It was only a matter of time before bored DIY geeks began combining fun toys with dangerous snooping technology; which is exactly what someone did when they combined a DIY remote-control toy helicopter with wireless-network-hacking computer. The end result is the ominous sounding SkyNET bot, a menacing hacker drone with an even more dubious-sounding name.
The Terminator-inspired name SkyNET may be just the ticket to purveying exactly how ominous a fly-in-the-air wireless hacking machine can be. This cheap and easy to build machine can be built for less than $600 ($300 for the helicopter alone) by anyone with a curious mind and even the slightest technical know-how. Building the machine requires only a remote-control helicopter (SkyNET uses a Parrot AR Drone Quadricopter) modded with a lightweight computer (SkyNET uses Linux), a 3G connection, a GPS receiver, and 2 Wifi cards (one for the remote control and one for attacking the wireless networks).
The machine has received mixed reviews though, with some afraid of the possibilities and others dubious of its real capabilities. Those fearing the machine worry that the machine will be easily used as Botnets for use in hacking, denial-of-service attacks, spamming, and in leaching personal information. Others fearing the machines are afraid that our networks have become too advanced for our own good and going back to cable (eek, ethernet) will no longer be an option to evade the devices.
Those who are dubious of the machine’s real capabilities include R/C aficionados, who understand that controlling these machines at long distances is incredibly difficult as R/C machines rely on line-of-sight vision to direct. R/C helicopters still require line of sight seeing as civilian GPS can’t tell you where high-wires, trees and birds are. This issue however is easily remedied if you were to install even a cheap webcam, giving you the line-of-sight needed to properly maneuver the devices. Either way many aren’t expecting the machines to take off since this would require hackers to leave the comfort of their parents basement and be out in the fresh air — something that nocturnal vampire-like hackers may not be apt to do anytime soon.
Interestingly enough SkyNET’s creators, researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology must not have watched Terminator enough to know that advanced robot machines always turn on their creators. Surely there will be a hacker out there that sports the irony and uses a SkyNET-like robot to hack the Steven’s Institute’s networks.