Green Light Your Commute with America’s Unsecured Traffic Lights

Green Lights Forever

Remember that episode of Leverage (season 5, episode 3), where Alec uses Marvin to wirelessly change all the street lights green so they can catch up to an SUV? And you scoffed and said “that’s so not real!”… well actually they got it right. A new study out of the University of Michigan (PDF warning), shows just how easy it is to make your morning commute green lights all the way.

The study points out that a large portion of traffic lights in the United States communicate with each other wirelessly over the 900Mhz and 5.8Ghz ISM band with absolutely no encryption. In order to connect to the 5.8Ghz traffic signals, you simply need the SSID (which is set to broadcast) and the proper protocol. In the study the researchers used a wireless card that is not available to the public, but they do point out that with a bit of social engineering you could probably get one. Another route is the HackRF SDR, which could be used to both sniff and transmit the required protocol. Once connected to the network you will need the default username and password, which can be found on the traffic light manufacturer’s website. To gain access to the 900Mhz networks you need all of the above and a 16-bit slave ID. This can be brute forced, and as the study shows, no ID was greater than 100. Now you have full access, not to just one traffic signal, but EVERY signal connected to the network.

Once on the network you have two options. The completely open debug port in the VxWorks OS which allows you to read-modify-write any memory register. Or by sending a(n) UDP packet where the last byte encodes the button pressed on the controller’s keypad. Using the remote keypad you can freeze the current intersection state, modify the signal timing, or change the state of any light. However the hardware Malfunction Management Unit (MMU) will still detect any illegal states (conflicting green or yellow lights), and take over with the familiar 4-way red flashing. Since a technician will have to come out and manually reset the traffic signal to recover from an illegal state, you could turn every intersection on the network into a 4-way stop.

So the next time you stop at a red light, and it seems to take forever to change, keep an eye out for the hacker who just green lit their commute.

Thanks for the tip [Matt]

THP Semifinalist: fNIR Brain Imager

565281406845688681 The current research tool du jour in the field of neuroscience and psychology is the fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. It’s basically the same as the MRI machine found in any well equipped hospital, but with a key difference: it can detect very small variances in the blood oxygen levels, and thus areas of activity in the brain. Why is this important? For researchers, finding out what area of the brain is active in response to certain stimuli is a ticket to Tenure Town with stops at Publicationton and Grantville.

fMRI labs are expensive, and [Jeremy]‘s submission to The Hackaday Prize is aiming to do the same thing much more cheaply, and in a way that will vastly increase the amount of research being done with this technique. How is he doing this? Using the same technology used in high-tech vein finders: infrared light.

[Jeremy]‘s idea is much the same as a photoplethysmograph, better known as a pulse oximeter. Instead of relatively common LEDs, [Jeremy] is using near infrared LEDs, guided by a few papers from Cornell and Drexel that demonstrate this technique can be used to see blood oxygen concentrations in the brain.

Being based on light, this device does not penetrate deeply into the brain. For many use cases, this is fine: the motor cortex is right next to your skull, stretching from ear to ear, vision is taken care of at the back of your head, and memories are right up against your forehead. Being able to scan these areas noninvasively with a device you can wear has incredible applications from having amputees control prosthetics to controlling video game characters by just thinking about it.

[Jeremy]‘s device is small, about the size of a cellphone, and uses an array of LEDs and photodiodes to assemble an image of what’s going on inside someone’s head. The image will be somewhat crude, have low resolution, and will not cover the entire brain like an fMRI can. It also doesn’t cost millions of dollars, making this one of the most scientifically disruptive entries we have for The Hackaday Prize.

You can check out [Jeremy]‘s intro video below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

[Read more...]

Homemade Triple Monitor Mount Looks Professionally Made

Professional Monitor Mount

Reddit user [popson] just finished off this impressive monitor mount build. Designed completely in Sketchup, it’s adjustable and will fit monitors from 20″ to 27″.

While designing it they stuck with standard material sizes, and it makes use of a lot of cold rolled steel — box tube, angle, and tube. Wide aluminum channel provides the adjust-ability for various monitor sizes, and standard VESA monitor mounting brackets guarantee monitors will fit.

sketchup model of monitor mount

There’s a lot of welding involved, but like [popson] says, he’s no pro — it’s not that hard to do. Once everything was done, they painted it glossy black to protect it from rusting.

The adjustment knobs are even home-made, cut from a wooden plank using a hole saw, sanded, and varnished.

 

He’s even added RGB LED light strips onto each of the monitors for a fully immersed gaming experience.

[Read more...]

Proximity Sensing LEDs Can Add a New Dynamic To Your Projects

Proximity Sensing LEDs

Looking for a fun and easy way to add a bit more interaction to your LED-laden projects? Why not turn them into proximity sensing LEDs?

Our hacker, [Will], is just getting into designing his own PCBs. He was looking for a simple project to try out that wouldn’t be too hard to design and manufacture a PCB for, so he came up with this clever little interactive LED array.

It’s actually a very simple circuit which also makes it super easy to build on a prototyping breadboard. Each proximity sensing LED is made up of five components. Three resistors, an LED, an IR LED, and a photo transistor. The IR LED is chosen specifically for the type of photo transistor being used — in this case, it emits a wavelength of 880nm, which is the type of light the photo transistor recognizes.

These components are wired in a manner that the IR LEDs are always on. The normal LED is wired in series with the photo transistor, and thus the LED only turns on when the photo transistor sees reflected 880nm light bounced back at it by whatever object you wave over top.

What would be really cool is if you added some 555 timers to the mix and had a delay before the LEDs fade away — then you could have a huge array that leaves motion trails long after you’ve triggered the sensors!

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

WiFi Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Camera

raspberry_pi_open-case-parts

Adafruit has a tutorial on their site that shows how to fashion together a cloud-connected, point-and-shoot camera. The best part of this project is that it can be customized to the heart’s content, unlike traditional digital cameras or smartphones. The integrated touchscreen and open-source computing allows for Instagram-like filters that can be scrolled through easily. No case is needed, but a 3D printed one can be attached for a more polished outcome.

The backup system of this Raspberry Pi-enabled device connects wirelessly to the internet and uploads the photos through the use of a Dropbox API. This functionality is great for syncing the camera to a cloud based server which then can be turned into a makeshift picture database for a website. The camera might be good for recording timelapse photography as well where a program could automatically create GIFs from the backup photos. It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to make either, especially because Adafruit pretty much always provides great documentation. Their videos are usually good too. The one posted below is relatively short, but provides enough information to see how it works.

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Rapid Fire Mod For A Wireless Mouse

Rapid Fire Wireless Mouse

Sometimes changing your computer mouse can be uncomfortable for a while until you get used to the replacement. It may also take some time to get used to new features or the lack of features the new mouse has. [Jon] bought an awesome wireless mouse that he really likes but it is missing one critical feature: rapid fire for gaming. He previously modded his old wired mouse to have a rapid fire button using a 555 timer. That worked fine as the mouse ran off the USB’s 5 volts, and that’s the voltage the 555 timer needed. The new wireless mouse has a 1.5 volt battery and can not support the 555 timer. What’s a gamer to do?

[Jon] searched around the ‘net but could not find any wireless rapid fire mods. Eventually, he did find a low-voltage variation called the LMC555 and ordered a few for his project. The new wireless mouse was taken apart in order to find out how the mouse buttons work. In this case, the signal pin is pulled low when the mouse button is pushed. Now that it is known how the mouse button works, just a couple of resistors, a capacitor, an NPN transistor and a push button switch are all that are necessary to finish up this mod. When the push button is pressed, the LMC555 timer activates the transistor in order to ground the mouse button signal pin. This happens to the tune of 1236 times a minute! That is a lot of rapid firing.

The few components were soldered up neatly and packed into the limited spare area inside the mouse. A hole drilled in the side of the mouse’s housing holds the new rapid fire push button in an ergonomically pleasing location.

Earlier, we mentioned [Jon] has done this mod before on a wired mouse. He learned about that project here on Hackaday. Check it out if your wired mouse is craving a rapid fire button.

Video after the break…

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THP Semifinalist: Retro Populator, A Pick And Place Retrofit For A 3D Printer

retro

A huge theme of The Hackaday Prize entries is making assembly of electronics projects easier. This has come in the form of soldering robots, and of course pick and place machines. One of the best we’ve seen is the Retro Populator, a project by [Eric], [Charles], [Adam], and [Rob], members of the Toronto Hacklab. It’s a machine that places electronic components on a PCB with the help of a 3D printer

The Retro Populator consists of two major parts: the toolhead consists of a needle and vacuum pump for picking up those tiny surface mount parts. This is attaches to a quick mount bolted right to the extruder of a 3D printer. The fixture board attaches to the bed of a 3D printer and includes tape rails, cam locks, and locking arms for holding parts and boards down firmly.

The current version of the Retro Populator, with its acrylic base and vacuum pen, is starting to work well. The future plans include tape feeders, a ‘position confirm’ ability, and eventually part rotation. It’s a very cool device, and the ability to produce a few dozen prototypes in an hour would be a boon for hackerspaces the world over.

You can check out a few videos of the Retro Populator below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

[Read more...]

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