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 and a few other tools, there are several great DIY hacking projects that will test your mettle and teach you a few things about networking at the same time. Let's take a look at some of them.
Title image by Tina Mailhot-Roberge
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. With that out of the way, let's take a look.
Build A DIY Wi-Fi Hacking, Password Cracking, Mobile 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 showd off 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.
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. 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.
Build an Arduino TV Annoyer
The 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.
Turn An Airsoft Rifle Into A 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi Sniffer
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 collapsed 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, 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 over $1000 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, 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.
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