If you're testing your hacking skills or trying to learn more about security, your toolkit shouldn't end with your computer. If you're willing to pick up a screwdriver, a soldering iron, or a few other tools, there are several great DIY hacking projects that'll test your mettle and teach you a few things about networking at the same time. Let's take a look at some of them.
This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.
As with all hacking and network sniffing and monitoring projects, keep in mind that these are the kinds of things you should use ethically, on your own network or networks you have permission to probe. Your company's IT department wouldn't like it much if you started sniffing around their network, and neither would everyone else at the coffee shop trying to get work done. With that out of the way, let's take a look.
Build a DIY Wi-Fi Hacking, Password Cracking, Cell Tower Spoofing Drone
Who wouldn't want their very own high-flying, Wi-Fi cracking, password stealing unmanned aerial vehicle? I certainly do, and it's easier to build than you may think. Back in 2010, a former Air Force cyber security contractor and a former Air Force engineering systems consultant trotted out the WASP, or Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform, and proved that the government isn't the only entity that can build a drone capable of sucking down information from every network or wireless radio it's in range of. Both Forbes took a look at the drone a few years back, as did Popular Science, not to mention a ton of other outlets. The video above is the first in a two-parter with the folks at Hak5, where they chat with Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, the creators of the WASP, and take it for a test run. From the Forbes article linked above:
The WASP, built from a retired Army target drone converted from a gasoline engine to electric batteries, is equipped with an HD camera, a cigarette-pack sized on-board Linux computer packed with network-hacking tools including the BackTrack testing toolset and a custom-built 340 million word dictionary for brute-force guessing of passwords, and eleven antennae.
... On top of cracking wifi networks, the upgraded WASP now also performs a new trick: impersonating the GSM cell phone towers used by AT&T and T-Mobile to trick phones into connecting to the plane’s antenna rather than their carrier, allowing the drone to record conversations and text messages on a32 gigabytes of storage. A 4G T-mobile card routes the communications through voice-over-Internet or traditional phone connections to avoid dropping the call. “Ideally, the target won’t even know he’s being spied on,” says Tassey.
The WASP may be a retired Army target drone, but these days you can make your own with a step-by-step guide or DIY kit from DIY Drones. From there, it's just a matter of packing on the right radios to mount on it, and how to connect to them once the drone is in the air. Luckily, the team behind the WASP have a blog at Rabbit-Hole.org, and while it hasn't been updated in a while, they do go into detail on their build process, the equipment they used, and how to to perfect your own hacker-drone if you choose to build one.
Transform a Safety Flare Gun Into a Wireless Camera Launcher
If you've ever been sailing or camping, you probably have a flare gun somewhere in your gear. In worst case scenarios, it's designed to signal for help when you're lost or somewhere you can't get away from, or just to let others know your position if you know people are looking for you. Well, if you're not in the wilderness (and you don't feel like building a drone), why not turn it into a wireless camera launcher that can fire a camera 250 feet into the air and record everything as it parachutes down to the ground?
This is, of course, another project that originated from the Def Con security conference in Las Vegas. The original project was designed by an Israeli defense contractor to use a 40mm grenade launcher, but Vlad Gostom and Joshua Marpet, a pair of enterprising hardware hackers, decided to build their own using a 40mm flare gun that civilians could easily buy. The duo documented their experiences, although the first attempt didn't turn out terribly well. They've been working on it ever since (off and on), but ideally the next iteration will be a bigger success. If you're interested in DIY-ing it, they rundown all the parts you'll need (and you'll need a lot of parts and enough specific firearm-related equipment you may draw attention from your local authorities). Still, it may be worth it to build a flare gun that can map your neighborhood or be used for other cool outdoorsy projects.
Turn a Raspberry Pi Into a Pentesting Drop Box (and Disguise It In a Power Strip)
It's no secret that we love the Raspberry Pi, and it's a great platform for all sorts of things, including some awesome network hacking. In a previous Evil Week, we showed you how to turn a humble power strip into a Pi-powered packet sniffer that would look at home underneath someone's desk. That works well for stealthy purposes, like if you want to try it out and see if anyone notices that there's a network monitoring device under their desks, but if stealth isn't totally important, the Rogue Pi is a network monitor that, unlike the Pi-powered power strip, doesn't require you return periodically to pick up the data you've collected. Like we mentioned in our post, the Rogue Pi packs the radios required for you to connect to it wirelessly whenever you need to.
Even better, the Rogue Pi conducts a test when you turn it on to make sure it's connected to the network you want to probe, then creates an SSH tunnel that you can use to get to it when you need to, along with a hidden SSID and a Wi-Fi radio that lets you connect to it directly whenever you're in range. It has a laundry list of pentesting and Wi-Fi cracking tools onboard too, so once it's embedded in your target network, it can do whatever you need it to. It even has an tiny external LCD so you can power it on and configure it without whipping out a laptop. Nefarious? Absolutely—but it's also a blast to make and perfect for surreptitious surveillance of your own networks or use as a hidden access point. All the code and gear you'll need for it are listed over at the project site. If you're really enterprising, you could combine this hack with the power strip hack, and take your show on the road to Def Con.
Build an Arduino TV Annoyer
Most of these projects are aimed at network hacking and information gathering, like any good hacking project, but this one, the DIY Arduino-based TV annoyer, is strictly for fun and laughs. Put simply, this little device will turn on TVs when you want them off, and turn TVs off when you want them on. Think of it as a simple April Fool's gag, or something a little more innocuous and less aggravating than the always-classic annoy-a-tron from ThinkGeek.
Our guide (originally from Instructables) walks you through the entire build process, as well as the parts you'll need to make the whole thing happen.
Turn an Airsoft Rifle Into a 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi Sniffer with a Raspberry Pi
From the "hacking projects I probably wouldn't want to be seen carrying on the street but are still cool" department comes the Hack Rifle, an Airsoft rifle with a Raspberry Pi at its heart that's capable of picking Wi-Fi signals out of the air at long distances. It sports a high-gain directional antenna attached to the barrel, a fold-out screen to monitor the information it's capturing, and a button connected to the trigger to fire up the Wi-Fi antenna, scan for targets, select a target, and crack the target device or network.
The Hack Rifle is running Raspberry Pwn (like the Rogue Pi above), a pentesting Linux distro designed for the Pi. It's designed to be collapsable into five pieces, and has an orange tip so people don't think it's a real rifle—although even its creator acknowledges it's not that simple:
This isn’t a real gun, it’s an airsoft rifle. And yes, pointing anything that looks like a gun at a person or building is a terrible idea, and yes this thing will freak people out and probably get you arrested. That’s why it’s never been outside my apartment, has never been aimed out my windows, and has an orange tip.
Follow his example if you opt to make something like this. In fact, there's little about the build that requires the rifle, although there's some allure to the idea of point, pull the trigger, and hack. Even so, there's a reason this thing hasn't seen the light of day outside of its creator's apartment, and if you want to do something similar, it should stay in yours where it's safe as well. If you opt for a diferent form factor though, you may be able to take the thing around with you—everything you need to know is over at the project site. The commentariat at Hack a Day have some thoughts on the build too (like disguising it as a hedge trimmer instead of a rifle!), and call back to an even older version that could pull Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi out of the air—and looked significantly less menacing, what with the Pringles cans on the barrel.
Turn a Nexus 7 Into a Portable Network Probing Tablet
If you're looking to build a pentesting or scanning tool that's a little less conspicuous than a huge rifle or a PC attached to some Pringles cans, the Pwn Pad may be perfect for you. The Pwn Pad is a portable pentesting tablet based on the Nexus 7 and designed by the folks at Pwnie Express, a security firm and online store packed with products for the discerning hacker. The Pwn Pad will set you back close to $1100 if you want the tablet and the rest of the gear right off the shelf (complete with support for the gear and training in how to use it all), but if you have the Nexus 7 yourself and just want the code and the radios, you can buy the accessories for less and build your own Pwn Pad at home.
Hack a Day explains you'll ned a few other components of course, including a USB OTG cable with USB Ethernet, Bluetooth, and WiFi adapters, and of course the array of open source pentesting tools included on the Pwn Pad. Rolling your own isn't too difficult if you have the right gear, or just don't want to drop the cash directly for the whole package.