Transparency Grenade: Detonate cyberwar weapon to leak sensitive data

While there's plenty of cyberwar talk and hackers hitting sites before leaking information like a weapon, now there's grenade to aid such exploitation. A hacker / artist who helped create Newstweek, a hidden device that hardware hackers could use to distort or otherwise manipulate the news at Wi-Fi hotspots, is at it again.

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This time with an information weapon designed to remind us of cyber warfare.

Julian Oliver, a Critical Engineer and tech savvy Berlin-based artist, recently created the Transparency Grenade for a Studio Weise7 exhibition.  Oliver wrote, "The lack of Corporate and Governmental transparency has been a topic of much controversy in recent years, yet our only tool for encouraging greater openness is the slow, dreary process of policy reform. The Transparency Grenade offers an iconic cure to these frustrations."

This grenade is modeled after a Soviet F1 hand grenade, but it doesn't explode after the pin is pulled. Instead the Transparency Grenade (TG) makes "the process of leaking information from closed meetings as easy as pulling a pin." It's actually a tiny computer, microphone and wireless antenna that captures network traffic and audio. Then it anonymously and securely streams to a dedicated server before being mined for juicy details. "Email fragments, HTML pages, images and voice extracted from this data are then presented on an online, public map, shown at the location of the detonation."

The data collected, streamed, mined and leaked is highlighted with a large red "detonation" dot. Below is an example of a browser-based map interface using San Francisco as the site of the Transparency Detonation and then a partial screenshot of images viewed on the TG Transparency Report.

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Governments may be the "dream target," but whether or not there are plans to test it in governmental or corporate settings is not known. Oliver said he certainly wouldn't mention such plans to the media. "I will not offer the public map interface and data mining parts as a service (that'd be illegal, wouldn't it!). I will however provide code for people to install on their servers and or study," Oliver told We Make Money Not Art.

Oliver printed the translucent shell from highly resistant resin, but the sterling silver operational triggering mechanism, screw-on locking cap and other metal engravings were hand-crafted by Susanne Stauch.

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TG uses a "modified Angstrom OS, a GNU/Linux embedded operating system popular on ARM devices." As seen above, the TG components include " include a 'Gumstix' ARM Cortex-A8 computer with expansion board, Arduino Nano (for SPI display control), LED Bargraph (for wireless signal level, controlled by GPIO pin outs from Overo COM), powerful 802.11 board antenna, 3.7v battery, 64x32 pixel LCD RGB display (harvested from NKK 'SmartSwitch), 5mm cardioid microphone and an 8Gb MicroSD card."

Although the design is artistically attractive, it's not like it would be invisible to law enforcement. Therefore an invisible TG version is in the works via development of an app for rooted Android devices. The smartphone app will run "invisibly" in the background and "will mimic some of the functionality of the grenade." Oliver noted, "A GUI will be provided for configuration. Due to legal concerns the author will not provide a server for using this application. However, all code will be published for study and so that others can set up their own service, should they find a worthy need for it."

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