BBC Micro Bit could be used by hackers to hijack drones

The BBC’s Micro Bit can be employed in all manner of projects, but the latest usage of the miniature computer board is to power worrying hacking attacks including hijacking a drone.

This was demonstrated by Damien Cauquil, who is senior security researcher at Econocom Digital Security, over at the Def Con hacking conference at the close of last week.

In a talk entitled ‘Weaponizing the BBC Micro Bit’, Cauquil elaborated on how his team took a few months to hack into the Micro Bit’s firmware, then attached it to a drone controller handset and used that to take control of someone else’s quadcopter while it was in mid-flight.

The Register reports that taking over control of the drone didn’t always work perfectly, with latency issues sometimes interfering and causing lapses in the connection between the hijacking controller and machine, but it seemingly worked well enough.

Given that drones are dangerous enough when piloted by their owner at times, let alone some mischievous hacker, the potential misuse of this ability is obviously a highly worrying prospect.

Keyboard capers

Cauquil also showed how he could turn the Micro Bit into a tool which is able to sniff out keystrokes from wireless (Bluetooth) keyboards, hiding the device on a desk to read sensitive details like passwords. He called this “an improved sniffer inspired by the mousejack tools designed by Bastille”.

Of course, other compact computer boards could be used to pull off these sort of hacking stunts, such as the Raspberry Pi. And perhaps the real concern here is the apparent (relative) ease of hacking wireless devices more than anything else.

Although Cauquil did further observe that the Micro Bit’s wireless hardware and Python support made it better at over-the-air sniffing and hack attacks than a good deal of ‘dedicated’ hacking devices.

That said, most folks are still using the Beeb’s little computer to achieve things like programming their own games, but who knows what the future holds for the million plus Micro Bits out there in the UK.

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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).