(LAS VEGAS) — A team of hackers cracked open a combination safe live on stage at Def Con, the largest gathering of underground hackers in the world, by using a robot.
SparkFun Electronics Team was able to open a SentrySafe in about thirty minutes at the convention in Las Vegas, according to the BBC, with their robot discovering the combination in front of the audience of several hundred hackers.
SparkFun’s Nathan Siedle told the BBC, “That was one of the scariest things we’ve done. Lots of things can go wrong and this was a very big audience.”
A spokeswoman for SentrySafe could not be reached on Friday.
Hackers have been unsuccessful in their attempts to use a robot to open a combination safe until now.
After Siedle’s wife Alicia bought a safe on eBay, the team began working on cracking the safe with the robot.
The mechanism in the safe consists of three dials which, when aligned, allow the safe to be opened. Each dial can be any two digit number – meaning one million potential combinations.
While attempting to crack a safe, the robot has the ability to detect the size of indents. The correct indent is larger than the incorrect indents. The other two dials cannot be measured but eliminating one reduces the number of possible combinations. This method cuts the number of possible combinations to around 1,000.
Before the attempt, Siedle told the BBC the robot could be easily adapted to tackle any combination safe.
“We designed it for a particular type of safe, but it doesn’t really matter – you can actually 3D-print a coupler that can match any safe that you may have,” he said according to the BBC.