Anyone who is confident in their own security should (or shouldn't) make a point to stop by the Black Hat and DefCon conferences, the annual security researcher (or 'hacker', if you prefer) conventions in Las Vegas. Attendees include security professionals, interested amateurs, government officials and more...many of whom get together to learn from and be inspired by each other to make technology do things that most people would never expect (let alone be completely comfortable with!).
One of these is Chris Paget, who last year demonstrated a device that acts like a cell tower to intercept your communications en route to the real towers. As described in Wired, this inspired Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins to incorporate the design into one of this year's standout designs at Black Hat 2011 on Wednesday: the WASP, a do-it-yourself drone aircraft.
WASP stands for Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform, and the title goes a long way toward describing the device, unlike many official military projects. Also noteworthy is the cost: for a mere $6,000, the two hackers were able to assemble a fully-functional remote-controlled drone that can take over your Wi-Fi or cell communications -- regardless of how secure you may think they are. The WASP can fool cellphones into dropping encryption, and it can brute-force passwords using its built-in 340-word dictionary. Also built-in is GPS and Google; the WASP is fully capable of flying a pre-programmed course once the operator gets it aloft.
To be fair, Perkins and Tassey had a surplus FMQ-117B U.S. Army target drone to start with, but while few enough have the knowledge and the skills to do what they did with the materials, that's still enough people to give one pause. “You don’t need a PhD from MIT to do this,” Perkins said, and Tassey agreed that there was no way that others (perhaps even terrorists or corporate spies) hadn't thought of doing what they did.
Discussed applications ran the gamut from remote-control intellectual property theft to rescue missions for lost hikers, ably demonstrating the fundamental dichotomy of technological innovation. Equally adept at surreptitious personal surveillance and risk-free "bomb-sniffing," the WASP is truly an example of a design that could be a boon to light side and dark side applications alike.
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