Hacking and Philosophy: Surveillance State

hnpss

If you don’t live under a rock (though you may want to now) you probably saw yesterday’s article from Spiegel that revealed the NSA has its own catalog for spy gadgets. Today they released an interactive graphic with the catalog’s contents, and even if you’re not a regular reader of Hacking & Philosophy, you’re going to want to take a look at it. I recommend glancing over IRATEMONK, in the “Computer Hardware” category. As the article explains, IRATEMONK is

An implant hidden in the firmware of hard drives from manufacturers including Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and Samsung that replaces the Master Boot Record (MBR).

It isn’t clear whether the manufacturers are complicit in implanting IRATEMONK in their hardware, or if the NSA has just developed it to work with those drives. Either way, it raises an important question: how do we know we can trust the hardware? The short answer is that we can’t. According to the text accompanying the graphic, the NSA

…[installs] hardware units on a targeted computer by, for example, intercepting the device when it’s first being delivered to its intended recipient, a process the NSA calls ‘interdiction.’

We’re interested to hear your responses to this: is the situation as bleak as it seems? How do you build a system that you know you can trust? Are there any alternatives that better guarantee you aren’t being spied on? Read on for more.

[Read more...]

Man tracks children using a quadcopter

child-tracking-quadcopter

Instead of walking his kid to the bus stop like he used to, [Paul Wallich] lets this quadcopter watch his son so he doesn’t have to. It is quite literally an automated system for tracking children — how wild is that?

The idea came to him when wishing there was a way to stay inside the house during the winter months while still making sure his kid got to the bus stop okay. [Paul] picked up a quadcopter kit and started looking at ways to add monitoring. He found the easiest technique was to include a cellphone and watch via a video chat app. But that is only part of the build as he would still have to fly the thing. After searching around he found a beacon that can be placed in the backpack. It has a GPS module, an RF modem, and runs a stripped down Python scripting shell. Whenever the GPS data changes (signaling his son is on the move) it uplinks with the quadcopter and gives it the new coordinates.

This goes a long way to making your family a police state. May we also recommend forcing the children to punch a time clock?

[via: theGrue]

Hackaday Links: August 12, 2012

License plate tablet rack

[Hunter Davis] used an old license plate as a tablet stand. It loops around the leg of his laptop table and has a cutout for the power cord of the tablet.

More power power wheels

It may look stock, but this power wheels is hiding a new frame, motors, and tires. You won’t see it in the Power Wheels Racing Series, but it is a ton of fun for this lucky kid.

Surveillance camera chess

Want to play a game? A yellow briefcase hijacks surveillance camera feeds and lets those monitoring them play chess via text message.

ATX bench supply looks like a bench supply

Here’s another rendition of an ATX bench supply. [Ast] rolled in a voltmeter for the variable voltage plug, and an ammeter to finish off the hack.

Lync auto-responder to fool the bossman

In a move reminiscent of [Ferris Bueller], [Sepehr] coded a Lync auto responder to answer the boss when he sends an IM.

OK, you might not be paranoid – perhaps that priority mail box IS spying on you

rc-box-bot

[Thomas Renck] recently picked up a 1000mW wireless video transmitter that he ultimately planned to mount in an RC plane. Before he strapped it on a plane to potentially kiss it goodbye for good, he wanted to play with it a while to see what it was capable of.

After a friend helped him determine the camera’s maximum range (about 1900 feet on open ground), he thought it would be fun to strap it on his nitro R/C truck. That didn’t work out so well due to some vibration issues, so he constructed a makeshift R/C car from the shipping box the camera arrived in, along with some other odds and ends.

As you can see in the video below, the propeller-driven “Boxmobile” zips along quite nicely. The video feed from the camera is pretty impressive too, allowing him to easily guide the car while it’s well out of sight.

At nearly $350, the self-proclaimed “ghetto-bot” is certainly not cheap, though we hear body repairs are a piece of cake!

[Read more...]

Spherical military drone coming to a sky near you

spherical_drone

We’re always fascinated by flying drones around here, and this latest creation by Japan’s Ministry of Defense is no exception. The spherical drone, which looks far simpler than this drone we saw several months back, looks pretty benign at first glance. Once it starts moving however, you can see just how slick it is.

Reports say that it can hit a top speed of 40 mph, but it seems that the fun is relatively short-lived, as the drone runs out of juice after about 8 minutes. While it is flying, the drone appears to be incredibly agile and fairly easy to control. The built-in camera isn’t top end, but it looks more than sufficient for general surveillance use.

While we love quadrocopters and all of the cool acrobatics they pull off, there’s something awesome about a drone that can hit the ground at speed, roll, and take off again without incurring any serious damage.

Anyone care to start work on a civilian prototype with a longer battery life?

Send email, receive surveilance picture

This deathstar like ball is actually an autonomous surveillance camera. [Basil] wrote in to tell us about it. The body is custom designed for the project, then 3d printed.  It can be dropped anywhere, as it is battery powered for up to a month,  and communicates via cellar networks.  It checks an email folder once an hour and responds to any requests with a snapshot of what is going on. In the video, which you can see after the break, he gets an immediate response.  You can download the sourcecode as well as the files for the enclosure here.

If you wanted to reduce costs, that case could be done away with, but we suspect it helps with some moderate weather conditioning. We would also love to see a version that rotated around that equator on command for better pictures. Great job [Basil].

[Read more...]

Robot security patrol brings Skynet closer

autonomous_atv

The students at the University of Oklahoma have put together a robot that will surely join the other drones in our future robot overlord regime. This autonomous vehicle was produced to replace human security patrols which can be both boring and dangerous. Intent on delivering surveillance to most locations, an all terrain vehicle was used as the base. It can navigate by itself through an obstacle avoidance system and communicate video and audio wirelessly. After the break we’ll take a look at the systems that make this work. [Read more...]