As technology is advancing, we’re seeing smarter devices being developed to make our lives more streamlined and efficient. Whether it’s your laptop, mobile phone, TV, even cars are now designed to be self-run. However, with technology comes hackers and it’s now been discovered that your skateboard ride to work can be sabotaged if you ride an electric skateboard. Not to freak anybody out, but it’s something we feel everybody should be aware of.
When two security experts discovered a massive flaw in electric skateboard technology, it opened the door to hackers making it an unsafe ride for these types of commuters. The potential for this problem first occurred to Richo Healey, who works on security for payments company Stripe, when he was riding his electric skateboard.
Healey’s board suddenly stopped working when he reached an intersection, ceasing to receive orders from his remote control. As it turns out, the high volume of Bluetooth traffic surrounding the intersection interfered with his remote’s connection to his board.
Recognizing this defect, Healey figured it would be easy to hack a Bluetooth-enabled electric skateboard. He teamed up with Mike Ryan, who works on security for eBay, to develop an exploit which they’ve called FacePlant. They describe FacePlant as “a synthetic version of the same [radio frequency] noise” that Healey experienced at the intersection.
The exploit allows the researchers to gain complete control over someone’s electric skateboard, letting them either stop the board completely or send it in reverse at full speed. In either scenario, the rider is put at a risk of being physically harmed.
Many electric skateboards, such as the Altered Phantom, operate off of commands transmitted to them wirelessly (and unencrypted) by a Bluetooth remote control held by the rider. The skater controls the acceleration and braking of the board with this remote.By disrupting the Bluetooth connection, the hack, allows hackers to take control of someone else’s electric skateboard and do anything from overriding the speed limits set on the board to stop the board completely.
Healey and fellow hacker Mike Ryan went to work testing the Bluetooth security of a Boosted Board as well as of an electric skateboard from Australian manufacturer Revo and one from the Chinese manufacturer E-Go.They found flaws in the security of all three boards. But ultimately, they aren’t hoping to cause transit pandemonium with their hack; rather, they are hoping to force electronic-skateboard manufacturers to make their devices safer.“The point of the research is to remind vendors that they do have a burden to users to make safe products,” Healey said.
Healy and Ryan tell Wired that the board slows briefly before it begins to roll backward, so if you’re alert enough, you can prepare yourself. But if not, you’ll likely end up eating asphalt. They presented their findings at the Def Con, an annual Las Vegas hacker conference.
Here’s How the Face Plant Hack Works
According to the exclusive interview that the boys did on Wired, the Boosted Board works with an app, which controls two 1,000-watt electric motors. There is a small handheld remote, which the rider uses to adjust speed using Bluetooth Low Energy wireless technology, and a battery that allows the board to operate for about six miles on a single charge. A “dead man’s switch,” which the rider holds down to stay in motion, cuts the motor if the rider releases the switch.
Because the Bluetooth communication is not encrypted or authenticated, a nearby attacker can easily insert himself between the remote and the app, forcing the board to connect to his laptop. Once he achieves this, he can stop the skateboard abruptly, ejecting the rider, send a malicious exploit that causes the wheels to suddenly alter direction and go in reverse at top speed, or disable the brakes. An attacker can also simply jam the communication between the remote and the board while a driver is on a steep hill, causing the brakes to disengage.
Obviously, the dangers of somebody hacking your board can be a little scary. Even if you’re riding at 20 miles an hour, a sudden stop can cause havoc for you and the surrounding traffic around you. Does this mean we should burn every electric skateboard in the market? Of course not, but it’s good to be aware of these occurrences happening. We recommend doing your research before purchasing your next electric skateboard, and you should be okay.