3D-printed hacker bots can brutally crack mobile phone PIN codes

If you think no one will try all 10,000 combinations to crack a smartphone's four-digit PIN, then you're wrong. Costing just $200, the 3D-printed robot will try one code per second to violently crack your phone. Android 4-digit PIN in 20 hours tops!

Security researchers Justin Engler and Paul Vines plan to showcase the "mobile hacking bot" called R2B2 at the DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas early next month. The R2B2 can operate the keys on the touch screen or the physical keys. It's really just a finger-shaped robot that costs under $200 to build, using three $10 servo motors, a plastic stylus, an Arduino microcontroller with plastic parts printed using a Makerbot 3D printer, and a $5 webcam to track whether the robot successfully guessed the code.

The device can be connected to a Mac or Windows PC via USB and is controlled by a simple code hacking program. The researchers plan to release the parts list, detailed build instructions, and STL files for 3D printing at the hacker conference presentation.

Not all phones can be cracked by R2B2's. Apple's iOS, for example, greatly increases the time to crack by adding a delay after a password is entered incorrectly. Whereas Android phones just have a 30-second delay after every five incorrect PINs are entered, at that rate the bot could guess five PINs every 35 seconds, so all 10,000 possible PIN combinations would only take 19 hours and 24 minutes.

Justin Engler and Paul Vines are working to improve the efficiency of robots for cracking on non-touchscreen devices such as automated teller machines (ATMs), hotel safes, and combination locks. Engler said R2B2 helps raise awareness among concerned agencies that four-digit passwords are highly insecure. Because a six-digit password will take R2B2 an extra 80 days to crack.

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