin chips that are responsable for video buffering and VRAM control, keyboard and cassette I/O, video timing, and the monophonic speaker decoding. Both of these chips failed, and spares are unavailable, apart from scavenging them from another working unit.

After careful study, [Clockmeister] recreated the circuits inside these chip with 74 series logic chips. The new circuit was built on a board that plugs directly into the empty 40-pin sockets. Everything in this rehabbed computer works, so we’re just chalking this up as another reason why designing new retrocomputers with programmable logic is a dumb idea. Great for a product, but not for a one-off.

Image source


Unlocking your Computer with a Leonardo and an NFC Shield

Manually typing your login password every time you need to login on your computer can get annoying, especially if it is long and complex. To tackle this problem [Lewis] assembled an NFC computer unlocker by using an Arduino Leonardo together with an NFC shield. As the latter doesn’t come with its headers soldered, a little bit of handy work was required.

A custom enclosure was printed in order to house the two boards together and discretely mount them under a desk for easy use. Luckily enough very few code was needed as [Lewis] used the Adafruit NFC library. The main program basically scans for nearby NFC cards, compares their (big-endianned) UIDs against a memory stored-one and enters a stored password upon match. We think it is a nice first project for the new generation of hobbyists out there. This is along the same lines as the project we saw in September.

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AWD Motorcycle Drives Over Anything, Fits into Dufflebag

awd bike

This has got to be one of the strangest motorcycles we’ve ever seen. It has huge tires, both wheels are chain driven, and it only weighs 100lbs or so — did we mention it also comes apart and fits into a dufflebag?

It’s what appears to be a home-made Russian bike of some sort, in fact, the YouTube title when translated is “ATV Suitcase” and they aren’t wrong… Anyway, it appears to be designed off of the American-made Rokon Trailbreaker, which is another AWD motorcycle with giant tires, huge ground clearance and extremely versatile — except this one Russian one is either really light, or the rider is ridiculously strong the way he throws the bike around.

In the following video the owner shows off the bike’s prowess climbing stairs, mountains, floating in water, and even uses it as a ladder to climb up a rock face — and then drags the bike up after him.

Plus he can disassemble it in a matter of minutes and fit it in a car smaller than a Fiat.

[Read more...]

Low-cost Solar Panels are Easy to Make and Reconfigure


What’s the size of a deck of playing cards and can pump out enough power to charge your cellphone? These awesome little home-made magnetic solar panels!

[Christian Pedersen] has just published a guide on how to make these handy little solar panels, and they only cost about $1.25 each! They are capable of providing between 0 – 0.5V at 400-1000mA depending on the light available and load being driven.

All you need to make them is some multicrystalline solar cells, copper tape, Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA — a film used to protect solar panels) and Polycarbonate sheet for the external hard case. You can then assemble them in a matter of minutes, and laminate for a permanently sealed panel. He’s also added thin neodymium  magnets so the panels stick together when you arrange them in a line! Perhaps a future version could have the copper strips going in both directions to allow for larger arrays to be made.

He also has a complete BOM on his GitHub, and if you happen to be at the Maker Faire in San Mateo in May, he’ll be showing you how — in person!

[via Instructables]



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