SECURITY 07.24.17 02:06 PM

ANYBODY CAN FIRE THIS 'LOCKED' SMART GUN WITH $15 WORTH OF MAGNETS

FOR GUN CONTROL advocates, a "smart" gun that only its owner can fire has promised an elusive ideal: If your phone or PC can remain locked until you prove your identity, why not your lethal weapon? Now, for the first time, a skilled hacker has taken a deep look into the security mechanisms of one leading example of those authenticated firearms. He's found that if smart guns are going to become a reality, they'll need to be smarter than this one.

At the Defcon hacker conference later this week, a hacker who goes by the pseudonym Plore plans to show off a series of critical vulnerabilities he found in the Armatix IP1, a smart gun whose German manufacturer Armatix has claimedits electronic security measures will "usher in a new era of gun safety." Plore discovered, and demonstrated to WIRED at a remote Colorado firing range, that he could hack the gun with a disturbing variety of techniques, all captured in the video above.

The IP1 purports to limit who can fire it by requiring that the shooter wear a special Armatix watch. If the gun and the watch can't connect via a short-range radio signal that extends just a few inches, the gun won't fire. That's the idea, anyway. But Plore showed that he can extend the range of the watch's radio signal, allowing anyone to fire the gun when it's more than ten feet away. He can jam the gun's radio signals to prevent its owner from firing it—even when the watch is inches away and connected. And most disturbingly, he can mechanically disable the gun's locking mechanism by placing some cheap magnets alongside its barrel, firing the gun at will even when the watch is completely absent.

Plore notes that unlike many gun owners, he's not opposed to the principle of a gun with added layers of electronic authentication. But he says the politicized debate over smart guns hasn't examined the far more basic question of whether they actually provide the security they promise. "If you buy one of these weapons thinking it’ll be safer, it should be," Plore says. "In this case, it was so easily defeated, in so many ways, that it really failed to live up to its side of that bargain...Misplaced trust is worse than no trust at all."

READ THE FULL STORY ON WIRED.COM