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DARPA Funding a $50 Drone-Droppable Spy Computer 86

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "At the Shmoocon security conference, researcher Brendan O'Connor plans to present the F-BOMB, or Falling or Ballistically-launched Object that Makes Backdoors. Built from just the disassembled hardware in a commercially-available PogoPlug mini-computer, a few tiny antennae, eight gigabytes of flash memory and some 3D-printed plastic casing, the F-BOMB serves as 3.5"-by-4"-by-1" spy computer. With a contract from DARPA, O'Connor has designed the cheap gadgets to be spy nodes, ready to be dropped from a drone, plugged inconspicuously into a wall socket, (one model impersonates a carbon monoxide detector) thrown over a barrier, or otherwise put into irretrievable positions to quietly collect data and send it back to the owner over any available Wi-Fi network. O'Connor built his prototypes with gear that added up to just $46 each, so sacrificing one for a single use is affordable."
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DARPA Funding a $50 Drone-Droppable Spy Computer

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  • by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @06:59PM (#38846145)
    But what happened to using cockroaches as the spies of the future?
  • Funding (Score:5, Funny)

    by TitusC3v5 ( 608284 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:04PM (#38846191) Homepage
    I drop F-bombs all the time, at a considerably cheaper cost.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I guess that explains why your enemies developed those SOAP missiles. They're great for dealing with F-bombs. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you really want to break the enemy send them a Nintendo Wii.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      If you really want to break the enemy send them a Nintendo Wii.

      The advice of Jimmy Buffett - Fly over and drop millions of five dollar bills. A week later, fly over and drop off mail order catalogs. Peace, full employement and um.. underwear.

      Often wondred if that approach would actually be more effective.

  • Really.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They're calling it the F-BOMB? Fuck that.

  • by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:11PM (#38846257) Homepage Journal

    "over any available Wi-Fi network."

    In cities this may not be a problem (though who runs an unencrypted Wifi AP in the city?!!?!?) but in rural areas I suspect WIFI may be hard to come by. It needs a better backup.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      "over any available Wi-Fi network."

      In cities this may not be a problem (though who runs an unencrypted Wifi AP in the city?!!?!?) but in rural areas I suspect WIFI may be hard to come by. It needs a better backup.

      So avoid AT&T territory...

    • Who's to say it would not be capable of cracking WEP, etc. to get access to encrypted APs? It seems that the encryption on many APs is (reasonably) crackable these days.
  • Once said, the next World War will be conducted with Nuclear weapons, the one following will be conducted with sticks and stones.

    Looks like things are playing out a bit different.

    The next World War to be conducted over networks by millions of tiny spybots?

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.

      Quote from an episode of The Simpsons.

  • Not welcome (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I hope we never meet. People who build stuff for the military are not welcome here. No, it's not cool that "one of us" gets DARPA funding. Security researcher? Arms dealer!

    • Not all of 'us' feel as you do. Most of 'us' do it purely out of curiosity, not because we want to impress some stranger on a forum somewhere. Hackers make the world go round, money keeps the bills paid. So just because he won't be welcomed in your basement does not mean I won't invite him down to mine.
    • imo, awesome new weapons tech == good

    • Where is "here"?

      The world has always been a nasty place and being able to wage war is useful.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 )
      The Internet was one of those things built for the military... Funded by DARP too. Doh!
  • They might be great against an adversary that knows they're being actively surveilled or to gather data in real time, but there's nothing covert about this. You're not going to see them dropping these on targets of interest that they want to remain unaware that they're being watched.
  • The article doesn't say, but I suspect the computer is Raspberry Pi. Throw in a cellphone-based modem, camera, and microphone and you've got yourself a spy.

  • by bongk ( 251028 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:31PM (#38846457)

    I recently started a similar project based on the $23 TPLink TL-WR703N travel router. Without any need for soldering or other "hardware hacking" you can build a battery-operated network drop box running OpenWrt linux. []

    There is a serial interface on the circuit board for the WR703N but you have to crack the box and do some soldering to connect to it. I've been toying with the idea to do just that to interface it with an arduino/parallax processor or sensors or whatever. I'm also playing with connecting a USB sound card and adding a microphone to record audio in the local range of the box.

  • by pesho ( 843750 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:43PM (#38846553)
    Can you build a Beowulf cluster if a B52 carpet bombs you with these?
  • Flood the market of the target country with modified cheap cell phones that include this capability hidden inside. Presto, involuntary Spy Nation! Maybe so US cell carriers have some experience that they could share here with the technology.

    The higher ups in such countries will want to have contraband high-end smart phones. Stuff 'em with all kinds of spy goodies, including a remotely activated battery bomb. When some particularly nasty critter answers the phone, relieve him of the weight on his should

    • If you're going to perform an act of war, it would be best to target their military installations. Targeting the general public with Trojan Remote Detonation Phones just might cause a bit more backlash than needed.
  • WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:08PM (#38846727)
    If you drop it from a drone? Some retard is going to say oh, look a free carbon monoxide detector. I need to plug this into my mud hut next to my poppy field, how convenient! If you have to have them plugged in, why not just send them with the troops?

    If we can make tracking devices that we use on whales, sharks, bears, etc, that are self powered, unobtrusive to the animal, and auto-upload to satellite or base station, we have to rely on some twerp plugging in the device -and- for free WiFi to be available for a military device? Pshaw.

    And people complain about dropping DARPA funding. With idiotic projects like this we damn sure should.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The carbon monoxide detector was merely a cited example. FTFA: "'It can fit whatever use case you want,' he says. 'Put it in a box of stale Triscuits in the office kitchen, and no one will touch it. Or hide it in a carbon monoxide detector and you can leave it there for months.'"

      And people complain about dropping public education funding. With terrible reading comprehension like this we damn sure should.

      • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
        So, you are going to drop a stale box of Triscuits from a drone into a break room. What technology performs that miracle?
    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      Strap a battery on it and they can drop it inside a rugged plastic case some unobtrusive solar collectors and it'd have days+ of runtime, capable of sitting in a field or roadside w/o anyone noticing.

  • Why not just drop $1.00 thumb drives loaded with spying software? 95% of the folks that find them will simply plug them into their computers (home or work) and "you're in".
  • It seems the real use of these would be domestic spying where wifi is more likely available. Even more likely is eventually equipping them with 3g or 4g. This would be usable in the US where for a fee they could get a wireless company or two to cooperate.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If I were ever impaneled on a jury and this sort of thing were submitted as evidence by the prosecution and the defendant were "majority", nullification.

    I am WHITE
    I eat PORK
    I own PROPERTY
    How DARE you treat those like me and those as one would the enemy for the sake of buying crude petroleum and selling Treasuries!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Okay, first, can we stop naming things so they'll come out with acronyms that mean funny things? As founder of the Society That Ostensibly Pushes Termination of Hilarious Atrocities Today, or S.T.O.P. T.H.A.T., I can tell you we work diligently to bring this kind of nonsense to a halt. Why can't the government come up with better names like in the old days, with Carnivore and Echelon, Blackhawk, and the Thud?

    Second... how is that made from parts from a mini-computer? A Mini-computer is the size of a fri

  • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

    because of SSID and passwords.

  • > Built from just the disassembled hardware in a ... mini-computer,
    > ... the F-BOMB serves as 3.5"-by-4"-by-1" spy computer.

    I don't think the summary author knows what it means.
  • I'm glad they used the most modern technology to make something more fugly and less rugged than a $5 Bud box.

  • Why just not install the "F-bomb" into each operation system at the factory? Why spread them from airplanes? Nowadays almost each computer has got a mike and a camera.

    And activate it only when necessary by a special encrypted signal from the central office. What could possibly go wrong?
  • As above, this idea was first put onto paper with the set of books How to Steal a continent and was called a creeper box.

    I wanted to do the same with a rasperberrypi when they first come out, as it again is dirt cheap and has all the requirements (save a compatable wifi). It has no moving parts, draws a very small amount of power.

    The only issue I'd have is could a battery package be made small enough to provide several weeks of uptime without making it huge ?

"Hello again, Peabody here..." -- Mister Peabody