Founder of SparkFun uses ro­bot to crack safe

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ta­mara Chuang

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.

SparkFun Elec­tron­ics

Nathan Sei­dle built a ro­bot to open a Sen­try Safe and demon­strated it last month.

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