Alright, we’re calling it — we need a pejorative equivalent to “script kiddie” to describe someone using a Flipper Zero for annoyingly malign purposes. If you need an example, check out the apparent smart meter snuff video below.
The video was posted by [Peter Fairlie], who we assume is the operator of the Flipper Zero pictured. The hapless target smart meter is repeatedly switched on and off with the Flipper — some smart meters have contactors built in so that service can be disconnected remotely for non-payment or in emergencies — which rapidly starts and stops a nearby AC compressor. Eventually, the meter releases a puff of Magic Smoke, filling its transparent enclosure and obscuring the display. The Flipper’s operator mutters a few expletives at the results, but continues turning the meter on and off even more rapidly before eventually running away from the scene of the crime.
We qualify this as “apparent” because the minute we saw this over on RTL-SDR.com, we reached out to reverse engineer par excellence and smart meter aficionado [Hash] for an opinion. Spoiler alert: [Hash] thinks it’s an elaborate hoax; the debunking starts at the 4:32 mark in the second video below. The most damning evidence is that the model of smart meter shown in the video doesn’t even have a disconnect, so whatever [Peter] is controlling with the Flipper, it ain’t the meter. Also, [Hash] figured out where [Peter] lives — he doxxed himself in a previous video — and not only does the meter shown in the video not belong to the Canadian power company serving the house, StreetView shows that there’s a second meter, suggesting that this meter may have been set up specifically for the lulz.
It should go without saying that Hackaday is about as supportive of hardware experimentation as an organization can be. But there have to be some boundaries, and even if this particular video turns out to be a hoax, it clearly steps over the line. Stuff like this paints a poor picture of what hardware hacking is all about, and leads to unintended consequences that make it harder for all of us to get the tools we need.
For a device advertised as the “Multi-tool Device for Hackers”, the Flipper Zero already offers a considerable list of onboard capabilities. But some hard decisions had to be made to get the retail price down, so features like WiFi and Bluetooth had to be left off. Luckily, there’s an expansion interface along the top of the device which makes it possible to plug in additional hardware.
One of those expansions is the “Mayhem Hat” from [Erwin Ried]. This board adds many requested features to the Flipper Zero, as well as some that might not seem as obvious. The addition of an ESP32-CAM brings WiFi and Bluetooth to the party, while also unlocking access to the highly-capable ESP32Marauder firmware and the plethora of security research tools therein.
But the camera also enables some interesting features, such as motion detection and the ability to read QR codes. It even lets you use the Flipper as an impromptu digital camera, complete with an onscreen viewfinder reminiscent of the Game Boy Camera.
What’s more, the Mayhem Hat features its own expansion capabilities. There’s a spot to plug in either a CC1101 or NRF24l01 radio module, both of which are supported by community developed plugins that allow the user to sniff out and hijack signals. There are also extra pins for connecting your own sensors or hardware. In the demo video below you can see the device automatically detect the popular DHT11 environmental sensor and display the current temperature and humidity readings.
[Mikhail] released a handy GUI editor/generator tool for the Flipper Zero multipurpose hacker tool, making layouts and UI elements much easier and more intuitive to craft up.
Those who decide to delve into rolling their own applications or add-ons will find this a handy resource, especially as it generates the necessary code for the visual elements. It’s not limited to placing icons, either. Boxes, lines, dots, text, and more can be freely laid out to get things looking just right.
To use it, simply drag and drop icons of various sizes into the screen area. Non-icon UI elements like frames, lines, text, and others can be placed with a click using the buttons. To move elements around, click the SELECT button first, then drag things as needed. To fine-tune positioning (or change the text of a string) a selected element’s properties can be accessed and modified to the right of the simulated screen. When things look good, switch to the CODE tab and copy away to use it in your Flipper application.
Unfamiliar with the Flipper Zero? It’s a kind of wireless multitool; a deeply interesting device intended to make wireless exploration and experimentation as accessible as its dolphin mascot is adorable.
The idea behind the PixMob wristband is simple — at a concert, organizers hand these out to the concertgoers, and during the show, infrared projectors are used to transmit commands so they all light up in sync. Sometimes, attendees would be allowed to take these bracelets home after the event, and a few hackers have taken a shot at reusing them.
The protocol is proprietary, however, and we haven’t yet seen anyone reuse these wristbands without tearing them apart or reflashing the microcontroller. [Dani Weidman] tells us, how with [Zach Resmer], they have laid the groundwork for reverse-engineering the protocol of these wristbands.
Our pair of hackers started by obtaining a number of recordings from a helpful stranger online, and went onto replaying these IR recordings to their wristbands. Most of them caused no reaction – presumably, being configuration packets, but three of them caused the wristbands to flash in different colors. They translated these recordings into binary packets, and Dani went through different possible combinations, tweaking bits here and there, transmitting the packets and seeing which ones got accepted as valid. In the end, they had about 100 valid packets, and even figured out some protocol peculiarities like color animation bytes and motion sensitivity mode enable packets.
The GitHub repository provides some decent documentation and even a video, example code you can run on an Arduino with an IR transmitter, and even some packets you can send out with a Flipper Zero. If you’re interested in learning more about the internals of this device, check out the teardown we featured back in 2019.
Flipper Zero is an open-source multitool for hackers, and [Pavel] recently shared details on what goes into the production and testing of these devices. Each unit contains four separate PCBs, and in high-volume production it is inevitable that some boards are faulty in some way. Not all faults are identical — some are not even obvious — but they all must be dealt with before they end up in a finished product.
Designing a process to effectively detect and deal with faults is a serious undertaking, one the Flipper Zero team addressed by designing a separate test station for each of the separate PCBs, allowing detection of defects as early as possible. Each board gets fitted into a custom test jig, then is subjected to an automated barrage of tests to ensure everything is as expected before being given the green light. A final test station gives a check to completed assemblies, and every test is logged into a database.
It may seem tempting to skip testing the individual boards and instead just do a single comprehensive test on finished units, but when dealing with production errors, it’s important to detect issues as early in the workflow as possible. The later a problem is detected, the more difficult and expensive it is to address. The worst possible outcome is to put a defective unit into a customer’s hands, where a issue is found only after all of the time and cost of assembly and shipping has already been spent. Another reason to detect issues early is that some faults become more difficult to address the later they are discovered. For example, a dim LED or poor antenna performance is much harder to troubleshoot when detected in a completely assembled unit, because the fault could be anywhere.