We do hope this project makes you shiver.
“Financial risks” is an audiovisual installation that reacts when you swipe your credit card and prints an odd looking receipt if you type in your pin-code. Even though the website contains few technical details (read none) about the build, we chose to feature the project as we find his intent interesting:
‘Financial Risks’ installation is a project designed to present an ironical viewpoint on encoded wallets, as a data input interface invites to overcome fear of impossibility to control spread of confidential information for the sake of curiosity of interaction with an object of art.
The piece consists of 6 bank card readers, a hardware system of sound and video synthesis, a keyboard for pin code entering, a 2-channel sound system and a cash register printer configured to print images. Up to 6 cards simultaneously may be used for playing.
We do hope that nothing is stored in the platform’s memory… but is the installation monitored?
It’s no secret that we’re fans of open source, and open hardware. And we have to applaud companies like SparkFun who also keep their customers in the loop about what’s going on with the business end of the company. For instance, they were recently contacted by a Sheriff’s office and asked for customer information and are sharing the story. One of their products had been used in a series of credit card skimmers and the officers wanted to get purchase information to track down the bad guys. SparkFun doesn’t just give out customer data and so was subsequently served with a subpoena.
The thing is, the document asks for all customer orders shipped to Georgia during a six month period. This seemed like it covered way too many orders, since the majority of them didn’t include the part in question. But the officials were willing to work with the company and narrowed the request to just the 20 or so orders that had the item in them.
It’s an interesting read, and we agree with SparkFun’s point about white hats and black hats. Often when posting about projects here we wonder about the potential to use the knowledge for no-good. But restricting the availability of knowledge (or hardware in this case) because of a few bad-actors is a concept we oppose. It’s like being a hacking super hero, with great skill comes great responsibility.
A company called Square is giving out free credit card readers that turn any iPhone or iPad into a Point of Sale terminal. [Steve] got a hold of one of these tiny peripherals and did what any sane person would do: tear it apart and learn how it works. This bit of hardware is a little unimpressive; unsurprising because Square is giving them away. With simplicity comes an ease in understanding, and [Steve] was able to successfully read his own credit card with this tiny and free credit card reader.
[Steve]’s work in decoding credit card data builds off [Count Zero]’s article from the bbs days. Basically, each credit card has two or three tracks. Track three is mostly unused, whereas track one contains the card holder name, account number, cvc code and other ancillary data. Track two only contains the credit card number and expiration date.
The only components in the Square card reader are a head from a tape player and a 1/8″ microphone jack. The magnetic head in the Square card reader is positioned to only read track two. With a small shim, it’s possible to re-align the head to get the data from track one. After recording an audio file of him sliding his card though the Square reader, [Steve] looked at the number of times the waveform flipped from positive to negative. From this, he was able to get the 1s and 0s on the card and converted them to alphanumeric using the 6-bit ANSI/ISO alpha format.
[Steve] isn’t going to share the code he wrote for Android just yet, but it should be relatively easy to replicate his work with the Android tutorial he used. Also, yes, we did just pose the question of how these Square credit card readers work just hours ago. Good job being on the ball, [Steve]. Tips ‘o the hat go out to [Bobby], [Leif], [Derek] and anyone else we might have missed.
EDIT: [Stephen] sent in his teardown minutes after this post went live. Hackaday readers are too fast at this stuff.
Sandcasting at the beach
[mkb] sent in a video he found of [Max Lamb] sandcasting a stool at a beach in England. The material is pewter, or >90% tin with a little bit copper and antimony thrown in for good measure. While we’re sure there will be a few complaints from environmentalists, it’s still a cool video to see.
Your project needs an OLED display
Here’s a Kickstarter for a tiny 96×16 OLED display. Connect this thing to any I2C bus and you get a 15×2 character display (or a graphic display if that’s your inclination) very easily. Thanks to [Chris] for sending this one in.
Here’s one for a larf
[Ryan Inman] is suing 20 companies because he got mercury poisoning from vacuum tubes. Read that last line again. Most of the companies that sell antique/repro/hard-to-find components like Angela Instruments, Antique Electronic Supply, and even eBay are listed as defendants in the case. This might put at least one company out of business
even though they never sold [Ryan] a vacuum tube edit: they did sell him a neon bulb, and courts are generally idiotic when it comes to technological issues. It’s hilarious and sad, so we’ll keep you updated if we get more info.
Nostalgia, the pain from an old wound
The Adafruit blog posted an excellent piece on the Apple ][ game Rocky’s Boots, an educational game from 1982 that teaches kids how to connect logic gates. You can play this game in your browser, but we’d like to hear our stories of ancient video games that teach you engineering concepts like The Incredible Machine or Widget Workshop. Leave a note in the comments if we’re leaving any out.
A question posed to the community
A company is giving away credit card readers that plug into the headphone jack of an iDevice. [J Smith] writes in to ask us if anyone has gotten one of these and opened them up. Like [J Smith] we’re expecting something a repeat of the CueCat where free hardware is opened up to everybody. If you’ve done a teardown of one of these card readers, send it in.
[Mike] sent us a link to [neimod]’s Flickr photostream. It looks like we’re on the cusp of tearing open the Nintendo 3DS for homebrew apps. Someone who uses this much hot glue must know what they’re doing, right?
This hodge-podge of components is capable of spoofing the magnetic stripe on a credit card. [Sk3tch] built an electromagnet using a ferrous metal shim wrapped in enameled magnet wire. While he was doing the windings [Sk3tch] connected his multimeter to the metal shim and one end of the wire, setting it to test continuity. This way, if he accidentally scraps the enamel coating and grounds the wire on the metal the meter will sound and alarm and he’ll know about the short immediately. An Arduino takes over from here, actuating the coil to simulate the different data sections of a magnetic stripe.
From his schematic we see that the electromagnet is directly connected to two pins of the Arduino. We haven’t looked into the code but is seems there should be either some current limiting, or the use of a transistor to protect the microcontroller pins (we could be wrong about this).
[Sk3tch’s] realization of this spoofer can be made quickly with just a few parts. Card data must be written in the code and flashed to the Arduino. If you want to see what a more feature-rich version would entail take a look at this spoofer that has a keypad for changing data on the go.
Here’s a hack that makes business sense. [PT] recalls last year’s HOPE conference when their booth was using a virtual credit card terminal for purchases that required manual entry of card information. This year they’ll have the same virtual terminal but this magnetic stripe reader will fill it out automatically.
A magstripe reader (reading only, no funny business here) from Mouser grabs data from the card. A Teensy microcontroller board, which identifies itself as a USB keyboard, automatically fills out the virtual terminal from the parsed data. The real question, are his customers comfortable sliding their plastic through a hacked reader?
Do you remember the magnetic card spoofer in Terminator 2? It was a bit farfetched because apparently the device could be swiped through a reader and magically come up with working account numbers and pin numbers. We’re getting close to that kind of magic with [Jaroslaw’s] card spoofer that is button-programmable.
Building off of a project that allows spoofing via an iPod and electromagnet, [Jaroslaw] wanted something that doesn’t require a computer to put together the card code. He accomplished this by interfacing a 16-button keyboard and a character LCD with an AVR ATmega168 microcontroller. Card codes can be entered with the buttons and verified on the LCD. Of course this is still dependent on you knowing the code in the first place.
As you know, credit cards use this technology. We don’t think Walmart is going to be OK with you pulling this out in the checkout line, not to mention local five-oh. This technology is also used for building access in Universities, businesses, and hotels. If used in conjunction with some other spy technology you’ll be on your way to becoming a secret-agent-man.