Fake PS3 Tracks Thieves All The Way Home


One of [Wayne’s] relatives had their house robbed during a blizzard/extended power outage, and as is typically the case, none of the stolen items were recovered. His nephew’s PS3 was among the pilfered belongings, which didn’t sit well with him. Taking a cue from police “bait cars”, he thought it would be cool to fit a dummy game console with a tracking device, should anything similar happen in the future.

He bought a hollowed out PS3 shell on eBay, filling it with an Arduino, an accelerometer, a GPS sensor, a small GSM modem with a prepaid SIM card, and a reasonably sized LiPoly battery. The system usually sits in a sleeping state, but when the accelerometer senses motion, the Arduino powers up the GSM modem and sends an SMS security alert to his mobile phone. Using his phone to control the tracking system via SMS, he can request GPS coordinates and directional information, which can then be relayed to the police.

His tracking system is a great idea since hawking stolen game consoles are easy money for thieves. If there happens to be a string of robberies in your neighborhood, you could certainly rest a little bit easier knowing that your Playstation doppelganger will let you know if someone is looting your house.

73 thoughts on “Fake PS3 Tracks Thieves All The Way Home

  1. the sensor payload is overkill. it would be easier to use a normally closed relay and scr to power up the tracking system when disconnecting the wall power. less processing overhead/money invested in the bait without the accelerometer.

    1. I doubt very much it would be powered up or powered up for long when there’s no splash screen. When his device MOVES, it alerts him. The purpose isnt supposed to be cheap, it’s supposed to catch a-holes, and might even catch the same a-holes that robbed the same house before.

  2. I imagine this setup costed more than the actual PS3 at this point.

    With that said, a small charge/corrosive vial placed near the processor of the system that activates when the item is taken more then 1/4mile from home would be pretty hilarious.

    Also, it’s unlikely the police would do anything with this GPS information so it would be up to you to confront the robber if you actually used this tracking system.

  3. I think it would be far more interesting to fit the device with some sort of large smoke grenade that triggers conditionally. Etc; removed a specific distance from the house, then if it discovers that it’s moving more than 20MPH it fires off the smoke canister; activates a loud buzzer. Pretty shocking if that went off in your car.


    1. Funny, but better; how about a microphone/vidcam and recorder…for evidence. Could simply use a 555 timer for inputs to activate a cheap 808 keyfob vidcam and record. Id probably want feedback so I would know the cam is recording. What a great hack to build upon. Where’s the “like” button?

  4. Lan party anyone? ohh can’t goes, I’ve accidentally acid faced myself again! You would think that I’d have learned after the last time… Ohh well, I wounder if I have enough ass skin left for the grafts?

    This really is the best you can do, anything more would be … questionable.

    1. And illegal. If you set a trap for someone who steals your stuff and it injures or kills someone, even if they were attempting to enter your home illegally, you’re charged for whatever happened to them and they aren’t charged with anything.

      This is even in Colorado where, normally, if more than one person enters your home illegally and one of them ends up dead somehow, the rest are charged with first degree murder.

      If you’re going to include any lethal traps in your house, make sure you have to spring them manually.

      1. spring GUNS are illegal in most areas, spring ‘traps’ can be disguised as other things that can be argued ‘not traps’.

        “Well, TNT is illegal, thats why I hid it in that old PS3 case” might be good for a laugh…but LEGAL OR NOT, do you really want to spend $50,000 on a defense attorney keeping you out of a PYITA, and then might be sued anyways?

        “I thought that was my grandma’s house, nobody answered the door so I came in the window” is a bullshit excuse that works a LOT in my town, which is a liberal hellhole when it comes to prosecutions. Sure, all the houses are Cape Cods, but their grandma isnt alive and she didnt live in a Cape Cod style house. Nothing happens to anyone anyways unless you kill someone and it gets on the news.

  5. Here’s for a semi long post…

    My children get picked up by a bus at our home every morning, and when they were smaller we used to have to provide car seats for the bus to use for the safety of my 2 young ones. We would always take them out of our car and put them on the rock wall with their back packs on the car seats 5 minutes before the bus would show up.

    One day, someone stole the car seats, but was nice enough to leave behind the backpacks (sarcasm). I was ticked off. So I started devising a plan to rig up a computer tower with a switch and a tazer so I could leave it on the wall and when the thief went to pick it up he would get horribly zapped. At least then I would hear the screams of the jerk and I would have enough time to run over and look and see who it was. I never ended up doing it bc my landlord was afraid of getting in trouble for me doing that.

    Just my little off topic story.

    I still want to do it and get my revenge >:) Any good suggestions to make my idea better?

      1. People shouldn’t touch things that don’t belong to them. I even asked a cop of what can I do to not get in trouble and he said to put a small warning sticker on it explaining that they will get shocked and then my butt is covered.

        It’s one thing is someone steals from me, it’s a totally different story when someone steals something that is for the safety of my children.

      1. Plenty of folks leave free stuff outside their houses (craigslist “curb alerts” for example) so there is a good chance that the person touching your booby-trapped computer is not a thief. I understand that was clearly NOT the case with the car seats, but I have personally picked up computers left in alleys for parts.

  6. cool stuff, though i also think the GPS & modem is expensive/unnecesary. the only capabilities the device needs is motion-sensing, to recognizing its own theft; and RF transmission to report it & give away its location. if you want to find it, set it to transmit at your own frequency, and get a pal to help you triangulate it from your own vehicles. If just you want the cops to deal with it (and how!), have the transmitter blast out on the same carrier frequencies used by all your local law enforcement agencies, hell do and fire/ERT and state police too, especially if you don’t want your stuff back when they find it & arrest the burglar for a long list of felonies. (obviously in this extreme case, you’re potentially breaking some of those laws yourself just by making the thing, so you wouldn’t want to build this inside your house, or have your fingerprints anywhere on it)

    also, it is missing some sort of non-harmful-but-still-destructive trap (which could also still get yourself in legal trouble, if done improperly)
    but basically when the device is armed/confirmed stolen, program it to wait a certain amount of time, then ignite/activate a stinkbomb, hell make it the mother of all stinkbombs.
    alternatively you might program it to go off if it’s armed, then someone opens the cd tray or powers it up

    keep in mind that it’s always careless to booby-trap your own stuff no matter how much you know what you’re doing, since other people whom you trust with your stuff may not, but may still have a legit reason to move it.

    also, traps or not, remember that this setup always needs to have a controller, video and AC connects to really look convincing – meaning if you have a real PS3, you can only really play it in a bedroom

    1. @Matt You can actually get Skunk Musk [(E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-quinolinemethanethiol, compounds detectable by the human nose at concentrations of only 10 parts per billion].

      Lasts for weeks.

  7. The 3D trap itself generally consists of two hyperbolic metal electrodes with their foci facing each other and a hyperbolic ring electrode halfway between the other two electrodes. The ions are trapped in the space between these three electrodes by AC (oscillating, non-static) and DC (non-oscillating, static) electric fields. The AC radio frequency voltage oscillates between the two hyperbolic metal end cap electrodes if ion excitation is desired; the driving AC voltage is applied to the ring electrode. The ions are first pulled up and down axially while being pushed in radially. The ions are then pulled out radially and pushed in axially (from the top and bottom). In this way the ions move in a complex motion that generally involves the cloud of ions being long and narrow and then short and wide, back and forth, oscillating between the two states. Since the mid-1980s most 3D traps (Paul traps) have used ~1 mtorr of helium. The use of damping gas and the mass-selective instability mode developed by Stafford et al. led to the first commercial 3D ion traps.[3]
    Linear Ion Trap at the University of Calgary

    The quadrupole ion trap has two configurations: the three dimensional form described above and the linear form made of 4 parallel electrodes. A simplified rectilinear configuration has also been used.[4] The advantage of the linear design is in its simplicity, but this leaves a particular constraint on its modeling. To understand how this originates, it is helpful to visualize the linear form. The Paul trap is designed to create a saddle-shaped field to trap a charged ion, but with a quadrupole, this saddle-shaped electric field cannot be rotated about an ion in the centre. It can only ‘flap’ the field up and down. For this reason, the motions of a single ion in the trap are described by the Mathieu Equations. These equations can only be solved numerically, or equivalently by computer simulations.

    The intuitive explanation and lowest order approximation is the same as strong focusing in accelerator physics. Since the field affects the acceleration, the position lags behind (to lowest order by half a period). So the particles are at defocused positions when the field is focusing and vice versa. Being farther from center, they experience a stronger field when the field is focusing than when it is defocusing. This is because traps in 3-D are sexy as fuck.

  8. This gets me thinking of a much simpler solution.

    Why not have “booby trapped” items around your house, like your TV, stereo, jewelry box and other high end items that set off an alarm as soon as they notice any kind of motion.

    Something like that has got to exist? No?

  9. more expensive than ps3, doesnt work when powered up = will be thrown away immediatelly

    just mount cheap cellphone + charger with a prepaid inside real ps3
    in case of ps3 being stolen you can track the phone itself without any arduino crap

      1. Actually, I had a similar set up in my car. I bought a cheap BOOST mobile phone and installed mologogo on it. This used the GPS within the phone to provide location. Permanently powered it in the car (charging whenever the car was on, battery when the car was off) and hid it behind the dash. Also had internet service on the prepaid phone so that I could use it as a modem for the CarPC.

        Since the phone was constantly updating it’s location, if someone were to steal my car, I would always know where it was at. This was almost 6 years ago now.

        The main drawback was that BOOST minutes expired every 90 days whether you used them or not, so I had to keep paying for it even when it was barely ever used. About $30 every few months (not too bad, but still pissed me off.) I removed and deactivated the system quite a few years ago.

        That was the drawback with any prepaid system back then. Is it different now?

  10. Put a stun gun inside with a very fine string trigger, so when the console is taken away from where it’s sitting, the tethered string pulls on a switch that activates an electric shock.

    I’d love to see video footage of someone trying to steal such an object :)

      1. Unless she has a pacemaker, a stun gun won’t hurt her much. I used to have one of those police issue shock batons before they got outlawed…and even that really doesn’t do much damage unless you stick it into someones eye or something. It would probably burn skin if you left it on there long enough, but I don’t see how you could hold anything steady against someone bouncing around on the ground like that.

        BTW…the cops probably won’t care about a stolen PS3…but if they broke into your house, do you think that they are just going to steal a PS3? Odds are they stole enough to make a felony. A shock PS3 would probably just get dropped to the floor before they steal everything else…and then you have no way of tracking everything else.

    1. did you shock yourself? I love HV so here a secret: it dos not hurt, uncomfortable feeling leave the second current stop unlike wound from cut or burn, also it is mental – people expect pain that why they act like it painful

  11. Would be nice to see this setup crammed in a working ps3 so it’s not just using up space. (just a hunch but heat might be an issue)
    reminds me of a post a while back about a guy who had his computer stolen and hacked his own machine to get it’s location (:

  12. You people are ridiculous. Electrified carseats and appliances? Improvised mines? Seriously?

    Protect your home and your family with locks, an alarm system, and a gun. If you really are in a dangerous situation, “Home Alone” shenanigans are not going to save you.

    1. awwww, just when I was going to suggest sprinkling christmas ornaments and legos all around your electronics.

      Personally, I’d be more upset with someone stealing all those gadgets than losing a ps3.

  13. After engraving my contact info on everything, I’d just install a GSM or GPS tracker/bug and power it off of the PS3/TV’s internal voltage. For more battery life, plug it inline with a USB battery pack.

    There wouldn’t be anything to give it away externally, and, by tracking it down, then anonymously telling the police that you saw automatic weapons at the crook’s hideout, you are assured to get your stuff back after making the thief’s life momentarily very exciting.

  14. You know it’s often older brothers or nephews or dad who borrows consoles, so have fun with the bombs and mayhem.
    Not that even if it’s a robber if you had a bomb in there you would go to jail for life, because guess what? Stealing your dinky gameconsole should not have a death sentence.

  15. I recently had a smartphone stolen out of a car recently. The door had accidentally been left unlocked. Called the police, and they informed me that it is an organized operation where a car drops a minor at one end of the street, the kid checks for unlocked cars and steals anything they can quickly, and are picked up at the other end of the street.

    I would love to rig something up that is a device I could track, and would wake me up when it was taken, or even just something that wakes me when the door is opened. Then I can discreetly follow the perp while calling police.

    I was thinking of just having a telephone wire and a switch on the door as a quick and dirty option, but a wireless tracker would be great – any suggestions on plans for a cheap and/or easy to solder device for this that would look like something stealable?

  16. Everyone is comparing this to the price of the real ps3. This is not to get a ps3 back. Remember it is not a PS3 anymore. This is to get back all of the other stuff the thieves may have stolen And to bring justice to a criminal. People pay lots of money a month for security systems. They don’t stop people from stealing. Nothing will. It is mostly a deterrent because you put the signs all around your house. that is why people actually sell just the signs. This will actually have a chance to do something instead of just deterring. I’m not saying security systems don’t have their place. I just think they are only really useful to alert you and the police someone entered your house while you are sleeping. Which doesn’t happen nearly as often as a burglar stealing things while you are out of the home. Much less risk for the burglar. How can an ADT help then. Only the signs will deter. But once it happens what will the security system do to help recover/punish? nothing. This to me is more useful. Especially for the fact that the criminal will feel like they got caught by the machine and not try to get revenge on the person, which may happen if they were outed by a person. I have been on grand juries and this seems to be the way most criminals feel that I have seen. Plus my brother has ADT and he set it off by accident and the police showed up 3 hours later AND the precinct is less than 10 blocks away.

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