Accident Forgiveness Comes To GPLv2

Years ago, while the GPLv3 was still being drafted, I got a chance to attend a presentation by Richard Stallman. He did his whole routine as St IGNUcius, and then at the end said he would be answering questions in a separate room off to the side. While the more causal nerds shuffled out of the presentation room, I went along with a small group of free software aficionados that followed our patron saint into the inner sanctum.

When my turn came to address the free software maestro, I asked what advantages the GPLv3 would have to a lowly hacker like myself? I was familiar with the clause about “Tivoization“, the idea that any device running GPLv3 code from the manufacturer should allow the user to be able to install their own software on it, but this didn’t seem like the kind of thing most individuals would ever need to worry about. Was there something in the new version of the GPL that would make it worth adopting in personal or hobby projects?

Yes, he really dresses up like this.

Interestingly, a few years after this a GPLv2 program of mine was picked up by a manufacturer and included in one of their products (never underestimate yourself, folks). So the Tivoization clause was actually something that did apply to me in the end, but that’s not the point of this story.

Mr. Stallman responded that he believed the biggest improvement GPLv3 made over v2 for the hobbyist programmer was the idea of “forgiveness” in terms of licensing compliance. Rather than take a hard line approach like the existing version of the GPL, the new version would have grace periods for license compliance. In this way, legitimate mistakes or misunderstandings of the requirements of the GPL could be resolved more easily.

So when I read the recent announcement from Red Hat that said they would be honoring the grace period for GPLv2 projects, I was immediately interested. Will the rest of the community follow Red Hat’s lead? Will this change anyone’s mind when deciding between the GPL v2 and v3? Is this even a good idea? Join me below as I walk through these questions.

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Bluetooth Gun Safe Cracked By Researchers

Believe it or not, there are quite a few people out there who have purchased gun safes that can be remotely unlocked by Bluetooth. Now we can understand why somebody might think this was a good idea: the convenience of being able to hit a button on your phone and have your weapon available in the heat of the moment is arguably a big selling point for people who are purchasing something like this for home defense. But those with a more technical mind will likely wonder if the inherent risks of having your firearm (or other valuables) protected by a protocol that often relies on security by obscurity outweighs the convenience of not needing to enter in a combination on the keypad.

Well, you can wonder no more, as researchers at [Two Six Labs] have recently published a detailed document on how they managed to remotely unlock the Vaultek VT20i with nothing more exotic than an Ubertooth. In the end, even the Ubertooth wasn’t actually required, as this particular device turned out to be riddled with security issues.

[Two Six Labs] has not publicly released the complete source code of the software demonstrated in their YouTube video for very obvious reasons, but the page on their site does go into fantastic detail on how they uncovered the multiple vulnerabilities that allowed them to write it. Even if you’re not the kind of person who would ever need a gun safe, the information contained in their documentation about analyzing Bluetooth communications is fascinating reading.

It was discovered that the PIN for the safe was actually being transmitted by the accompanying smartphone application in plain-text, which would be bad enough normally. But after further analysis, it became clear that the safe wasn’t even bothering to check the PIN code anyway.

Scripting app interactions with ADB and Python

For extra style points, [Two Six Labs] also show a way to brute force the PIN using the Vaultek Android application by writing a Python script that punches in codes sequentially until it hits on the right one; the developers didn’t even bother to put in limits on failed attempts.

For a device that is ostensibly designed to contain a deadly weapon, the security flaws the team at [Two Six Labs] discovered are absolutely inexcusable. But there is a positive outcome, as the manufacturer has vowed to update the vulnerable safes and make a better effort in the future to more rigorously design and test their Bluetooth implementation. This is the goal of responsible disclosure, and we’re encouraged to see the manufacturer doing the right thing

The security concerns of Bluetooth controlled locks are well known, so it’s a bit disappointing that devices like this are still slipping through the cracks. We suggest you remain skeptical of any security device utilizing Bluetooth until the industry starts taking things a little more seriously.

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Generate Random Numbers The Hard Way

Your job is to create a random number generator.

Your device starts with a speaker and a membrane. On this membrane will sit a handful of small, marble-size copper balls. An audio source feeds the speaker and causes the balls to bounce to and fro. If a ball bounces high enough, it will gain the opportunity to travel down one of seven copper tubes. Optical sensors in each of the tubes detect the ball and feed data to an Ardunio Mega. When the ball reaches the end of the tube, a robotic hand will take the ball and put it back on the speaker membrane. The magic happens when we write an algorithm such that the audio output for the speaker is a function of how many balls fall down the pipes.

The above is a rough description of [::vtol::]’s art piece: kinetic random number generator. We’re pretty sure that there are easier ways to get some non-determinstic bits, but there may be none more fun to watch.

[::vtol::] is a frequent flyer here on Hackaday Airlines. Where else would you showcase your 8-bit Game Boy Photo Gun or your brainwave-activated ferrofluid monster bath? Would it shock you to find out that we’ve even covered another kinetic random number generator of his?  Fun stuff!