How to defeat a not-so-smart gun

Having your PC hacked can be quite irritating and expensive to repair, but having your defense gun hacked can be much more annoying – and dangerous.

For some gun control advocates, smart guns – i.e. firearms that includes technological features that allow them to fire only when activated by an authorized user – are the solution to avoid tragedies like shooting accidents and the use of stolen weapons by criminals. Smart guns can be tracked and locked remotely, and only their legitimate owners can unlock them, they say. Well, they have been proved wrong. 

The electromagnetic lock of an Armatix iP1 “smart gun”
The electromagnetic lock of an Armatix iP1 “smart gun” can be defeated with some cheap magnets.

A security researcher whose nickname is “Plore” heard about the Armatix iP1, a .22 LR caliber German-made smart gun that boasts an electromagnetic lock. The producer states that the pistol will not fire unless it is in range of a special RFID-equipped wristwatch that transmits a radio signal to unlock the gun. Because of these high-tech features the Armatix iP1 has a pricetag of 1,400 US dollars: Plore, the hacker, defeated its security features using a simple 15,00 USD-worth magnet placed near the breechblock. 

A video shows how he was able to shoot the gun without the watch. (Video from Wired)

Actually, Plore found many different ways to hack the Armatix pistol and its “smart lock”. 

"I was almost a little surprised myself that it worked like it did. I pulled the trigger and it went 'bang,'" he said. What's worse, he was also able to jam the radio frequency band (916.5Mhz) and prevent the gun from firing when it should, thus making it “locked” and ineffective. Not the best situation in a self-defense situation. “Not only was it unsecured, it was unsecured in a way that I had not anticipated”. 

Armatix GmbH Smart System, the iP1 pistol manufacturer, has been informed of this serious issue, but till now no recall of the gun has been announced. Plore says he wants to test other smart guns. His hope is that “the future of smart guns will learn from this lesson and make a better product".