Superconference Interview: Samy Kamkar

Samy Kamkar has an incredible arsenal of self-taught skills that have grown into a remarkable career as a security researcher. He dropped out of high school to found a company based on Open Source Software and became infamous for releasing the Samy worm on the MySpace platform. But in our minds Samy has far outpaced that notoriety with the hardware-based security exploits he’s uncovered over the last decade. And he’s got a great gift for explaining these hacks — from his credit card magstripe spoofing experiments to hacking keyless entry systems and garage door opener remotes — in great depth during his talk at the 2016 Hackaday Superconference.

We pulled Samy aside after his talk to discuss how the security scene has grown up over the years and asked him to share his advice for people just coming up now. We’re happy to publish it for the first time today, it can be seen below.

Now it’s your turn. The Call for Proposals is now open for the 2017 Hackaday Superconference. You don’t need to be Samy Kamkar to qualify for a talk. You just need an interesting story of hardware engineering, creativity in technical design, an adventure with product design, or a sordid tale of your prototyping experiences. We hope everyone with a story will submit their proposal, but for those who don’t tickets are now available. The Hackaday Superconference will take place in Pasadena, California on November 11th and 12th.

Friday Hack Chat: Breaking Security With Samy Kamkar

[Samy Kamkar] is a hardware hacker extraordinaire. This week, he’s joining us on Hackaday.io for this week’s Hack Chat.

Every week, we find someone interesting that makes or breaks the electronic paraphernalia all around us. We sit them down, and get them to spill the beans on how this stuff works, and how we can get our tools and toys to work for everyone. This is the Hack Chat, and it’s happening this Friday, April 7, at noon PDT (20:0 UTC).

Over the years, [Samy] has demonstrated some incredible skills and brought us some incredible hacks. He defeated chip and pin security on a debit card with a coil of wire, exploited locked computers with a USB gadget, and has more skills than the entire DEF CON CFP review board combined. If you want to know about security, [Samy] is the guy you want to talk to.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging.

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Upcoming Hack Chats

We’ve got a lot on the table when it comes to our Hack Chats. On April 14th we’ll be talking custom silicon with SiFive and on April 21st, we’re going to be talking magnets with Nanomagnetics. Making magnets, collecting magnets, playing with magnets, it’ll all be over on the Hack Chat.

Samy Kamkar Illustrates How To Be A Hardware Hacker

Samy Kamkar is well known for many things, but lately it has been his hardware security hacks that have been turning heads. The nice thing to know is that, despite not having a background in hardware, Samy is able to run with the best of hardware researchers. At the Hackaday SuperConference he offered words of advice for anyone trying to walk the path of discovery with an exciting new piece of electronics. One might say it’s a crash-course in how to be a hardware hacker.

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PoisonTap Makes Raspberry Pi Zero Exploit Locked Computers

[Samy Kamkar], leet haxor extraordinaire, has taken a treasure trove of exploits and backdoors and turned it into a simple hardware device that hijacks all network traffic, enables remote access, and does it all while a machine is locked. It’s PoisonTap, and it’s based on the Raspberry Pi Zero for all that awesome tech blog cred we crave so much.

PoisonTap takes a Raspberry Pi Zero and configures it as a USB Gadget, emulating a network device. When this Pi-come-USB-to-Ethernet adapter is plugged into a computer (even a locked one), the computer sends out a DHCP request, and PoisonTap responds by telling the machine the entire IPv4 space is part of the Pi’s local network. All Internet traffic on the locked computer is then sent over PoisonTap, and if a browser is running on the locked computer, all requests are sent to this tiny exploit device.

With all network access going through PoisonTap, cookies are siphoned off, and the browser cache is poisoned with an exploit providing a WebSocket to the outside world. Even after PoisonTap is unplugged, an attacker can remotely send commands to the target computer and force the browser to execute JavaScript. From there, it’s all pretty much over.

Of course, any device designed to plug into a USB port and run a few exploits has a few limitations. PoisonTap only works if a browser is running. PoisonTap does not work on HTTPS cookies with the Secure cookie flag set. PoisonTap does not work if you have filled your USB ports with epoxy. There are a thousand limitations to PoisonTap, all of which probably don’t apply if you take PoisonTap into any office, plug it into a computer, and walk away. That is, after all, the point of this exploit.

As with all ub3r-1337 pen testing tools, we expect to see a version of PoisonTap for sale next August in the vendor area of DEF CON. Don’t buy it. A Raspberry Pi Zero costs $5, a USB OTG cable less than that, and all the code is available on Github. If you buy a device like PoisonTap, you are too technically illiterate to use it.

[Samy] has a demonstration of PoisonTap in the video below.

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Cracking A Combo Lock In Under 30 Seconds

Forget the combination to your combo lock? Well if you’ve got a 3D printer, an Arduino, a servo and a stepper motor handy — you can build your own Combo Breaker pretty easily. It’s capable of solving any Master combination lock in 8 tries or less.

The creator [Samy Kamkar] is a privacy and security researcher, who absolutely loves finding holes in security. We actually just heard from him at our very own Hack a Day Prize: Los Angeles event, where he talked about his wireless keyboard sniffer he built into a cellphone charger.

He’s previously shown us how to crack a combo lock in 8 tries or less using an online calculator he made. This project is just an extension of that to automate the whole process.

As always he gives an extremely thorough explanation of the project in his build log video — including designing the 3D printed parts! If you wanna build your own it’ll cost just under $100 and you can grab all the necessary info and source files from his GitHub.

[Thanks for the tip Justin!]

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