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.
When asked why he robbed banks, career criminal Willie Sutton is reported to have said, “Because that’s where the money is.” It turns out that a reporter made up the quote, but it’s a truism that offers by extension insight into why ATMs and point-of-sale terminals are such a fat target for criminals today. There’s something far more valuable to be taken from ATMs than cash, though — data, in the form of credit and debit card numbers. And taking a look at some of the hardware used by criminals to get this information reveals some pretty sophisticated engineering. We’d heard of ATM “skimmers” before, but never the related “shimmers” that are now popping up, at least according to this interesting article on Krebs.
While skimmers target the magnetic stripe on the back of a card, simmers are aimed at reading the data from card chips instead. Shimmers are usually built on flex PCBs and are inserted into the card slot, where traces on the device make contact with the chip reader contacts. The article describes a sophisticated version of shimmer that steals power from the ATM itself, rather than requiring a separate battery. The shimmer sits inside the card slot, completely invisible to external inspection (sorry, Tom), and performs what amounts to man-in-the-middle attacks. Card numbers are either stored on the flash and read after the device is retrieved, or are read over a Bluetooth connection; PINs are stolen with the traditional hidden camera method. While we certainly don’t condone criminal behavior, sometimes you just can’t help but admire the ingenuity thieves apply to their craft.
In a bit of foreshadowing into how weird 2020 was going to be, back in January of that year we mentioned reports of swarms of mysterious UAVs moving in formation at night across the midwest United States. We never heard much else about this — attention shifted to other matters shortly thereafter — but now there are reports out of Arizona of a “super-drone” that can outrun law enforcement helicopters. The incidents allegedly occurred early this year, when a Border Patrol helicopter pilot reported almost colliding with a large unmanned aerial system (UAS) over Tucson, and then engaged them in a 70-mile chase at speeds over 100 knots. The chase was joined by a Tucson police helicopter, with the UAS reaching altitudes of 14,000 feet at one point. The pilots didn’t manage to get a good look at it, describing it only as having a single green light on its underside. The range on the drone was notable; the helicopter pilots hoped to exhaust its batteries and force it to land or return to base, but they themselves ran out of fuel long before the drone quit. We have to admit that we find it a little fishy that there’s apparently no photographic evidence to back this up, especially since law enforcement helicopters are fairly bristling with sensors, camera, and spotlights.
When is a backup not a backup? Apparently, when it’s an iCloud backup. At least that’s the experience of one iCloud user, who uses a long Twitter thread to vent about the loss of many years of drawings, sketches, and assorted files. The user, Erin Sparling, admits their situation is an edge case — he had been using an iPad to make sketches for years, backing everything up to an iCloud account. When he erased the iPad to loan it to a family member for use during the pandemic, he thought he’s be able to restore the drawings from his backups, but alas, more than six months had passed before he purchased a new iPad. Apparently iCloud just up and deletes everythign if you haven’t used the account in six months — ouch! We imagine that important little detail was somehere in the EULA fine print, but while that’s not going to help Erin, it may help you.
And less the Apple pitchfork crowd think that this is something only Cupertino could think up, know that some Western Digital external hard drive users are crying into their beer too, after a mass wiping of an unknown number of drives. The problem impacts users of the WD My Book Live storage devices, which as basically network attached storage (NAS) devices with a cloud-based interface. The data on these external drives is stored locally, but the cloud interface lets you configure the device and access the data from anywhere. You and apparently some random “threat actors”, as WD is calling them, who seem to have gotten into some devices and performed a factory reset. While we feel for the affected users, it is worth noting that WD dropped support for these devices in 2015; six years without patching makes a mighty stable codebase for attackers to work on. WD is recommending that users disconnect these devices from the internet ASAP, and while that seems like solid advice, we can think of like half a dozen other things that need to get done to secure the files that have accumulated on these things.
And finally, because we feel like we need a little palate cleanser after all that, we present this 3D-printed goat helmet for your approval. For whatever reason, the wee goat pictured was born with a hole in its skull, and some helpful humans decided to help the critter out with TPU headgear. Yes, the first picture looks like the helmet was poorly Photoshopped onto the goat, but scroll through the pics and you’ll see it’s really there. The goat looks resplendent in its new chapeau, and seems to be getting along fine in life so far. Here’s hoping that the hole in its skull fills in, but if it doesn’t, at least they can quickly print a new one as it grows.
Normally we like hearing about old military gear going on the surplus market. But if you encounter some late-model Russian radio and crypto equipment for sale you might want to make sure it isn’t hot (English translation). If you prefer not picking through the machine translation to English, the BBC also has a good write-up.
The Russians maintain four large planes set up as flying command and control bunkers in case of nuclear war — so-called “doomsday planes.” Like the U.S. ABNBC (better known as Looking Glass) fleet, the planes can provide the President or other senior leaders a complete command capability while in flight. As you might expect, the radios and gear on the plane are highly classified.
[Buttim] loses his car a lot, which might sound a little bit like the plot from an early-00s movie, but he assures us that it’s a common enough thing. In a big city, and after several days of not driving one’s car, it can be possible to at least forget where you parked. There are a lot of ways of solving this problem, but the solution almost fell right into his lap: repurposing a lock from a bike share bicycle. (The build is in three parts: Part 2 and Part 3.)
These locks are loaded with features, like GPS, a cellular modem, accelerometers, and in this case, an ARM processor. It took a huge amount of work for [Buttim] to get anything to work on the device, but after using a vulnerability to dump the firmware and load his own code on the device, spending an enormous amount of time trying to figure out where all the circuit traces went through layers of insulation intended to harden the lock from humidity, and building his own Python-based programmer for it, he has basically free reign over the device.
To that end, once he figured out how it all worked, he put it to use in his car. The device functions as a GPS tracker and reports its location over the cellular network so it can’t become lost again. As a bonus, he was able to use the accelerometers to alert him if his car was moving without him knowing, so it turned into a theft deterrent as well. Besides that, though, his ability to get into the device’s firmware reminded us of a recent attempt to get access to an ARM platform.
Progress and the proliferation of computers in automotive applications have almost made the shade tree mechanic a relic of the past. Few people brave the engine compartment of any car made after 1999 or so, and fewer still dive into the space behind the dashboard. More’s the pity, because someone may be trying to turn back the odometer with one of these nefarious controller area network (CAN bus) dongles.
Sold through the usual outlets and marketed as “CAN bus filters,” [Big Clive] got a hold of one removed from a 2015 Mercedes E-Class sedan, where a mechanic had found it installed between the instrument cluster and the OEM wiring harness. When the dongle was removed, the odometer instantly added 40,000 kilometers to its total, betraying someone’s dishonesty.
[Big Clive]’s subsequent teardown of the unit showed that remarkably little is needed to spoof a CAN bus odometer. The board has little more than an STM32F microcontroller, a pair of CAN bus transceiver chips, and some support circuitry like voltage regulators. Attached to a wiring harness that passes through most of the lines from the instrument cluster unmolested while picking off the CAN bus lines, the device can trick the dashboard display into showing whatever number it wants. The really interesting bit would be the code, into which [Clive] does not delve. That’s a pity, but as he points out, it’s likely the designers set the lock bit on the microcontroller to cover their tracks. There’s no honor among thieves.
We found this plunge into the dark recesses of the automotive world fascinating, and [Big Clive]’s tutelage top-notch as always. If you need to get up to speed on CAN bus basics, check out [Eric Evenchick]’s series on automotive network hacking.
[Andrew Nohawk], has noticed a spike of car break-ins and thefts — even in broad daylight — in his native South Africa. The thieves have been using remote jammers. Commercial detectors are available but run into the hundreds of dollars. He decided to experiment with his own rig, whipping up a remote jamming ‘detector’ for less than the cost of a modest meal.
Operating on the principle that most remote locks work at 433MHz, [Nohawk] describes how criminals ‘jam’ the frequency by holding down the lock button on another device, hoping to distort or outright interrupt the car from receiving the signal to lock the doors. [Nohawk] picked up a cheap 433MHz receiver (bundled with a transceiver), tossed it on a breadboard with an LED connected to the data channel of the chip on a 5V circuit, and voila — whenever the chip detects activity on that frequency, the LED lights up. If you see sustained activity on the band, there’s a chance somebody nearby might be waiting for you to leave your vehicle unattended.
If you want to know more about how these jamming attacks work, check out [Samy Kamkar’s] talk from the Hackaday SuperConference.
I heard a “Year in Review” program the other day on NPR with a BBC World Service panel discussion of what’s ahead for 2017. One prediction was that UAV delivery of packages would be commonplace this year, and as proof the commentator reported that Amazon had already had a successful test in the UK. But he expressed skepticism that it would ever be possible in the USA, where he said that “the first drone that goes over somebody’s property will be shot down and the goods will be taken.”
He seemed quite sincere about his comment, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was only joking to make a point, not actually grotesquely ignorant about the limitations of firearms or being snarky about gun owners in the US. Either way, he brings up a good point: when autonomous parcel delivery is commonplace, who will make sure goods get to the intended recipient?