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29 July 2017

Safe-cracking robot proves nothing is secure

The safe doesn't stand a chance.
The safe doesn’t stand a chance.

Image: jack morse/mashable

If hackers want what’s on your computer, chances are they can find a way to get it. But what about your non-digital goods? Like, the ones you keep in a safe at home?

Turns out those aren’t that secure, either. 

This was made abundantly clear at the 25th annual DEF CON in Las Vegas, where professional tinkerer and founder of SparkFun Electronics Nathan Seidle could be found demonstrating an open source safe-cracking robot. Costing around $200 to build, the device uses magnets to attach to the exterior of a safe and is run by an Arduino microcontroller. 

Oh, and it’s very portable. Like, carry around in a backpack as you sneak into a house portable. What’s more, the robot basically runs itself. 

“We wanted to make this thing as autonomous as possible,” he told the gathered crowd. And autonomous it is: You just hit the red button, and off it goes. 

Checking out the details.

Checking out the details.

Image: jack morse/mashable

To demonstrate just how quickly the robot works (and it does work quickly), Seidle pulled a Sentry Safe that he bought from a Home Depot in Vegas — which he claimed is one of the more common personal combination lock safes — right out of the box at the start of his presentation. With just a few adjustments, his robot was off to the races.  

The safe was fully cracked by 12:31 p.m. The talk started at noon.

Importantly, this tool works for this specific type of safe, but that doesn’t mean your other options are much better. 

Toward the end of his talk, Seidle quickly ran through different methods for locking up your valuables. Say, for example, you want a safe with a key? Or maybe a fancy digital keypad? With a casual dismissal, he mentioned that many of those can be opened in minutes. 

“No matter how much money you spend on a safe, nothing is impervious,” noted Seidle. Which, well, was basically music to the crowd’s ears.  

Because, essentially, nothing can be kept out of reach from a dedicated hacker. Not your computer, not your cellphone, and definitely not whatever it is you keep in your safe at home. Consider yourself warned. 

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