This morning we logged into Google to find a Barcode instead of the normal logo (how strange that Google would change their graphic!). Apparently today is the anniversary of the Barcode. This method of easily labeling items for computer scanning is used for every type of commodity in our society. But do you know how to get the cryptic information back out of the Barcode?
Here’s the challenge: The image at the top of the post was created by the devious writers here at Hack a Day. Leave us a comment that tells us what the message says and explains how you deciphered it. There are programs that will do this for you and some smartphones can do this from a picture of the code, but we’re looking for the most creative solutions.
The winner will be decided in a totally unfair and biased way and gets their name plastered all over Hack a Day (and possibly slandered a bit). So get out there and start decoding that machine-readable image.
Update: We’ve announced a winner for this challenge.
We’ve recently been getting a lot of new comments on our Bokode post from a while back, and with good reason. [M@] has managed to find a way to replicate Bokode at home, using $0 worth of equipment (before the price of microprint). To accomplish Bokode at home, it seems all you need is and old webcam lens assembly and an LED. Of course the his version is not as thin as a regular barcode so it probably wont be replacing anything in the near future, but the concept of from MIT to home within such a short period of time is amazing.
Reader [Nikolaus] decided that instead of using an existing image based bar code decoder, he would write his own. Using the Processing language he created a scanner that parsed the black and white pattern when a bar code was centered on the image. His code then parsed that data and compared it with the initializing character to provide a reference. Currently his scanner supports three character sets of the Code 128 encoding, and provided his complete code so that others could add as they see fit. He admits that the code is a bit messy due to the lengthy character tables, but very straight forward.
The MIT Camera Culture Group utilized Bokeh, an effect where the lens is purposely placed out of focus, in order to vastly improve current 2D barcode technology. Dubbed Bokode, the team claims that an off the shelf camera can read data 2.5 microns from a distance of over 4 meters, compared to today’s average barcode reader’s maximum distance of only a foot or so. What looks most interesting is the ability to produce a smoother and more accurate distance and angle calculations (relative to the camera): allowing for a better augmented reality. It also seems to be more secure than traditional 2D barcodes, that is of course until the hacker community gets a hold of it.
AndroidAndMe is running a bounty program for Android applications. Users can request a specific application and pledge money to be awarded to the developer who delivers the functional app. [Alec Holmes] just fulfilled the first request by creating Torrent Droid. You can use the app to scan media barcodes and then download the related torrent. It uses the phone’s camera to capture the product’s UPC barcode (similar to Compare Everywhere‘s price lookup) and then searches major torrent sites like The Pirate Bay to find a copy that can be downloaded. After getting the .torrent file, the app can submit it to uTorrent‘s web interface for remote downloading. The app will be released later this month and you can see a screenshot tour of it on Alec’s blog. It’s doubtful that an application like this would ever clear Apple’s App Store approval process.
[nico] just received his credentials for an upcoming conference. On each badge, there’s a 2D barcode with the participant’s bio and contact info. These are meant to be scanned by vendors for future contact. [nico] isn’t so interested in that and plans on updating his personal info by generating a new barcode. To this end, he’s collected a number of links to help out barcode hackers. He used the SWIPE toolkit to identify the format and decode (it has an online component too). There are also several online encoders you can use, like this one from [Terry Burton]. If you’re wondering what sort of shenanigans you can get into faking barcodes, check out [fx]‘s presentation from 24C3.
[FX] from Phenoelit gave an entertaining talk about barcode security. He covered both how the systems are implemented and how they’ve been exploited. The first example was a parking garage in Dresden that issues non unique barcodes for the unlimited passes that hotels give out. Anyone code print out an image of that particular code and park for free. German grocery stores have automated machines that refund you for your empty beer bottles. The barcode generated just states the refund amount (5 digits) that you’ll get at the register. Just stick the barcode under something like a six pack and it’ll scan even without the cashier seeing it.
Check out the video to find out more silliness involving DVD rentals, boarding passes, asset management, and SQL injection via the scanner. You can even find higher res versions in the 24C3 media archives.