Security researchers reveal defects that allow wireless hijacking of giant construction cranes, scrapers and excavators


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Time to use the hackRF with a directive antenna… :wink:


I think we all know how this sort of thing started. Something about a human cyborg coming back in time…


I think a lot of equipment doesn’t even have keys, so anyone with physical access has always been able to do whatever they want. A couple months ago, some guys in my town stole a front-end loader and used it to tear out and steal a Wells Fargo ATM.


Just imagine the YouTube videos that await when the Lockpicking Lawyer learns to code!




they also lock gates and patrol work sites though.

that model doesn’t scale when anyone in the world can poke the fence for holes, or poke every fence in the world in minutes.

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I think most of these have keys, but they are standardized. It’s just so that the random guy on the street can’t walk up and steal one. Similar to police handcuffs.

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Imagine the future:

And think of what would have happened if the real life killdozer guy was remote controlling his “tank” instead of being inside it.


Maybe I need to say a bit more on this kind of hacking.

Sevaral SDR kits are readily available. I cited the HackRF, but there are others. If you only need reception, look for RTL-SDR USB sticks, for about 25$. More info:
(that device will only do reception, the hackRF can transmit)

Any of these devices will allow one to decode radio transmission protocols, if they are not encrypted. The software is open source, for example gnu radio.

What does this mean in layman terms? It means that a moderately gifted hacker can program these devices to emulate various radio controlled devices. Construction equipment, as shown here. But also communication equipment (including gsm base stations…), some wireless locks, some contactless cards, etc…

Here a project which emulates a cell phone base station out of a cheap USB video adapter:


might be type cast in eagle eye but had the suitable effect


Are you suggesting that after hijacking one of these machines you put up a fake base station to intercept all emergency calls? That’s devious.


Think you mean “can walk up.”


That is something I did not think about. You could also try to jam the police phone network.


Saw that movie in the theater back in the day. Yeah, it was bad.

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But why is any of this stuff wireless?

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I don’t know for all machines, but I have seen people operating a crane from the ground. It seemed to make sense, then.


maybe we shouldn’t be using RF to control everything


I’ve been in factories with 5 or 6 cranes running in a single bay; one in particular had 4 x 750m long bays with at least 5 cranes per bay, so 20ish cranes. In the old days, each of the cranes has an operator up in a gondola. So up to 20 employees sitting in cranes, sometimes unable to do much due to other cranes being in the way (they can all move to each end of the rails, but can’t cross each other); see this example; there’s 2 cranes in the near bay, and one in the further bay.

Gondolas are pretty rare now. Most cranes are controlled with remote controls by operators on the floor. The remote is hung on a cable coming from the winch truck, and it’s usually pretty beefy. This is better than one operator per crane in a gondola, but the cable and controller box can be a hassle to keep out of the way, and in some factories, really impractical.

So, go wireless! Still industrial-size for ruggedness, but so much better. Biggest problem is maintaining discipline to ensure they’re charged up and stored in the proper place.

For a big factory with 20 cranes, it’s serious business keeping cranes operating efficiently. At some point it makes sense to have a dedicated crew just for cranes. Not as many as required in the one-operator-in-a-gondola-per-crane, since it’s rare that every crane is in use at any time.

I recall serious panic when a crane broke down in the middle of travel at one factory. It locked all the other cranes in the bay to stay at one end. Problem was so serious that they took down the broken crane and installed a spare during the overnight shift. And these were 25- to 50-ton cranes, 20m up near the roof, so

Apparently I have a lot to say about cranes.

TL;DR: everyone loves wireless things…

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