War-flying with a Wi-Fi-sniffing drone

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If old school wardriving and Wi-Fi sniffing is no longer effective, someone forgot to tell Google. Nevertheless a couple of guys who are interested in computer security, grew bored and decided that wardriving was played out. They introduced an awesome mod and war-flying at DefCon 18. Their bright yellow drone is adorable with big eyes as if to appear ever so innocent.

Hak5 showed up at the Hardware Hacking Village to interview Mike and Rich, from Rabbit Hole, about their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hacking platform called W.A.S.P. (Wi-Fi Aerial Surveillance Platform). The inventive gentlemen explained in the interview that their fully functioning UAV has the potential to act as a penetration testing tool for Wi-Fi networks. It would not be stopped by fences and may be one of the coolest way to discover if your data is secured.

I emailed Mike and Rich to find out more. Incidentally, they were incorrectly labeled as Dutch in the media. Mike (a.k.a. RedQueen) and Rich (a.k.a. WhiteQueen) are Midwest, corn-fed Americans who started building their autonomous UAV in their garage back in October of 2009. They started with onboard wardriving gear, but they soon moved far past that.

Rich wrote, "It didn't take long before we decided Wi-Fi networks weren't enough. So we added Bluetooth, Cellular, and imaging capabilities that we can easily add and remove based on our needs. It all plugs into an onboard USB hub, so the possibilities are infinite."

The airframe is a surplus U.S. Army target practice drone. Rabbit Hole has more information, specifications, as well as extensive images of this project. These guys were even nice enough to point us in the right direction if we want to build our own war-flying drone. It can communicate with a ground station for real-time tracking, payload interaction, flight operations, and data download. It can also serve as a network router. Since the UAV has 3G Internet connectivity, the operator can "control the payload from anywhere in the world -- including mobile devices. It also allows for processor-intensive applications, such as WPA attacks and password cracking, to be offloaded securely in real-time to a remote computing powerhouse utilizing CUDA technology, for mind-blowing performance."

They were kind enough to give me some other facts. "Our goals were relatively simple. We wanted it to be cheap enough that we wouldn't go broke building it. Not wanting to scratchbuild every component, it needed to use as much off-the-shelf equipment as possible. It needed to fly long enough to be able to do something interesting. One person should be able to load it in and out of a station wagon without any special equipment. Finally, and most importantly, we wanted anyone to be able to follow in our footsteps without needing to be a PhD, electrical engineer, or aeronautical engineer."

The war-flying W.A.S.P. weighs about 13 pounds with a length of 76 inches and a wingspan of 67 inches. Rich said it has a flight time of approximately 30-45 minutes with a maximum estimated altitude of around 22,000 feet. "It flies a preprogrammed set of GPS coordinates, while collecting data, and returns to base. We can also interrupt the course, and cause the UAV to 'loiter' around an interesting target, allowing us more time to investigate."

Now that DefCon is over, Rich and Mike have already started advancing the project. They intend to improve flight characteristics, reduce weight, and add other cool capabilities like GSM. If you wish to know more, keep your eye on the sky or on Rabbit Hole. These creative and security-minded guys are not done with their impressive inventions. This may be one of the coolest mods ever!

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