Samy Kamkar: Reverse Engineering for a Secure Future

Show of hands: how many of you have parked your car in the driveway, walked up to your house, and pressed your car’s key fob button thinking it would open the front door? We’ve probably all done it and felt a little dopey as a result, but when you think about it, it would be tremendously convenient, especially with grocery bags dangling off each arm and the mail clenched between your teeth. After all, we’re living in the future —  shouldn’t your house be smart enough to know when you’re home?

Reverse engineer par excellence Samy Kamkar might think so, but given his recent experiences with cars smart enough to know when you’re standing outside them, he’d probably have some reservations. Samy dropped by the 2017 Hackaday Superconference in November to discuss the finer points of exploiting security flaws in passive car entry systems, and also sat down with our own Elliot Williams after his talk for a one-on-one interview. Samy has some interesting insights on vehicle cybersecurity, but the practical knowledge he’s gained while exploring the limits of these systems teach some powerful lessons about being a real-world reverse engineer.

Continue reading “Samy Kamkar: Reverse Engineering for a Secure Future”

Turn a Car Into a Game Controller

The CAN bus has become a staple of automotive engineering since it was introduced in the late ’80s, but in parallel with the spread of electronic devices almost every single piece of equipment inside a car has been put on the CAN bus. While there are opinions on whether or not this is a good thing, the reality is that enough data is gathered on this bus to turn an unmodified modern car into a video game controller with just a little bit of code.

The core of [Scott]’s project is a laptop and a Python program that scrapes information about the car from the car’s CAN bus, including positions of the pedals and the steering wheel. This information can be accessed by plugging an adapter into the OBD-II port (a standard for all cars made after 1995). From there, the laptop parses the CAN data into keyboard and mouse commands for your video game of choice.

This is an interesting investigation into the nitty-gritty of the CAN bus, but also a less dangerous demonstration of all of the data available from the car than some other cases we’ve seen. At least [Scott]’s Mazda (presumably) lacks any wireless attack vectors!

Continue reading “Turn a Car Into a Game Controller”

Jeep Wrangler Dome Light Mod

If you’re the owner of a Jeep Wrangler, you may have experienced some frustration with the interior dome light. For those not in the know, removing the doors on a warm day or for a bit of fun can lead to a dead battery. This happens because the Wrangler’s light stays on unless the fuse or light are removed, or a custom shutoff switch is added — at the expense of troublesome wiring. You could say it’s a Jeep Thing. [Tim Nummy] offers a solution with minimal modifications.

First off, pop the switch out of the door and set it aside. As a replacement, [Tim Nummy] has managed to salvage a door light switch from an old Mercedes. In addition to the same momentary-off function as the Wrangler’s stock switch, the button on the new one can be pulled out and locked for a secondary off position. Many machines and appliances use this same type of switch in their safety interlocks as a service position. [Tim] didn’t want to cut apart the wiring in the Wrangler in case something goes awry down the line, so for now he has filed down some spade terminals to slot into the Mercedes plug. He’s also 3D printed a nut to nicely secure the new switch in place. Check out his how-to video after the break!

Continue reading “Jeep Wrangler Dome Light Mod”

Inductive Loop Vehicle Detector Gets Modernized

Much like George Lucas and the original Star Wars films, many of us may find that our passion projects are never quite finished, especially when new technology comes around or we just want to make some improvements for their own sake. [Muris] was featured a while back for a vehicle detecting circuit, but is back with some important upgrades to his project. (Which, luckily, do not include any horrible CGI aliens.)

For starters, the entire project has been reworked from the ground up. For anyone unfamiliar with the original project, the circuit detected a vehicle via an inductive loop and was able to perform a task like opening a gate. It now has two independent channels which are polled separately, yet has a reduced parts count which should make construction simpler. The firmware has also been reprogrammed, and in addition to sensing a vehicle’s presence can now also measure the speed of any vehicles passing by.

The complete list of improvements can be found on the project page, and an extensive amount of documentation is available on this if you want to try to roll out your own inductive loop vehicle detector. Of course, this isn’t the only way to detect a vehicle’s presence if inductive loops aren’t really your style.

Continue reading “Inductive Loop Vehicle Detector Gets Modernized”

Video Streaming Like Your Raspberry Pi Depended On It

The Raspberry Pi is an incredibly versatile computing platform, particularly when it comes to embedded applications. They’re used in all kinds of security and monitoring projects to take still shots over time, or record video footage for later review. It’s remarkably easy to do, and there’s a wide variety of tools available to get the job done.

However, if you need live video with as little latency as possible, things get more difficult. I was building a remotely controlled vehicle that uses the cellular data network for communication. Minimizing latency was key to making the vehicle easy to drive. Thus I set sail for the nearest search engine and begun researching my problem.

My first approach to the challenge was the venerable VLC Media Player. Initial experiments were sadly fraught with issues. Getting the software to recognize the webcam plugged into my Pi Zero took forever, and when I did get eventually get the stream up and running, it was far too laggy to be useful. Streaming over WiFi and waving my hands in front of the camera showed I had a delay of at least two or three seconds. While I could have possibly optimized it further, I decided to move on and try to find something a little more lightweight.

Continue reading “Video Streaming Like Your Raspberry Pi Depended On It”

Make Cars Safer By Making Them Softer

Would making autonomous vehicles softer make them safer?

Alphabet’s self-driving car offshoot, Waymo, feels that may be the case as they were recently granted a patent for vehicles that soften on impact. Sensors would identify an impending collision and adjust ‘tension members’ on the vehicle’s exterior to cushion the blow. These ‘members’ would be corrugated sections or moving panels that absorb the impact alongside the crumpling effect of the vehicle, making adjustments based on the type of obstacle the vehicle is about to strike.

Continue reading “Make Cars Safer By Making Them Softer”

So, You’ve Never Made A Spaceframe Before

It is sometimes a surprise in our community of tinkerers, builders, hackers, and makers, to find that there are other communities doing very similar things to us within their own confines, but in isolation to ours. A good example are the modified vehicle crowd. In their world there are some epic build stories and the skills and tools they take for granted would not in any way be unfamiliar to most Hackaday readers.

As part of a discussion about electric vehicles near where this is being written, someone tossed an interesting link from that quarter into the mix; a two-part treatise on building ultra-light-weight tubular frame vehicles. Or space frames, as you might know them.

You might think that making a tubular framed for a vehicle would be a straightforward enough process, but as the article explains, it contains within it a huge well of geometry and metallurgy to avoid a creation that is neither too heavy nor contains excessive weakness. Part one deals mainly with prototyping a frame, the selection of materials and joining tubes, while part two goes into more detail on fabrication. The author likes brazing which may offend the sensibilities of welding enthusiasts, but you can substitute your jointing tech of choice.

A particularly neat suggestion, one of those simple ideas that make you wish you’d thought of it yourself, is to prototype a frame in miniature with copper wire and solder to evaluate the effect of different forces upon it before you commit your final design to steel.

The articles are a few years old, but no less pertinent in the information they contain. Meanwhile if you are a spaceframe veteran, then you may have your own suggestions for the comments below. And if you’d like some tips on how not to build a spaceframe, have a look at this motorcycle.

Thank you [JHR] and [Jarkman] for the tips.