Founder of SparkFun uses robot to crack safe
In front of a pretty tough crowd, Niwot’s SparkFun Electronics won the praise of hackers when a robot built by the company’s founder cracked open a locked safe in 30 minutes.
The live demo, during the annual security confab Def Con on Friday, was deemed a success when the safe’s door popped open “to rapturous applause from the audience of several hundred hackers,” according to a report of the feat by BBC News.
Nathan Seidle, SparkFun’s founder, had earlier shared with Wired magazine (and even earlier blogged about it on SparkFun’s site) about how his DIYrobot was able to unlock a Sentry Safe, a Christmas gift from his wife. Essentially, Seidle built a robot using a mix of parts from SparkFun and other companies, including its $20 Arduino board.
To narrow down the 1 million possible combinations — which would take four months to try one every 10 seconds — Seidle looked for shortcuts and found a key one.
Within one of the safe’s rotors aimed at preventing humans from using pressure and listening for an unlocking mechanism, Seidle’s robot could detect the silent difference that humans cannot. In the demo for Wired, the robot cracked the safe in 15 minutes.
Seidle told Wired that his safe-cracking robot wasn’t aimed at helping bur- glars but rather to show the changing nature of physical security, which should prompt vendors and companies to take note and make their own improvements.
Seidle was still traveling Tuesday following the Las Vegas event and unavailable to answer questions, but according to SparkFun’s public relations manager Megan Arnold, the Def Con demo was indeed live on stage and took 30 minutes.
“The safe-cracking robot was a project that came out of our new skunkworks program called SparkX that Nate is heading up now that he is no longer CEO,” Arnold said.
Seidle stepped down as chief executive last August to focus on “building crazy things.” The company, an online retailer that sells computer parts to DIYers, hired Glenn Samala from Arrow Electronics as its new chief executive.
Nathan Seidle built a robot to open a Sentry Safe and demonstrated it last month.