You might miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, but how many shots will you miss if your computer-aided sniper rifle is being hacked over WiFi?
In a recent WIRED article, security researchers Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger tackled just that issue. The wife and husband duo purchased two $13,000 TrackingPoint rifles and spent the last year reverse engineering and hacking the rifles’ computers. The two plan to present their research at the Black Hat hacker conference in two weeks, according to the article.
TrackingPoint bills itself as a company comprised of “lifetime NRA members and engineers.” The products sold on its website seem standard enough when it comes to a gun company: bolt-action rifles, semi-automatic carbines, etc. Though at second glance, these are not your grand-pappy’s shotguns. The “5.56mm semi-auto,” basically a M16-type rifle, costs more that $7,000. That’s roughly seven times more than you’d pay for, say a Bushmaster or Armalite.
The reason for the price hike? The onboard computer and scope. The rifles boast a setup that looks ripped right from the future. The company even mentions that some of the technology used in its rifles is also used to help fighter jets lock on to their targets.
Though advanced, the weapons are not secure. Using a WiFi connection, Sandvik and Auger figured out how to reprogram the rifles scope, disable the ballistic computer and even prevent the weapon from firing. In one test, the couple tricked the onboard computer into believing a .4-ounce bullet weighed 72 pounds, throwing the reticle, and subsequently the shot, off significantly.
Because of TrackingPoint’s recent financial difficulties and corporate restructuring, Sandvik and Auger won’t release exactly how they managed to hack the rifles.
Frank Bruno, the CEO of TrackingPoint defended his product in an e-mail, saying that “the hackers have demonstrated how much more difficult it is to make our gun misaim relative to a traditional firearm.”
While Bruno noted that TrackingPoint will still release a patch for its weapons in the coming weeks, he countered that in order to hack his weapons, the hacker needs to be within WiFi range — roughly 100 feet — and be a “linux hacking expert.”
“Even a 4 year old can hack a traditional gun,” he said, referring to the physical adjustments one could make to a regular weapon’s scope.