You Can Learn a lot about Social Engineering from a Repo Man

The most vulnerable part of any secure information system is the human at the controls. Secure passwords, strong encryption, and stringent protocols are all worthless if that human can be coerced to give away the keys to the kingdom. The techniques of attacking a system through the human are collectively known as social engineering. While most of us don’t use social engineering in our day-to-day jobs, anyone can fall victim to it, so it’s always good to see this stuff in action. Some of the best examples of social engineering come from unlikely places. One of those is [Matthew Pitman].

reponinja[Matt] is one of those people we all hope we never to meet in real life. He’s a repo man. For those not familiar with the term, [Matt] is the guy who comes to pick up your car, boat or other asset when you fall behind on your loan payments. Generally, these repossession agents are contractors, working for the bank or loan agency who holds the loan on the collateral. As you might expect, no one is happy to see them coming.

[Matt] uses plenty of high-tech gadgetry in his line of work, everything from GPS tracking devices to drones. He calls his tow truck the Repo Ninja, and the interior is decked out with an internet connection, laptop, and tons of cameras. Even so, his greatest asset is social engineering. His 26 years of experience have taught him how to work people to get what he needs: their cars.

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Internet-Connected Box Displays Emotion, Basement Dwellers Still Unaffected

For one reason or another, Twitter has become the modern zeitgeist, chronicling the latest fashions, news, gossip, and irrelevant content that sends us spiraling towards an inevitable existential ennui. This is a Twitter mood light. It tells you what everyone else on the planet is feeling. You, of course, feel nothing. Because of the ennui.

[Connor] decided it would be a good idea to audit the world’s collective mood using experimental social analytics. He’s doing that by watching millions of tweets a day and checking them against hundreds of keywords for several emotions. These emotions are graphed in real time, placed on a server, correlated and corroborated, and downloaded by a moodLight. Inside the moodLight, the emotions are translated into colors, and displayed with the help of a few RGB LEDs.

The moodLight is currently a Kickstarter campaign, with a $30 pledge getting you an assembled board with an ATMega328, an ESP8266, a few RGB LEDs, and a laser cut enclosure. After it’s assembled, the moodLight connects automagically to the analytics server for a real-time display of the emotional state of the Twitterverse. The display is updated every second, making the backend of this build just slightly more impressive than Kickstarter itself. It’s great work from [Connor], and an interesting experiment in analyzing the state of the Internet.

Hacklet 77 – Projects that Tweet

Since it’s launch way back in 2006, Twitter has become a magnet for techies. Maybe it’s the simple interface, maybe it’s the 140 character limit. Whatever the reason, you can find plenty of hackers, makers, and engineers tweeting about their daily activities. It didn’t take long for folks to start incorporating Twitter into their projects. Ladyada’s Tweet-a-watt is a great early example of this. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best tweeting projects on!

dogbarkWe start with [Henry Conklin] and A Twitter account for my dog. [Henry’s] dog [Oliver] loves to bark and finding a solution became his entry to The Hackaday Prize. Rather than bring Cesar Millan in, [Henry] decided to embrace [Oliver’s] vocalizations by sending them up to the cloud. A Raspberry Pi with a USB microphone uses some custom Python code to detect barks and ruffs. The Pi then sends this data to Twitter using the python-twitter library. The Pi is connected to the internet via a USB WiFi dongle. You can see the results of [Henry’s] work on [Oliver’s] own Twitter page!

dectalkerNext up is [troy.forster] and tweetie-pi. Rather than constantly check his phone or computer, [Troy] wanted a device to read his tweets. A bit of NodeJS code later, and tweetie-pi was born. A Raspberry Pi connected to the internet pulls data through the Twitter stream API. When tweets directed at a pre-configured username are found, the data is sent to a an Emic 2 text to speech module. The Emic reads in that classic DECtalker style voice we all know and love from the movies. [Troy] even added code to properly handle usernames and retweets.


homeauto[SirClover] joined the internet of things by creating Home automation system with Twitter, his entry in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. This home automation system is based around an Arduino Leonardo and an Ethernet shield. [SirClover] rolled his own custom PCB to handle relays, a Cds cell, and a 2×16 character LCD. The system can be accessed through a simple web interface. This allows the user to open or close blinds, turn on lights, all that great smart home stuff. Every time it executes a command, the home automation system reports status to Twitter.

das-cubeFinally we have [Jakob Andrén] with A danceable notification cube, which is [Jakob’s] entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. The cube itself is a translucent box that contains a metric crapton of LEDs. 148 Neopixels and 12 3W power LEDs to be exact. All these LEDs are driven by a Teensy 3.1, which serves as the main processor for the entire system. The Teensy reads position data from an MPU6040 IMU. This allows it to change brightness and color as the box is moved around – or “danced”. An ESP8266 provides the cube with data from the interwebs, specifically Facebook and Twitter. The cube lights up and flashes whenever it receives a message.

If you want to see more tweeting projects, check out our new projects that tweet list.  Did I miss your project? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Motion Sensing Water Gun Tweets Photos To Embarrass Enemies

[Ashish] is bringing office warfare to the next level with a motion sensing water gun. Not only does this water gun automatically fire when it detects motion, but it also takes a photo of the victim and publishes it on Twitter.

This hack began with the watergun. [Ashish] used a Super Soaker Thunderstorm motorized water gun. He pulled the case apart and cut one of the battery wires. he then lengthened the exposed ends and ran them out of the gun to his control circuit. He also placed a protection diode to help prevent any reverse EMF from damaging his more sensitive electronics. The new control wires run to a MOSFET on a bread board.

[Ashish] is using a Lightblue Bean board as a microcontroller. The Bean is Arduino compatible and can be programmed via low energy Bluetooth. The Bean uses an external PIR sensor to detect motion in the room. When it senses the motion, it activates the MOSFET which then turns on the water gun.

[Ashish] decided to use Node-RED and Python to link the Bean to a Twitter account. The system runs on a computer and monitor’s the Bean’s serial output. If it detects the proper command, it launches a Python script which takes a photo using a webcam. A second script will upload that photo to a Twitter account. The Node-RED server can also monitor the Twitter account for incoming direct messages. If it detects a message with the correct password, it can use the rest of the message as a command to enable or disable the gun.

Smile for the Raspberry Pi Powered Photo Booth

[Roo] was tasked with finding a better way to take corporate employee photos. The standard method was for a human resources employee to use a point and shoot camera to take a photo of the new recruits. The problem with this method is many people feel awkward trying to force a smile in front of other people. Plus, if the photo turns out poorly many people won’t ask to have it retaken so as not to feel vain or inconvenience the photographer. [Roo’s] Raspberry Pi powered photo booth solves this problem in a novel way.

The new system has the employee use their own mobile phone to connect to a website running on the Pi. When the employee tells the Pi to snap a photo, the system uses the Raspberry Pi camera module to capture an image. [Roo] actually 3D printed a custom adapter allowing him to replace the standard camera lens if desired. The photo can be displayed on an LCD screen so the user can re-take the photo if they wish.

The system is built into a custom case made from both 3D printed and laser cut parts. The front plate is a frosted white color. [Roo] placed bright white lights behind the front panel in order to act as a flash. The frosted plastic diffuses the light just enough to provide a soft white light for each photo taken. Once the photo is selected, it can then be uploaded to the company database for use with emails, badges, or whatever else.

[Roo] also mentions that the system can easily be changed to send photos via Twitter or other web applications. With that in mind, this system could be a great addition to any hackerspace or event. The code for an older version of the project can be found on the project’s github page.

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Internet of Cowbell

If this is a sign of the times, the Internet of Things promises a lot of entertainment for hackers who can come up with wacky ideas and interactive projects. [Brandon] built a cowbell that rings when you tweet #morecowbell. Why? Because!

On the hardware side it is quite simple, and can be built in a number of different ways depending on the parts you have lying around. [Brandon] used an Electric Imp and its corresponding breakout board. A Sparkfun mini FET shield helps drive the solenoid that hits the cowbell. And because he had one lying around, he added a counter across the solenoid to count the number of times the Twitterati have rung the Cowbell.

The code for the Electric Imp consists of two parts – the “agent code” that runs on a server in the Electric Imp Cloud and the “device code” that runs on the imp itself – and is available at this Git link. Once you tweet with the hashtag, the Cowbell replies back, randomly selecting one from a list of stored responses. Would be nice to see a video of the Cowbell in action. And if it can be made to play the Salsa beat.

TwitterPrinter Keeps Track of 2015 Hack-A-Day Prize

[Mastro Gippo] is getting to be somewhat of a Hackaday legend. He didn’t win the 2014 Hackaday prize but was in attendance at the event in Munich, and to make sure he keeps up with this year’s Prize, he built this old-school printer that prints all of the updates from the Hackaday Prize Twitter account.

The device uses the now-famous ESP8266 module for connecting the printer to the Internet. It doesn’t scrape data straight from Twitter though, it looks at [Mastro Gippo]’s own server to avoid getting inundated with too many tweets at once. The program splits the tweets into a format that is suitable for the printer (plain text) and then the printer can parse the data onto the paper. The rest of the design incorporates a 3.3V regulator for power and some transistors to turn the printer on and off. Be sure to check out the video of the device in action after the break!

[Mastro Gippo] notes that this eliminates the need to have a smartphone in order to keep up with the 2015 Hackaday Prize, which is ironic because his entry into the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest was a smarter-than-average phone. We’ll be expecting something that doesn’t waste quite as much paper for his official contest entry, though!

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