It looks like the ongoing semiconductor shortage isn’t getting any better, and if the recent spate of computer thefts from semi trucks is any indication, it’s only going to get worse. Thieves seem to be targeting the Freightliner Cascadia, probably the most popular heavy freight truck on the road in North America today, with “smash and grab” thefts targeting the CPC4, or Common Powertrain Control module. These modules are sitting ducks — they’re easy to locate and remove, the chip shortage has made legit modules nearly unobtanium from dealers, and the truck won’t run without them. That’s driven the black market price for a CPC up to $8,000 or more, making them a tempting target. And it’s not only individual trucks parked in truck stop lots that are being hit; gangs are breaking into trucking company lots and bricking dozens of trucks in short order. So the supply chain problem which started the semiconductor shortage caused the module shortage, which drives the thieves to steal modules and take trucks off the road, which only worsens the supply chain shortage that started the whole thing. Nice positive feedback loop.
We’re not so much fans of James Bond as we are of Q, the hacker who supplies him with such wonderful things. There is a challenger to Q’s crown, [Naomi Wu] — code name [SexyCyborg] — built an epic gadget called the Pi Palette which hides a Linux laptop inside of a cosmetics case.
You can see the covert mode of the Pi Palette below. It resembles a clamshell cosmetics case with the makeup and applicator in the base and a mirror on the underside of the flip-up lid. The mirror hides an LCD screen in the portrait orientation, as well as a Raspberry Pi 3 running Kali Linux.
The base of the case includes a portable battery beneath the wireless keyboard/touchpad — both of which are revealed when the cosmetics tray is removed. An inductive charger is connected to the battery and [Naomi] built a base station which the Pi Palette sits in for wireless charging.
She envisions this as a covert penetration testing. For that, the Pi Palette needs the ability to put the WiFi dongle into promiscuous mode. She wired in a dual dip-switch package and really went the extra mile to design it into the case. The fit and finish of that switch is just one tiny detail the illustrates the care taken with the entire project. With such a beautiful final project it’s no wonder she took to the streets to show it off. Check that out, as well as the build process, in the video after the break.
I don’t know if it is true or not today, but in fiction, spies depend on lots of high-tech gadgets. I do know that during World War II, the various secret services like the OSS and the SOE did have gadgets like secret transmitters and concealed weapons. But, like [James Bond’s] grenade-launching ink pen, to [Maxwell Smart’s] shoe phone, those gadgets came from some organized lab. (When you watch the video below, remember that at that time, a personal phone going off in a theater was unknown as cell phones were years in the future.)
The James Bond franchise is well-known for many things, but perhaps most important to us hackers are the gadgets. Bond always had an awesome gadget that somehow was exactly the thing he needed to get out of a jam. [hw97karbine’s] latest project would fit right into an old Bond flick. He’s managed to build a single-shot pellet gun that looks like a pen.
[hw97karbine] started out by cutting the body from a tube of carbon fiber. He used a hacksaw to do the cutting, and then cleaned up the edges on a lathe. A barrel was cut from a piece of brass tubing with a smaller diameter. These two tubes will eventually sit one inside of the other. A custom front end cap was machined from brass. One end is ribbed and glued into the carbon fiber tube. The barrel is also glued to this end of the front cap, though it’s glued to the inside of the cap. The other end of the cap has 1/8″ BSP threads cut into it in order to allow for attachments.
A rear end cap is machined from Delrin. This piece also has a Delrin piston placed inside. The piston has a small piece of rubber used as a gasket. This piston valve is what allows the gun to operate. The rear cap gets glued into place and attached to a Schrader valve, removed from an automotive tire valve stem.
To pressurize the system, a bicycle pump is attached to the Schrader valve. This pushes the piston up against the barrel, preventing any of the air from escaping. The piston doesn’t make a perfect seal, so air leaks around it and pressurizes the carbon fiber tube. The Schrader valve prevents the air from leaking out of the pen body. A special machined button was threaded onto the Schrader valve. When the button is pressed, the air escapes; the sudden pressure imbalance causes the piston to shoot backwards, opening up a path for the air to escape through the barrel. This escaping air launches the projectile. The whole process is explained better with an animation.
Now, the question left in our mind: is this the same pressure imbalance concept that was used in that vacuum pressure bazooka we saw a couple years back?
[Wilywyrm] needed to come up with a final project for art class that commented on a social issue. Healthcare, schmealthcare, he said, and busted out this movie poster about the NSA spying scandal instead.
The circuit uses three extended-duty astable 555 timers to control the brightness of the 5050 RGB common-anode LED strips that run up the sides of the 24″ x 12″ x 1/4″ acrylic panels. Each of the three panels was laser-engraved at 600 DPI on an Epilog laser engraver and features a different aspect of the poster. There’s one for Snowden, one for Daniel Craig, and one for the text.
[Wilywyrm] tied the color channels together in the first panel to output white light. He used red for the second panel and blue for the third. A complete list of parts with build notes is available on his Google Drive. [Wilywyrm]’s notes include improvement ideas, like making all the RGB strips color-adjustable with more 555s or a microcontroller and timers.
Perhaps [Wilywyrm] could get into the clear whiteboard business after college.
At the beginning of the fourth Bond film, 007 escapes from a French château with a jetpack. While the jetpack has yet to take off for those of us who aren’t secret agents, there is a way for anyone to fly just like Bond. It can’t lift a full-scale human yet, but [Rodger]’s Project Thunderball can let a mannequin hover for several minutes.
The stand in for [Sean Connery] in [Rodger]’s build is a 2.2 lb mannequin – actually an ‘inflatable companion’, if you will – stuffed with styrofoam peanuts. The actual jet pack is a quadcopter souped up with larger motors, propellers, and enough batteries to deliver 1kW. There’s no belt for this quad; the mannequin rides the machine like you would a horse, straddling the electronics while very high-speed props spin just inches away from the tender bits of an inflatable plastic doll.
[Rodger] is able to get about 8 minutes of hover time out of his quadpack, an impressive feat that also allows his flying machine to deliver beer and pizzas.
Years ago we covered using thermite to destroy a hard drive. The idea is that if you melt through the platters, the data is completely unrecoverable. There are tons of videos of people doing this, but they all have a similar format. There’s a hard drive, with a flower pot or soda can sitting on top full of thermite. They then light this with a strip of magnesium and a torch.
I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to implement thermite as a self destruct mechanism inside the device. To do this, I had to come up with a way to ignite the thermite. This stuff is very difficult to light. You have to get it really really hot. The easiest way is to use magnesium, which itself isn’t the easiest thing to light.
What I finally landed on was an ignition system that uses model rocket igniters, gun powder, and magnesium to light the thermite. The model rocket igniter can be set off from the 12v line inside your computer. However, it isn’t hot enough to light magnesium shavings, much less thermite. To get it to work, I needed to add some gunpowder. A small amount of gun powder would get hot enough to light the magnesium shavings, which in turn were hot enough to light the thermite. I had to be careful though, because too much gunpowder would cause a rapid expansion, blowing the thermite everywhere instead of lighting it. You can actually see some red thermite being blown out of the external hard drive and the laptop as the gunpowder ignites.
Effectiveness of external hard drive self destruction:
I wasn’t sure about this one. There isn’t a whole lot of space for thermite and the ignition system inside the box. On top of that, the only space was at the side of the hard drive, where the walls are the thickest. I had no idea if the small amount of thermite I used would penetrate the drive. It did, just barely as you can see in these pictures. It looks as if it pooled in the screw holes and made it inside. The platters are damaged.
Effectiveness of laptop destruction:
I decided to completely replace the cd rom with thermite. This gave me a ton of space to put things. I was pretty positive this would work. The hard drive is in the center of this laptop, which meant I had to place it on its side for this to be effective. You can see the thermite work its way down toward the drive in the video. As you can see in the pictures below, the drive cover is completely gone and the platters are destroyed. Success!
Since this system can be powered by batteries or the internal power of your computer, it can be put inside a working device only to be used when needed. Obviously it is a ridiculous fire hazard that no one should bother with. It was a fun experiment though and I really feel like it is something that would fit in well in the world of [James Bond]