Hand placing flash die to make USB drives

SONY DSC

It’s a stretch to call this one a hack, but USB thumb drives are around us constantly and we always assumed that the boards inside were machine populated (like with a pick and place machine). [Bunnie] tells us otherwise. He recently had the chance to tour a factory where USB flash drives are made.

The image above shows a worker populating a set of boards with the flash memory dies. The waffle-grid to the right holds the dies. Each is a tiny glint of a component. The worker is not in a clean room, and is using a bamboo tool to pick up the pieces. [Bunnie] explains that he’s seen the tools before but doesn’t fully comprehend how they work. He figures that the hand-cut manipulator has just the right amount of grab to pick up the die, but will also release it when it touches down on the dot of glue applied to the landing zone on the board.

If you’re into this sort of thing you should check out the PCB factory tour we saw a couple of years back. The article link is dead but the embedded tour video still works.

[Thanks pl]

Encrypted drive attack hints at original Xbox hacking

[Thice] discovered a vulnerability in encrypted portable storage a few years ago. He’s just pointing about the exploit now. He mentions that he notified manufacturers long ago and we’d guess the wait to publish is to give them a chance to patch the exploit.

He calls it the Plug-Over Attack and for those who were involved with original Xbox hacking, this technique will sound very familiar. The Xbox used hard drive keys to lock the device when not in use. When you booted up the console it checked the hardware signature to make sure it was talking to the right motherboard. But if you booted up the device, then swapped the IDE cable over to a computer without cutting the power you could access the drive without having the password.

This attack is pretty much the same thing. Plug in a drive, unlock it on the victim system the normal way, then replug into the attacking system. In the image above you can see that a USB hub will work for this, but you can also use a hacked USB cable that patches a second jack into the power rail. For some reason the encryption system isn’t able to lock itself when the USB enumerates on the new system, only when power is cycled. Some of them have a timer which watches for drive idle but that still doesn’t protect from this exploit.

Dead HDD smartphone stand still holds secret data

We’ve actually got a few dead hard drives collecting dust so when we hear about a project that finds a use for one we perk up a bit. But we were somewhat disappointed when we discovered this was a smartphone stand, pen holder, and LED lamp in one. We just don’t have a use for this kind of triple-tasker. But wait… the dead drive has a secret. It still serves as data storage, if you know how to enabling the drive within.

As you can seen, [Samimiy] removed all the guts of the HDD, repurposing the platters and mounting brackets as the phone holder, and mounting plate for a couple handfuls of LEDs. The lamp portion can be adjusted thanks to the articulated based from a small desk lamp he had in his parts bin. The device receives power from the USB connector you can see in the upper right. That’s where the first part of the secret comes in. This isn’t just supplying power, it provides a USB connection to the thumb drive hidden inside the HDD case. But just connecting it to your computer won’t mount it. [Samimy] took the light sensor from an automatic nightlight and set it up below the pen holder. If you shine a flashlight down the hole in that piece of wood it will routed power to the secret USB drive causing it to enumerate on your system. Pretty clever! Take a look at his build video after the break.

We wonder if there’s a way to incorporate this light-based lock system into that mouse-mounted thumb drive.

[Read more...]

Contest entry roulette

Over 150 projects made from scrap parts (translated) have been posted for your viewing pleasure. They make up the entries in the “Make fast the scrap” project from c’t magazine. We already looked in on a toilet paper printer, but there’s a ton of other fun stuff to look at as well.

Every time you load the link at the top, the page picks a different set of entries to display. You can click through all the pages, or reload to play a little project roulette. The image above shows three that caught our eye. To the upper right is a lighbulb-man riding an old computer mouse reverse-cowgirl style. Quirky, but anyone who has access to an electroplating setup can get away with making simple objects like this into awesome desktop sculptures.

Moving clockwise we have a tiny USB drive mated with an old vacuum tube. The machine translation is a bit rough, but it looks like the LED from the thumb drive gives the tube a bit of a red glow. We just think it’s interesting to carry around a vacuum tube with you.

The final banner image shows a gyroscope for a camcorder. This is an awesome setup, which you can see in action after the break. A pair of broken hard drives provide motion stabilization for a camera. The entire assembly has a handle on the top with a universal joint. When the drives are spinning, the platform holds very still, even if the operator is swinging the unit around wildly.

[Read more...]

USB mouse with storage added

[Thice] wanted to try his hand at incorporating a USB driving into other devices. He chose to add storage to his USB mouse but didn’t want to alter the factory look provided by a color-changing LED inside. To make things fit he ended up cutting a good portion of a USB hub’s circuit board off and placing it beneath the mouse circuitry. You can see the board from the thumb drive wedged into one end of the case in the image above.

He sees this as a way of hiding data in plain sight. This is true, and it’s along the same lines we’ve seen before with a WiFi dongle in a mouse, or the thumbdrive in a controller hacks. To be truly hidden we’d like to see someone incorporate a microcontroller that monitors the mouse buttons for a certain code, and then toggles the voltage to the USB storage. This would simulate plugging and unplugging the drive, hiding it virtually as well as physically.

How to write udev rules

writing_udev_rules

Since the adoption of Kernel 2.6, Linux has used the udev system to handle devices such as USB connected peripherals. If you want to change the behavior when you plug something into a USB port, this section is for you. As an example, we will use a USB thumb drive but these methods should translate to any device handled by udev. As a goal for this exercise we decided to create a symlink and execute a script when a specific thumb drive was loaded. The operating system we used for this exercise is Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope. [Read more...]

Battle of the thumb drive linux distros

We were expecting eye gouging and body slams, but this review of several thumb drive Linux distributions will do. They compared Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux, Xubuntu, and Fedora. They don’t mention why they chose these four specifically, as UNetbootin has many many distributions available. They put each through its paces, listing common issues and boot up speed.

Their conclusion was that puppy Linux was preferable as it has a graphically nice interface and the ability to have persistent data storage on the disk. They have a poll going though, so head over and voice your opinion.

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