Fail Of The Week: How Not To Do IoT Security

There are a lot of bad days at work. Often it’s the last day, especially when it’s unexpected. For the particularly unlucky, the first day on a new job could be a bad day. But the day you find an unknown wireless device attached to the underside of your desk has to rank up there as a bad day, or at least one that raises a lot of serious questions.

As alarming as finding such a device would be, and for as poor as the chain of decisions leading these devices being attached to the workstations of the employees at a mercifully unnamed company, that’s not the story that [Erich Styger] seeks to tell. Rather, this is a lesson in teardown skills – for few among us would not channel the anger of finding something like this is into a constructively destructive teardown – and an investigation into the complete lack of security consideration most IoT devices seem to be fielded with these days.

Most of us would recognize the device as some kind of connected occupancy sensor; the PIR lens being the dead giveaway there. Its location under a single person’s desk makes it pretty clear who’s being monitored.

The teardown revealed that the guts of the sensor included a LoRa module, microcontroller, a humidity/temperature sensor, and oddly for a device apparently designed to stick in one place with magnets, an accelerometer. Gaining access to the inner workings was easy through the UART on the microcontroller, and through the debug connectors and JTAG header on the PCB. Everything was laid out for all to see – no firmware protection, API keys in plain text, and trivially easy to reflash. The potential for low-effort malfeasance by a compromised device designed to live under a desk boggles the mind.

The whole article is worth a read, if only as a lesson in how not to do security on IoT devices. We know that IoT security is hard, but that doesn’t make it optional if you’re deploying out in the big wide world. And there’s probably a lot to learn about properly handling an enterprise rollout too. Spoiler alert: not like this.

Yell At Your Desk To Get Up In The Morning

Standing desks are great conversation starters in the office – whether you like it or not. How do you know someone’s got a standing desk? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. Standing desks have their benefits, but for maximum flexibility, many people choose a desk that can raise and lower depending on their needs. [Wassim] had just such a desk, but found pushing the buttons too 20th century for his tastes. Naturally, Google Assistant integration was the key here.

[Wassim] started out intending to capture and then spoof the desk controller’s signals to the motors, before realising it was likely easier to simply spoof button presses instead. This was achieved through a handful of NPN transistors and an Onion Omega2+ microcontroller board. Then it was a simple case of coding the controller to press the various buttons in response to HTTP requests received over WiFi. Google Assistant integration was then handled with IFTTT, though [Wassim] also discusses the possibility of implementing the full Smart Home API.

It’s entertaining to watch [Wassim] issue commands and have the desk slowly rise in response. Of course, there are other approaches, like this sneaky use of PVC to hack the office furniture.

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Motorizing An IKEA SKARSTA Table

We’ve been told that standing at a desk is good for you, but unless you’re some kind of highly advanced automaton you’re going to have to sit down eventually no matter what all those lifestyle magazines say. That’s where desks like the IKEA SKARSTA come in; they use a crank on the front to raise and lower the desk to whatever height your rapidly aging corporeal form is still capable of maintaining. All the health benefits of a standing desk, without that stinging sense of defeat when you later discover you hate it.

But who wants to turn a crank with their hand in 2019? Certainly not [iLLiac4], who’s spent the last few months working in conjunction with [Martin Mihálek] to add some very impressive features to IKEA’s adjustable table. Replacing the hand crank with a motorized system which can do the raising and lifting was only part of it, the project also includes a slick control panel with a digital display that shows the current table height and even allows the user to set and recall specific positions. The project is still in active development and has a few kinks to work out, but it looks exceptionally promising if you’re looking to get a very capable adjustable desk without breaking the bank.

The heart of the project is a 3D printable device which uses a low-RPM DC gear motor to turn the hex shaft where the crank would normally go. A rotary encoder is linked to the shaft of the motor by way of printed GT2 pulleys and a short length of belt, which gives the system positional information and avoids the complexity of adding limit switches to the table itself.

For controlling the motor the user is given the option between using relays or an H-Bridge PWM driver board, but in either event an Arduino Nano will be running the show. In addition to controlling the motor and reading the output of the rotary encoder, the Arduino also handles the front panel controls. This consists of a TM1637 four digit LED display originally intended for clocks, as well as six momentary contact tactile switches complete with 3D printed caps. The front panel’s simple user interface not only allows for setting and recalling three preset desk heights, but can even be used to perform the calibration routine without having to go in and hack the source code to change minimum and maximum positions.

We’ve seen all manner of hacks and modifications dealing with IKEA products, from a shelving unit converted into a vivarium to a table doing double duty as a cheap plate reverb. Whether you’re looking for meatballs or some hacking inspiration, IKEA seems to be the place to go.

3D Printed Desk Harnesses The Power Of Fusion 360 And McMaster-Carr

Black pipe furniture is all the rage now, and for good reason — it has a nice industrial aesthetic, it’s sturdy, and the threaded fittings make it a snap to put together. But if you’ve priced out the fittings lately, you know that it’s far from cheap, so being able to 3D-print your own black pipe fittings can make desks and tables a lot more affordable.

Cheapness comes at a price, of course, and [Vladimir Mariano] takes pains to point out that his desk is a light-duty piece that would likely not stand up to heavy use. But since the flange fittings used to connect the plywood top to the legs and as feet would cost about $64 all by themselves from the local home center, printing them made sense. Together with custom pieces to mount stretchers between the legs, the 3D-printed parts made for a decently sturdy base.

But the end product isn’t the main point of the video below. Thanks to the ability to browse the McMaster-Carr catalog from within Fusion 360, [Mariano] was able to seamlessly import the CAD model of a suitable iron flange and quickly modify it to his needs. The power of this feature is hard to overstate; you can literally browse through a catalog of engineered parts and print usable replicas instantly. Sure, it’s not made of metal, but it’s a huge boon to designers to be able to see how the final product would look, especially in the prototyping phase of a project.

Not familiar with McMaster-Carr? It’s an engineer’s online playground, and we covered the ins and outs of doing business with McMaster a while back.

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A Massive Adjustable Standing Desk From Scratch

Standing at your desk all day is healthier by far than sitting, but the commercial options tend to be expensive. [drivenbyentropy] had to contend with a heater right where the desk would go, but building an adjustable office desk to accommodate it turned out — well — gorgeous.

Two 18″ heavy duty 12 V DC actuators raise and lower the desk with a 600 lbs static load capacity and 200 lbs of  lifting load each. One actuator is actually slightly faster than the other, so instead of working out something fancy, [drivenbyentropy] simply extended the cable length on the faster actuator to disguise the difference.

Framed with some standard 2×4’s and sheathed with plywood, the massive four by eight foot desk has twelve ball-bearing drawer slides in the legs to add stability and smooth out height adjustments. Because of its size and having to build around the heating unit, the desk is stuck in the room since it does not easily come apart. There is, however, easy access to the two electronics compartments for troubleshooting!

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Making A Mega LED Desk

Few things beat a sturdy, home-built desk — especially when it’s jam-packed with over 1200 WS2812 LEDs.

[nolobot] and his bother struggled with setting up and squaring-off the t-slotted, extruded aluminium frame which makes up the desk. He recommends practicing with a smaller frame for anyone else attempting a similar build. The surface of the desk has a few inches between the polycarbonate top and the 1/4″ plywood painted black serving as the substrate for the LEDs. Those LEDs come in strip form but still required several hundred solders, and wiring headaches in an attempt to make future upgrades manageable. Dozens of support bolts with adjustable feet support the desk surface throughout. These all had to be individually adjusted and can be made out if you look closely at the demo videos.

An Arduino Mega controls the LEDs with the help of the FastLED library. Custom code was necessary because one of the major issues [nolobot] faced was the power draw. 1200 LEDs at 5V draw quite a bit of current, so the LEDs were coded to peak at about 50% brightness. The matrix was split into different banks, while also limiting the 40A PSU to only 15A.

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Tesseract Infinity Desk

We’ve all seen infinity mirrors. Even Mr. Spock had one in the Star Trek movies. Usually, these aren’t very large and hang on the wall. [QuackMasterDan] decided (after watching another movie, Interstellar) to try making a desk using the same idea. We aren’t sure it will make you more productive, but if you want to up your office cool factor, consider building his tesseract infinity desk. In fact, we imagine it would be pretty distracting. Sure to be a conversation starter, though.

Unlike a regular two-plate infinity mirror, [Dan’s] desk has six plates. He used metal for the structural parts of the desk and the top is a sandwich of an acrylic mirror and a large piece of half-inch tempered glass (available–unsurprisingly–on Amazon). There’s also privacy film to make the glass into a one-way mirror. He also includes instructions on how to make a wood version, too. You can see the desk in a video, below.

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