Techies are too often tempted by the lure of new technology, leaving perfectly good hardware drifting in the wake of compulsive upgrading. And while we love getting new gadgets as much as the next geek, we also like how a new purchase gives us the opportunity to take apart and tinker with our older gear in the Lab. Whether it’s by soldering circuit boards or loading open-source firmware, we pride ourselves on being able to stretch the lifespan of older electronics by performing undocumented (and sometimes warranty-breaking) hardware hacks.
The projects we’ve included here range from relatively safe software tweaks to more challenging technical exercises. You’ll learn how to bend USB connections to your will and imbue home routers and digital cameras with robust new features. We’ve also taken some inspiration from projects we’ve seen online, including building a blue laser gun and making a digital picture frame you can mount on the wall of your office. These hacks will help you showcase your craftiness and give you a better understanding of how your electronics work. And the best part is that your old hardware will be faster, cooler, and more awesome afterward.
Jailbreak your game console and no one is likely to take notice. But make a home business out of jailbreaking consoles for others and you may draw the attention of Homeland Security.
At least that's the case for Matthew Crippen, a 27-year-old Cal State Fullerton liberal arts student who was arrested by Homeland Security authorities on Monday. Crippen was picked up for allegedly violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
"Defendant Matthew Crippen willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain, circumvented a technological measure that effectively controlled access to a copyrighted work, more particularly, used software to modify a Xbox machine's Optical Disc Drive so it would circumvent the anti-piracy measures contained on the original unmodified Optical Disc Drive," U.S. attorney Thomas P. O'Brien wrote in the indictment (PDF).
In a telephone interview with Wired.com's Threat Level, Crippen maintains the purpose of his jailbreaking business was to allow patrons to make "legally made backups," not for piracy.
The indictment charges Crippen with two counts, and if convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
It was a year ago that security researcher Charlie Miller walked away with $10,000 for hacking into a MacBook Air with Safari in just two minutes during the annual Pwn2Own competition, and earlier this month Miller predicted Safari would be the first to fall at this year's event. Miller made good on that promise this week by using a prepared exploit to gain full control of the device in about 10 seconds.
"It's not easy, but this worked with one click [from the Safari browser]", Miller said.
Miller had discovered the exploit last year, which allows a remote attacker to take over a machine if a user clicks on a malicious URL. Details of the exploit, which Miller isn't allowed to divulge, will be shared with Apple from contest sponsor TippingPoint so that Apple can develop a patch.
On the same day, a 25-year-old computer science student at the University of Oldenburg in Germany demonstrated exploits in IE8, Safari, and Firefox, earning him a cool $15,000 ($5,000 per exploit), along with getting to keep the Sony Vaio P series notebook he used (Miller pocketed $5,000 and a MacBook Air).
While three major browsers succumbed to hacking attempts on day one, no mobile exploits have yet been successful. Mobile exploits carry the biggest reward for contest participants, with TippingPoint offering $10,000 for each successful exploit in the major smartphones.
And now, a whole new way for your privacy to be invaded. Computer scientists at the EPFL in Switzerland have developed a way to eavesdrop on what you type by detecting the electromagnetic radiation emitted with every keystroke, Engadget reports.
The group developed four techniques for listening in on keystrokes, and tested them on 11 keyboards, produced from 2001 to 2008 and including USB, PS/2 and laptop keyboards. Every one of the devices was vulnerable to at least one of the methods. Some of the techniques are effective from as far away as 65 feet, and through walls.
Martin Vuagnoux, one of the scientists responsible, has posted twovideos demonstrating the vulnerability on Vimeo. The first of the two videos shows a meter-long wire being used as an antenna to detect the emissions of a keyboard several feet away. A program successfully decodes the message “trust no one” from these emissions. The second video shows an antenna that looks a bit like a pair of gigantic egg beaters eavesdropping on a keyboard from one room over.
The technique is pretty cool to see in motion (if a bit scary) so check out those videos and hit the jump to give us your thoughts.