Wired Mag Hacks A ‘Smart Gun’ Using Magnets

Credit: Wired Magazine

For a variety of reasons not worth discussing fully here, I am personally against Smart Gun technology. Let’s just say there are enough mechanical and human variables that can introduce errors to an already dynamic defensive situation. Plus the whole ‘relying on a safety system and not yourself’ deal leaves a bad taste in my mouth. However, as much as I poke fun at manual safety enabled handguns, I’d never tell someone what they can or can’t carry to protect themselves.

As a precursor to the upcoming Defcon “hacker” conference this week, Wired Magazine posted an article featuring a researcher who successfully hacked the Armatix IP1 Smart Gun. Normally paired with a wristwatch that is worn by the shooter, the hacker who goes by the name “Plore” used magnets to defeat the pistol’s safety features.

For lovers of both guns and tech, the full article is worth the read. One of the highlights I appreciated at the end of the article was the hacker stating that people should be allowed to carry a Smart Gun if they so choose. I fully agree – it just won’t be me.

Thanks for the tip Dad.

Smart gun

Credit: Wired Magazine


FOR GUN CONTROL advocates, a “smart” gun that only its owner can fire has promised an elusive ideal: If your phone or PC can remain locked until you prove your identity, why not your lethal weapon? Now, for the first time, a skilled hacker has taken a deep look into the security mechanisms of one leading example of those authenticated firearms. He’s found that if smart guns are going to become a reality, they’ll need to be smarter than this one.

At the Defcon hacker conference later this week, a hacker who goes by the pseudonym Plore plans to show off a series of critical vulnerabilities he found in the Armatix IP1, a smart gun whose German manufacturer Armatix has claimed its electronic security measures will “usher in a new era of gun safety.” Plore discovered, and demonstrated to WIRED at a remote Colorado firing range, that he could hack the gun with a disturbing variety of techniques, all captured in the video above.


All of which suggests that Armatix’s IP1 is already a lost cause for gun-safety advocates. But Plore reasons that perhaps demonstrating its flaws can show future smart gun manufacturers how not to design safety measures. There’s no software patch that can fix the IP1. But future models of the gun, and those from other manufacturers, could integrate components with tighter radio timing restrictions to defeat Plore’s relay attack. They could use error correction and higher-powered radio signals to prevent jamming attacks. And to defeat his magnet attack, they could build their firing pin locking mechanism with non-ferrous materials, or use a motor that applies a rotary force to lock the gun that can’t be easily spoofed with a simple one-direction magnet outside its body.

Click for full video


LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Twitter: @gunboxready
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  • Anonymoose

    I see this technique being of great interest to the low-brow gangstas of the future. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2079d1d43060564ffbc32bb0e1b58d346b67a18a2ada56a6ef5b7ba0a695606a.jpg

    • BattleshipGrey

      His brows don’t look very low.

      • Anonymoose

        He doesn’t even have any, so maybe I should have said “no-brow gangstas.”

        • BattleshipGrey

          I thought the painted ones counted.

          • Rick O’Shay

            Those painted ones remind me of one of my brother’s ex girlfriends from back in the day. Woooof. Cholo eyebrows are a hell of a thing.

    • SP mclaughlin

      How juggalo-ist!

    • Alexander Nguyen

      Hahahaha but how do they work???

  • BattleshipGrey

    Thanks to Plore for exposing this. It’s sad how much time and money have gone into making a “smart gun” to make people feel better. It’s mindset and training that people need, not more software.

    • Pete – TFB Writer


    • Alexander Nguyen

      I saw a long comment thread on common Reddit the other day where some non-shooters asked why cops didn’t have networked holsters that automatically start a recording on a body cam when the weapon is unholstered. Everybody thought it was brilliant. I had to write a couple paragraphs explaining how absurd this idea is for pretty much countless reasons. Nice try though, love it when people who know nothing about guns think their opinions on them are valid

      • Iggy

        That actually sounds relatively doable and could be easily designed in a way that doesn’t interfere with the actual gun. So what’s the issue? It’s a holster with a couple of sensors added. And if you’re drawing a gun in the field you are prepared to kill someone, which is an incident that ideally should be on record.

        • Paul Rain

          I agree in theory, but I’m not sure a technical solution is the best way to address the problem of violent skinnies twitch shooting yoga instructors.

          • iksnilol

            Well, at the very least you have solid proof of them doing it so that you can jail them more easily.

          • Paul Rain

            How about just don’t hire the worst people on earth as cops?

          • iksnilol

            Okay, see, there’s your issue. You expect people to hire good people to be cops?

            I can’t even believe it.

      • iksnilol

        I don’t see why that’s a bad idea. It doesn’t interfere with the gun at all whilst providing extra safety (in regards to accountability).

        Or are you one of those folks that follows the thin blue line no matter what?

        • raz-0

          I think it’s a bad idea in that it is useless. We ask police to do a job that occasionally requires them to harm people for the public good. to this end we grant them qualified immunity. This gets abused, along with “non-abusive” mission creep the public simply does not approve of (i.e. it’s systemic abuse, not the individual officer) .

          The problem with the smart holster solution is it more than likely will omit near 100% of the data that determines the difference between a good use of force and a problematic use of force.

  • Dougscamo

    The anti-gun crowd knows no lost causes….

    • Cymond

      I’m not sure that’s true.

      Look at how many times they’ve changed strategies & targets, each time essentially abandoning the old.

      When was the last time you heard them whine about Saturday Night Specials?

      • Dougscamo

        They modify strategies….not THE cause….and heard the term Saturday night special within the last month on TV, just can’t remember the show….

        • Joshua

          there was a football movie not long ago that used the term Saturday Night Special

      • Edeco

        I get your point, but the last I heard about the scourge of highly concealable “junk guns” was the early 2000’s, prior to the AWB sunset. I mean I think >10 capacity offends them more and/or they think they can take it from us more easily, but if that falls they’ll move on to small, cheap guns. That is that >10 capacity serves as a redoubt, relatively protecting other issues.

        How unassailable our position would be if we could just grab (full) auto back! That’s kind of why I’m lukewarm on state-by-state incremental stuff.

        • iksnilol

          Y’all are screwed either way. If a gun has more than 10 rounds, it’s a killing machine. If it has less than 10 rounds then it’s a cheap everymans murder tool (IE junk pistols).

          They’ve always got a cause is what I’m sayin’, pardner.

          • Edeco

            That’s about the size of it. Without philosophical spine we got picked apart; guns were not military enough, then too military, then too small and cheap.

  • john huscio

    “I like my guns how i like my girls….stupid….”

    • Swarf

      And indiscriminate in who they let use them.

      • Joshua

        and 45? Or maybe 9, not sure that’s better

        • .45

          Suddenly I am more fond of my .22 pistol…

  • Pete Sheppard

    Unfortunately, there are states that won’t give their subjects the option, if a truly reliable smart-gun comes along…

  • aka_mythos

    I think if a smartgun is to ever become a remotely worth while thing, its development team needs so experience in electronic hardening and survivability under stress.

    I know I’m in a minority when I say this but I am pro-Smartgun. If for no other reason than to produce a gateway-gun for people who otherwise wouldn’t own a gun. Would it be great if… people got training and everything else, yes, but there are plenty of recreational gun owners and non-owners that will never invest that kind of time.

    The smartgun represents possibilities beyond just an alternate safety, for example tracking point’s aim assisting rifle has nearly all the fundamental components necessary for a smartgun and functionality like that only becomes possible when there is a willingness to accept integrated electronic subsystems.

    • .45

      I am pro smart gun in that I am interested to see what they come up with, not pro smart gun in that we should make them all smart and safe and easily turned off, etc, etc. I am actually surprised they have so much trouble with it. I mean, we have so much experience in basic wireless tech, how hard can it be? Can’t they just make a app for it? ;D

      • aka_mythos

        Agreed. Smartguns are not something that should be forced on anyone.

        I think many of the challenges come from the need of enough varied skill sets, gun smithing, electronic design, programming, engineering, manufacturing… etc… meaning it has to be either a very unique group of individuals or a large company making a big investment.. Everyone wants to compare this technology to a smartphone; Apple spends $2.5B/yr just to give us the iPhone. To ever have a viable smartgun will require either a military interest or an incremental development of the technology over time, with some precursor technology being monatized. Some operation like Tracking Point is probably the best poised to pursue this technology, too bad they screwed the pooch on all their r&d.

    • Edeco

      I’m not anti. I’d never use one myself of course. I don’t even really care if “smart gun” makers inspire or even collude with legislators to push laws mandating or encouraging them; I think we pro-gun people are philosophically right so let anti-gun people put their political capitol into smart guns and we’ll see what happens.

      And as you say, if they ever get vaguely market-viable they will probably tip the balance for a few apprehensive new people to start shooting, most of whom will then grow a set and use regular guns. Hehehe. Or not. Seriously there are people now who like DA + external, manual safety.

  • Vincent

    I’m always surprised when people nowadays don’t think about these things and cybersecurity in general until something happens.
    It’s not like hacking is a stationary thing that doesn’t improve in efficiency, complexity and cleverness.
    Next thing you know, someone snags that smartgun’s IP address and password, remotes in and sets it off in the holster or safe for malicious intent or for some very scary kicks.

    • .45

      That needs to be in a SciFi movie where a hacker uses a trick like that on security guards to surprise them and then follows up with ye olde fist to the jaw. I see the scene now. The implausibly attractive young woman with our future James Bond goes to take one of the guns thinking he can hack it and he just shrugs and says they don’t need to do that, he just deactivated all bad guy guns and it is time to make tracks. He then hacks the nearest fancy hotel’s doors and they go to the best suite for some fun, because that’s what future, past, or present James Bond would do.

  • Malthrak

    There is a lot of potential for electronics in firearms. Paintball guns have been using electronic triggers for almost two decades now and they can handle and adjust things like rate of fire, trigger sensitivity, dwell time (in things like old autocockers that had electronic solenoid valves), anti-chop eyes (e.g. the electronic trigger will hold the bolt open if a ball loads only partway from the hopper and fails to block a small continuous laser to avoid a jam or broken ball in the chamber), etc. There is a lot of utility possibilities for firearms in some circumstances.

    That said, they need dramatic hardening and even in paintball guns were never intended to prevent unauthorized users and were only ever intended to connect to anything with a hardwired connection, no RFID stuff.

    I think the concept of a Smart Gun as a safety measure is fundamentally flawed. A viable Smart Gun will be one that adds functionality, not one meant to break it.

  • Evan

    The question is, where did he get an Armatix iP1? I thought that company folded years ago when nobody bought their ridiculous and absurdly expensive pistol that didn’t work.

  • hami

    I imagine anyone in a market for a smart gun wants to prevent their weapon being taken from them and used on them.

    Unless Magnito wrestles your gun away… This shouldn’t be of much concern to those customers.

    It’s akin to a gun that is locked by a key, but can be fired by a man with a lock pick set.

    In principle it’s a failure, but not in practice.

    • .45

      I imagine anyone in the market for a smart gun wants their bodyguards to have stupid guns and everyone else to have smart guns rigged directly to their phone, and I mean the phone of the person with the bodyguards, not the phones of the smart gun users.

  • I’ve spent ten years working in safety critical embedded systems. On road steering and brakes, train pnumatic brakes, and off road steering.

    The mathematical trueism: you have to add parts to increase safety. More parts means more points if failure, which means decrease in reliability.

    Sure they do a rotary motor lock over a selenoid firing pin block. That motor will have a higher failure rate.