Judge Spotlight: Jack Ganssle

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This week we’re getting to know The Hackaday Prize Judge [Jack Ganssle] a little better. His depth of experience with embedded systems is formidable, and recently I was very interested to learn about his mission to improve the quality of the product in the embedded code universe. We’ll get to that in a little bit, but I wanted to start off with [Jack's] answer to my final question.


judge-spotlight-q5Is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about you?

judge-spotlight-a5Intel 8008 Chip on white backgroundMy entry into this field was when the first 8 bit processor (the 8008) came out, and still find it endlessly fascinating. I write a lot about embedded topics, and give talks and seminars, on all of the continents except Antarctica (so far!). We live in heavily-wooded Finksburg, MD, which is just stunning this time of year, and, since my office is in the house, the commute is pretty tolerable. Other passions include sailing; I wrote an on-line book (www.ganssle.com/jack) about racing alone across the Atlantic. Great trip, other than losing the boat.

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Reverse engineering embedded device firmware

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While not necessarily an easy thing to learn, the ability to reverse engineer embedded device firmware is an incredibly useful skill. Reverse engineering firmware allows you to analyze a device for bugs and vulnerabilities, as well as gives you the opportunity to add features if you happen to be so inclined. When it comes to things such as jailbroken iPhones, Android phones, and Nooks, you can guarantee that a close look at the firmware helped to move the process along.

[Craig] works with embedded systems quite frequently and put together a detailed walkthrough demonstrating how he reverse engineers device firmware. The subject of his hacking was a new firmware package he obtained for a Linksys WWAG120 Wireless-N router.

His tutorial walks through some of the most common reverse engineering methods and tools, which allow him to slowly unravel the firmware’s secrets. When finished, he had a working copy of the router’s boot loader, kernel, and file system – all ready to be further analyzed. His writeup includes tons of additional details, so be sure to swing by his site if reverse engineering is something you are interested in.

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