Every fortress has its vulnerabilities. No matter how high the walls or deep the foundations there is always a way in. Just like an operating system.
Google has been freely distributing the Android OS in order to
help the company harvest your personal information which it then sells for a profit make the world a better place. At the other end of the nerd spectrum, Microsoft has been charging customers through the nose to experience the joys of the blue screen of death. But, regardless of how much you do, or don’t pay, they’re both designed to encourage developers to build applications for them. Even the kind of app that can be used to kill you in any number of unusual ways – like these…
Android Will Crash Your Plane
Calm down! Take your foot off the ‘paranoia accelerator’ – it’s only a theory. After all, the last thing you need to worry about is how many hacked Android phones there are on you next flight, right? What with your every day worries like paying the bills and finding your lost cat, you don’t want to be obsessing that the guy in the seat next to you could stall the aircraft mid-flight sending you screaming to your demise. Sorry, but you do need to worry.
According to Hugo Teso, a commercial airline pilot, it could potentially happen. Just to prove his point, Teso has even built a proof of concept app called ‘Planesploit’. Maybe he should have been a little more explicit and chosen a name that doesn’t should like a 1980’s video game!
Aeroplanes have huge amounts of electronic equipment onboard. Most of this gadgetry is used for flight control, communications and location services. The app works by intercepting comms between the aircraft and ground control. A second component of the app can then be used to simulate the effects of a private disco: flashing lights, belching out music ( ‘Crash’ by the Primitives comes to mind) through the tannoy system and sounding alarms that match the furious beat of your heart as you go into freefall – the kind of thing you do for a laugh, right?
Teso does go on to emphasise that the app will only work when the aircraft is traveling on autopilot. Now, before you breathe a sigh of relief, a plane can travel up to 95% of any given journey on autopilot. The idea is to reduce the strain on pilots but it’s more likely that they can actually spend several hours of the flight drinking and ‘accidentally’ touching the stewardess’s bottom.
Teso hasn’t been tagged as suffering from manic depression but just in case you want to avoid hopping on a plane he’s piloting, here’s an image of him:
We’re not against any kind of innovation. We also know that if Teso hadn’t have come up with the idea then somebody else would have but we’re supposed to trust pilots to get us safely from A to B not fill us with even more fear.
Laptops That Burst Your Heart
“Don’t eat that super-sized, quadruple cheeseburger! It will give you a heart attack.” “Don’t put your fingers in the electrical socket – you’ll be electrocuted and die of a heart attack.” “Darling, don’t look at my credit card bill – you’ll die of a heart attack!” Wow! It’s seems like there’s a bit of bad news lurking around every corner, waiting to ruin what fun we might have left at the end of day. In an eye watering twist of irony, technologies designed to keep your heart beating to the tune of, “I will survive” have been twisted into brutal killing machines.
This time it’s those cheery Australians who have smashed the thin veil that is my rosy outlook on the world! Antipodean researcher, Barnaby Jack demonstrated a computer hack that transmitted 830 volt shocks to a nearby pacemaker. Obviously, the device in question was a demo model and not one embedded in the chest of an audience member.
In 2008, it was estimated about 3 million people in the world were fitted with pacemakers. Over time this number will have increased. Let’s say there are about 4 million
victims recipients currently walking the planet. No doubt there are a number of politicians who have benefitted from these miracles of modern technology. Politically sanctioned assassination just got a whole lot more interesting.
Apart from the odd, pale and sickly looking Microsoft fanboy or two zapping your heart into submission, there’s little to worry about, right? I hate to break it to you but it gets worse. Happy go lucky Barnaby demonstrated another capability – virality. No, not the ability to repeatedly perform but something far more sinister than a gimp mask. The ability to spread to other pacemakers.
In a grim reconstruction of natures very own microbial killing machines, the hacked devices can interrogate nearby pacemakers for their serial numbers. The devices on the list can be ticked off in a gruesome game of, ‘Oops, you’re dead!’
The chances of something like this are pretty remote. The display given by Barnaby was a little hit and miss but the technology could be further developed as a means of population control that goes one step further than searing your genitals.
Gadgets That Crash Your Car
Back in the 1960’s and 70’s it was pretty much accepted that most pop stars would end their career abruptly behind a car steering wheel. The advent of cheap air travel has opened up a new way for rockers to meet their maker but that doesn’t mean the car has gone out of fashion…
Automotive safety and security has come along in leaps and bounds since the first Model T Ford leaped from the production line way back in 1908. In the old days it was pretty much accepted that standing in front a car travelling at 30 Mph was bad for. Likewise, driving your car into a wall at 30 Mph was also bad for you. The Darwin awards are living proof that some humans fail to heed the advice of car industry savants!
But road safety technology could be used to make your life a little shorter. All the hacker need do is find a way to remotely control it. Difficult? Yes, but not impossible. After all, many new security devices are connected to computer networks – much like the ones found in Iranian nuclear power stations…oops! Your Fiat Punto has been transformed from fuel efficient runabout into a death dealing tool that ram raiders lust over.
But nobody would go to the serious complicated length needed to hack your car, would they? Right now? Probably not but the technology is out there. In 2010, dome-headed security experts proved that, with the aid of a small, physical device, your car’s controls could be hijacked and turned into something slightly less OAP friendly. By attaching a small, remote unit to the engine management system of your car, hackers get to dance with the devil without having to dress up in tight leather suits and chicken hats whilst invoking the name of the dark lord! (They still do have fun though)
Although the technology is present and viable the security industry is working hard to block vulnerabilities found in safety systems. Now there’s a new idea for Michael Bay’s next venture: ‘Transformers 4: Pimp My Autobot’