While electric skateboards have been gaining in popularity recently, two hackers have raised concerns about the safety of the devices by unveiling a hack last week that allows them to remotely take control over other people’s electric skateboards and bring them to a screeching halt:
Many electric skateboards, such as the Boosted board, operate off of commands transmitted to them wirelessly (and unencrypted) by a Bluetooth remote control held by the rider. The skater controls the acceleration and braking of the board with this remote.
By disrupting the Bluetooth connection, the hack, amusingly named “FacePlant,” allows hackers to take control of someone else’s electric skateboard and do anything from override the speed limits set on the board to stop the board completely.
The idea for the hack came when Richo Healey, one of the two hackers who developed FacePlant, was riding his Boosted board through an intersection in Melbourne, Australia, that had a large amount of radio frequency noise. Healey was thrown from his board as it came to a stop unexpectedly, and he realized he could replicate that.
"I got to thinking, what is it about this environment and can I replicate it?" he told Wired.
Healey and fellow hacker Mike Ryan went to work testing the Bluetooth security of a Boosted board as well as of an electric skateboard from Australian manufacturer Revo and one from the Chinese manufacturer E-Go.
They found flaws in the security of all three boards. But ultimately, they aren’t hoping to cause transit pandemonium with their hack; rather, they are hoping to force electronic-skateboard manufacturers to make their devices safer.
“The point of the research is to remind vendors that they actually do have a burden to users to make safe products,” Healey said.
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