Haunting Peoples’ Houses Over the Internet (and neat RF detector)

So, memory lane time. Way back when, I was a *rabid* fan of a certain Bertrand R. Brinley’s novels… I suppose you could call them books about hacking before there were computers. Hacking, instead, with surplus electronics and scientific and radio equipment and entirely too much engineering knowledge.

One of the more amusing stores the guy wrote was about engineering a “haunted mansion” — that appeared genuinely haunted when some braggardly types triend to spend the night there.

Through the magic of modern computerized everything, you need neither electromagnets hidden in the walls nor radio transmitters to pull it off these days… in fact, you can do it from the comfort of your evil hardcore hacker lair.

Just find someone stupid enough to have decided “hey, this smart home business sounds neat! I should place my comfort and sanity in the hands of electronics I can’t possibly understand, designed by someone who probably knows nothing about security!”

Because, as it happens, many of these systems are just plugged into the Internet with not so much as a password to protect them.

TV on… Lights on… Lights off…

Cue song… volume up. “AH, HA, HA, HA, STAYIN’ ALIIIIVE…”

Lights on… lights off.

Neat RF detector:
A membrane suspended above two conductive pads forms a capacitor. Put an inductor in series, and you have a narrowband LC circuit… which will select out a particular frequency.

Now, whenever the voltage across a capacitor varies, the electrostatic force attracting the two plates together also varies.

Therefore, by bouncing a laser off the membrane, you can measure the electrostatic-force induced movement of that membrane.

As it happens, this setup has a much lower noise level than most any conventional radio receiver. http://m.technologyreview.com/view/517336/physicists-detect-radio-waves-with-light/



““I can see all of the devices in your home and I think I can control them,” I said to Thomas Hatley, a complete stranger in Oregon who I had rudely awoken with an early phone call on a Thursday morning.

He and his wife were still in bed. Expressing surprise, he asked me to try to turn the master bedroom lights on and off. Sitting in my living room in San Francisco, I flipped the light switch with a click, and resisted the Poltergeist-like temptation to turn the television on as well.

“They just came on and now they’re off,” he said. “I’ll be darned.”[…]

Thomas Hatley’s home was one of eight that I was able to access. Sensitive information was revealed – not just what appliances and devices people had, but their time zone (along with the closest major city to their home), IP addresses and even the name of a child; apparently, the parents wanted the ability to pull the plug on his television from afar. In at least three cases, there was enough information to link the homes on the Internet to their locations in the real world. The names for most of the systems were generic, but in one of those cases, it included a street address that I was able to track down to a house in Connecticut.”

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