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Turning the Belkin WeMo Into a Deathtrap

timothy posted about a year ago | from the they-keep-poltergeisting-me! dept.

Security 146

Okian Warrior writes "As a followup to yesterday's article detailing 50 Million Potentially Vulnerable To UPnP Flaws, this video shows getting root access on a Belkin WeMo remote controlled wifi outlet. As the discussion notes, remotely turning someone's lamp on or off is not a big deal, but controlling a [dry] coffeepot or space heater might be dangerous. The attached discussion also points out that rapidly cycling something with a large inrush current (such as a motor) could damage the unit and possibly cause a fire." In the style of Bruce Schneier's movie-plot threat scenarios, what's the most nefarious use you can anticipate such remote outlet control being used for?

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First post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755447)

...I think...

That thing on the C64 Floppy drive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755459)

Where you bang the read head against the case until it falls off...

Re:That thing on the C64 Floppy drive. (1)

aevan (903814) | about a year ago | (#42755521)

*misreads as red-head

Well..the topic is 'plug and play'

Re:That thing on the C64 Floppy drive. (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#42755573)

I'm pretty sure that was not one of Bruce Schneier's movie plots ... at least not one he wrote down.

If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755465)

Please, please, learn some common sense.

Never have a heater like that unattended, it's just not safe.

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (4, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about a year ago | (#42755557)

Agreed. Heaters should never be left unattended.

Always put them on a timer, or better yet, a remote-controlled outlet you can monitor and control from anywhere.

I have a Belkin unit that works great. Highly recommended!

space heater have temp and tip over switches (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42755681)

space heater have temp and tip over switches that can trun it off.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755823)

I can't help but wonder if things like space heaters and such should be used with an outlet like this in the first place. Those things can spec in kilowatts. We've tripped 20+ amp breakers at work with them more than once (not alone).

I'm a little irritated that there don't appear to be any ratings listed on the vendor's product page for the thing either, though I'm sure it exists somewhere.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42756253)

Relays can and do handle current like that. There's no reason other than cost that this could not be made with a high current rating.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42757277)

I'm well aware of that. What I was saying is it wouldn't surprise me if these are not.

Further searching revealed my answer, 120v 15a. Which means for some space heaters (just using example I mentioned before), you're in "maybe not a great idea" territory at sustained 85% of rating.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (1)

hurfy (735314) | about a year ago | (#42756933)

hmm, the info on the 'buy' page says "connect any appliance or device" but very little actual spec info.

I really doubt they intend for me to controll my 1975W minicomputer with this..of course i am chicken to turn it on without this gizmo but still :) Someday i'll find out if it gets up to speed before the breaker trips.

(1975W is the startup power, but that is what they are talking about)

I am thinking that this relay is gonna fry before a device can do damage however. Can't believe Belkin would use good enough relays to switch enough power to do as suggested before it dies.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (1)

dkuntz (220364) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757299)

That should do just under 20A draw, if my maths are correct... A 20A circuit can handle it briefly... or just wire up 2 20As into a 20A 220:)

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757669)

A typical electric space heater comes in 3 ratings.

500W
1000W
1500W

That said, I found a cute little 200W one [meijer.com] that barely feels warm even after running for hours at walmart that is intended for use on cubicle farm desks.

It really *IS* 200W at peak. I have run it successfully for hours on a 400W DC plug power inverter meant for a laptop during a winter camping trip. My impression is that the ceramic heating core heats efficiently, but that it has a rather guttless fan.

If they used something like that on the remote controlled outlet, I doubt it would cause a fire.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42756239)

Both (well, the tip switch anyways) are mechanical and can fail. They certainly help but should not be depended on.

Re:space heater have temp and tip over switches (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756899)

space heater have temp and tip over switches that can trun it off.

The only time I went away for a weekend and accidentally left the heater on, I came back to find it half melted in a room that felt like a sauna. As far as I could tell, the fan had seized up, and the heating element just kept going, even when it got hot enough to start softening the plastic case. So much for safety switches.

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756369)

That's not going to count as attending to the heater.

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (1)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42755599)

Aww, I only want to make my bathroom nice and toasty by remote control before I get out of bed, you cretin! :)

But yeah, seriously. Great tool for lights or remotely cycling power to a home server. Dumb dumb dumb idea to connect anything intended to make large amounts of heat (coffee pot) or dangerous motions (table saw).

Oddly, I thought UL/CE wouldn't approve products like this specifically for that reason - That we simply can't trust most people to have the common sense not to try to remote-start their electric self-propelled lawnmower. Nice to see networked outlets finally exist, but I fully expect we'll hear about plenty of Darwin awards as a result of plain ol' misuse, no need to require malware in that equation.

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (1)

babywhiz (781786) | about a year ago | (#42755875)

Why would you not base it on inside/outside temperature? Seems to me that is easiest than remote control....

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (1)

babywhiz (781786) | about a year ago | (#42755881)

Or...easier than....my brain is fried today...

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42756363)

Why would you not base it on inside/outside temperature? Seems to me that is easier than remote control....

Because not every application needs to heat based on the ambient temperature (that just takes a thermostat). Usage enters into it as well.

I have a friend with an unheated airplane hanger, and an antique prop-start plane he flies once or twice a week. He has a magnetically attached heater for warming the engine oil prior to starting it in cold weather (really useful when you have to spin it by hand.) Because of the risk and expense of operating a heater unattended, he wants to power it as little as possible. Since he needs to turn the heater on about an hour before he flies, and he lives about half an hour from the airport, this is the perfect application for a remotely controlled switch to operate a heater.

A better trigger would start a one-shot cycle that would power it on only for about two hours max, and then shut itself off as a safety precaution. It would also be wired into a smoke detector, and be thermostatically protected. And finally, it would be much better protected from malicious users than the WeMo is.

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42756555)

Because of the risk and expense of operating a heater unattended, he wants to power it as little as possible. Since he needs to turn the heater on about an hour before he flies, and he lives about half an hour from the airport, this is the perfect application for a remotely controlled switch to operate a heater.

Because of the risk of running the heater unattended, he puts it on a remote controlled switch so he can run it unattended? Attached to a valuable thing like an airplane? That's filled with flammable stuff called "avgas"? And may be covered in fabric coated in dope?

Wow.

What happens when he's forgotten to attach the heater before he leaves and then turns it on remotely? Or it comes loose from the engine and is laying in the engine compartment against a spar or fabric cover?

Re:If you're putting a space heater on a remote... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756165)

Aww, I only want to make my bathroom nice and toasty by remote control before I get out of bed, you cretin! :)

I'll install radiant floor heating in your bathroom if you like. That's actually safe, since it's not going to be anywhere near as much electricity, and it'll probably be more comfortable for you.

Servers need power, too! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755505)

One of the worst tech support nightmares I experienced was remotely diagnosing why the Point of Sale servers kept shutting off at the same time every week. It turned out that the outlet the battery backup was plugged into was connected to a light switch that the weekly cleaning people turned off - weekly. When support came into the room, what was the first thing they did? Turn on the lights!

Imagine power cycling all the outlets in a server room - over and over and over!

Re:Servers need power, too! (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about a year ago | (#42756799)

A story I read once, no idea if it's true:

A mainframe at a university would shut down with no warning, usually a little after midnight, then a few minutes later power back up. Nobody could figure out why. Finally, some desperate grad students decided to sit and watch the computer in person and see what happens. And what they saw at the appointed hour was a janitor coming in and unplugging the power cord so he could plug in his vacuum cleaner.

Mainframes need hardwiring, too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42757651)

The problem with that story is most mainframes are hardwired into the mains.

Creating Paranormal Activities! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755511)

Yes, there's probably someone out there who won't realize their appliances are online, and then these devices start doing things on their own all of a sudden. It will be ghosts, goblins, shenanigans, and lulz for all.

Re:Creating Paranormal Activities! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42755903)

and some may come over and thing it's that odd looking power strip must of gone bad and is cutting in and out.

Re:Creating Paranormal Activities! (5, Funny)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42756093)

Yes, there's probably someone out there who won't realize their appliances are online, and then these devices start doing things on their own all of a sudden. It will be ghosts, goblins, shenanigans, and lulz for all.

One day at noon a few months ago, my wife was in our kitchen watching a TV show about paranormal activity of some sort or other. At the same time, being unaware that she had gone home for lunch, I was demonstrating my home automation setup to a co-worker by flicking the kitchen lights on and off from my phone.

She is so cool. She immediately assumed I was playing with the home automation. The thought of it being ghosts synchronized with the TV show simply amused her.

I married well.

Re:Creating Paranormal Activities! (1)

airdweller (1816958) | about a year ago | (#42756575)

"She is so cool. She immediately assumed I was playing with the home automation. The thought of it being ghosts synchronized with the TV show simply amused her.
I married well."

Yeah, rub it in harder, will you?

Re:Creating Paranormal Activities! (2)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about a year ago | (#42756647)

"She is so cool. She immediately assumed I was playing with the home automation. The thought of it being ghosts synchronized with the TV show simply amused her.
I married well."

Yeah, rub it in harder, will you?

My wife's a programmer.

Re:Creating Paranormal Activities! (4, Funny)

adolf (21054) | about a year ago | (#42756783)

My wife's a programmer.

All wives are programmers.

good thing Michael Crichton isn't alive to see thi (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year ago | (#42755515)

Charlie Luther's [imdb.com] just getting started...

EPILEPSY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755525)

Flashing lights, hoping to chance upon an epileptic? :3

Home Invasions? (1)

Kadagan AU (638260) | about a year ago | (#42755537)

How about turning off the lights of a house before the burglar or attacker invades? It could cause a lot more confusion and danger for the home owners.

Swatting (2)

PapayaSF (721268) | about a year ago | (#42755597)

"Hello, 911? I am trapped in my house at 123 Main St. by a gang of armed robbers. I'll blink a lamp to let you know a good time to break down the front door. I'm hiding under a bed, so shoot anyone else."

Re:Swatting (1)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#42756199)

I downloaded a home automation script for my Vera that flashes the front lights rapidly in case of emergency; and I can trigger it to signal the first responders. (It tests OK on a lamp, but I've never had an emergency requiring me to actually use it.)

Re:Home Invasions? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about a year ago | (#42755649)

Honestly, its easier to just pull the meter.

or they can just clap to trun them back off (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42755909)

or they can just clap to trun them back off

Teledildonics hacking? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year ago | (#42755561)

Say no more. Say no more...

Re:Teledildonics hacking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756003)

"Yamete, oshiri ga itai!!!" XO

Re:Teledildonics hacking? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year ago | (#42756227)

Says you! What a pain in the ass, eh?

Worst Case Scenario (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755563)

Forcing someone's DVR to record and play Jersey Shore.

Re:Worst Case Scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755965)

You.. You monster!

Re:Worst Case Scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42757777)

Worse, make them watch honey boo boo

Money trap (1)

coldsalmon (946941) | about a year ago | (#42755585)

You could cause a poor person's electricity bill to increase so much that they cannot afford medical care, or the utility company cuts off their heat and they freeze to death.

Re:Money trap (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756285)

Are you really that dumb?

Re:Money trap (1)

Latissimus (2629263) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757311)

Change the neighbors water heater set point. Do it over night and return to the original set point again in the morning when they might check it. Ramp it up / down over a few weeks just for fun. When the repair guy shows up, make an offer to buy the old one just to see if you can "fix" it.

Subtlety. (3, Funny)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42755621)

In the style of Bruce Schneier's movie-plot threat scenarios, what's the most nefarious use you can anticipate such remote outlet control being used for?

Turn off the fridge after the victim goes to work for the day, and turn it back on about an hour before they get home.

Repeat until they die... of Botulism! <Cue evil laugh>

Re:Subtlety. (1)

griffjon (14945) | about a year ago | (#42755719)

You laugh, but in Peace Corps I actually had a fridge whose thermostat controls were dead, so it operated at either full-blast (freezing everthing) or unplugged. I abused an x10 plug and a timing script run off a computer to cycle it on and off over the course of the day to regulate it. Never died!

I think the most nefarious thing would be to turn off automatic coffee-makers ~ 15 seconds after they'd started, so the grounds are soaked and warm (i.e. ruined*), and there's no coffee.

* For anyone who considers having a automated coffee pot with grounds in it overnight not /already/ a ruined coffee experience, that is.

Re:Subtlety. (2)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year ago | (#42755863)

You laugh, but in Peace Corps I actually had a fridge whose thermostat controls were dead, so it operated at either full-blast (freezing everthing) or unplugged. I abused an x10 plug and a timing script run off a computer to cycle it on and off over the course of the day to regulate it. Never died!

I think the most nefarious thing would be to turn off automatic coffee-makers ~ 15 seconds after they'd started, so the grounds are soaked and warm (i.e. ruined*), and there's no coffee.

That would be grounds for fully justified homicide. No jury in the 1st World would convict.

Re:Subtlety. (2)

cloudmaster (10662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757681)

"Grounds"? So, after allowing the facts to percolate, there'd bean no chance of convection?

Re:Subtlety. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#42756607)

I think the most nefarious thing would be to turn off automatic coffee-makers ~ 15 seconds after they'd started, so the grounds are soaked and warm (i.e. ruined*), and there's no coffee.

* For anyone who considers having a automated coffee pot with grounds in it overnight not /already/ a ruined coffee experience, that is.

In an office, I'd set it so it'll shut off after 1 minute so there's half a cup of coffee in there.

Not only will there never be enough for a full cup, but the person who discovers it has to make a new pot. The person too lazy to make a new pot will just never get a cup of coffee, or be rude and empty the pot without making a new one.

WeMo vs. high current devices? (1)

userw014 (707413) | about a year ago | (#42755701)

I just visited the WeMo web pages and couldn't find any technical information about what watt or amperage limits on it are.

I have a hard time believing that it can handle a 1500 watt heater.

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755777)

..but you know what a RELAY is... right?

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756673)

...and you know that any electrical device, including a relay, has an upper limit on its power capacity...right?

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (1)

BeerCat (685972) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757181)

...and you know that any electrical device, including a relay, has an upper limit on its power capacity...right?

So you get a relay to power the relay to power the device!

It's relays all the way down

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755785)

I'd be more interested to know whether UPnP on it exposed to the Internet, or do you have to be on the same LAN. In the video it seems he's on same 10.x.x.x LAN with hacked WeMo. Not very useful and scary if so.

(Lamp starts flickering, dramatic music) "*gasp* The connection comes from inside the house!"

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756327)

Once you pair a device to the WeMo, that device can access it from the outside world. I've got UPnP turned off, and it still works, so it doesn't seem necessary. Oddly enough, there's an actual service built around it, and a For Dummies scripting language. My lamp blinks off and on every time I get an email now. Pretty fun. I wish it had a simple web interface like my Web Power Switch, though. (http://www.digital-loggers.com/lpc.html)

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (5, Funny)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year ago | (#42755843)

I just visited the WeMo web pages and couldn't find any technical information about what watt or amperage limits on it are.

I have a hard time believing that it can handle a 1500 watt heater.

1500... Would that be the definition of a WeMowatt? (Beware the sleeping lion tonight.)

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#42755987)

Would that be the definition of a WeMowatt? (Beware the sleeping lion tonight.)

Bravo, sir. You win the pun of the day award. I bow before your horrendous pun, and wish I had thought of it first.

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (1)

cwebster (100824) | about a year ago | (#42755877)

Relay switched, so your circuit breakers will be the limiting factor, not this switch.

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (1)

maeka (518272) | about a year ago | (#42756655)

Yea, because relays all can handle unlimited current.

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (1)

suutar (1860506) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757173)

true, but 1500 watts is only 12.5 amps at 120 volts; that's not a whole lot of current to switch.

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (1)

niteshifter (1252200) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757413)

It's a bit more complicated than that. Reactive or resistive loading? Consider a typical portable room heater: A large percentage pure resistive (the heater) and a smaller percentage of reactive loading - the fan motor. Now examine the ratings for our relay - note the disparity in levels handled for resistive load vs "motor" (inductive loads). A typical relay can sport contacts that would handle 1.5KW - resistive. That's about 2 horsepower - but the relay's rating disallows operating motors greater than 1/3 to 1/2 HP (about 250 to 350 VA). And that's our problem - the presence of reactive loads requires a large derating wihich most folks are blithely unaware of. Also it's good practice to "bypass" either motor or relay contacts with a resistor-capacitor "snubber" or an MOV to take up the inductive kickback lest switching this load cause the relay's contacts to fail: %50 rate on fail to close (no *safety* problem) or fail to open - welded contacts, this is a safety problem, aka FIRE!

Relays have limits too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756931)

Relays have voltage and current limits as well.

Indeed, in line voltage applications, you also need to consider the type of load. A purely resistive load, like a space heater, is the easiest on the relays since all they'll see is whatever voltage and current the heater runs on. Other items, like compact fluorescent bulbs, contain capacitors which will charge instantly when power is applied, which creates a brief spike in current flow at a time when the relay contacts are most susceptible to damage (when they're not fully engaged). Even worse are inductive loads as they are capable of creating much higher voltages when power is disconnected.

To make things worse, relays are often marked for loads they can't handle. For example, when building a bank of switched outlets, I first used some cheap relays marked "6A 300VAC" which one might expect to be just fine for switching less than half an amp of compact fluorescent bulbs. However, it took only ten minutes for relays to begin failing. One might say it was because of the inrush of current when the bulbs are first connected to power, but I suspect the problem was simply that the relays weren't actually good for such a load even if it were purely resistive. You have to consider the effects that high voltages will have on the relay contacts when they open and close. Anyway, I replaced the relays with some of these [jameco.com] , though I believe they were closer to $5 a piece when I bought them, and I never had a problem after that.

Anyway, I wouldn't assume a switched outlet is good for any sort of load that it isn't specified to handle, and even for those it is, I'd still be suspicious.

Re:WeMo vs. high current devices? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756121)

I'm surprised two people told you it was a relay, so it didn't matter. Relays have amperage (and voltage) ratings too. Anyway, it's a 15 amp plug and they're be hell to pay if it didn't handle 15 amps, so it does [belkin.com] . I agree, it's strange they don't have any specs online for it.

murder. (1)

nblender (741424) | about a year ago | (#42755711)

A suicidal performance artist using it to have himself anonymously murdered.

Re:murder. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756043)

A suicidal performance artist using it to have himself anonymously murdered.

You seem confused; the summary says "nefarious," as in, you know, something bad happening.

Late for work (1)

butabozuhi (1036396) | about a year ago | (#42755757)

Turn off a co-worker's alarm before a big event. Nasty.

Re:Late for work (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#42756129)

Turn off a co-worker's alarm before a big event. Nasty.

If your co-worker has his alarm clock on a switched outlet of any kind, that says a lot about the level of intelligence your company requires for people doing your job.

So the flaw in home automation products (2)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about a year ago | (#42755825)

...is that homes often house stupid people.

Asimo dropping a toaster into a bathtub (1)

kawabago (551139) | about a year ago | (#42755885)

Asimo killing his human master by dropping a toaster into his bathwater.

Re:Asimo dropping a toaster into a bathtub (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756059)

Why does he need a toaster? Pretty sure he isn't watertight, he could just jump in himself.

Re:Asimo dropping a toaster into a bathtub (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#42756747)

This could be dangerous.

Suppose someone were to turn on the power remotely to the leads connected to our cast-iron bathtub when my wife takes her bath at approximately 9pm (CST) every night. Suppose this happened tomorrow when I'm out bowling.

It could be tragic! Despite my having taken out a $1.5million life insurance policy for her, I'm not sure I could go on (though I know she'd want me to).

Re:Asimo dropping a toaster into a bathtub (1)

BeerCat (685972) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757215)

Absolutely tragic. Now what was the IP of your home automation again...

Of course, I wouldn't dream of using that information in the wrong way, so there'd be no possible harm in posting the info.

For everyone else. You mean they can see this? Ooops. :-)

Rapidly cycling a lamp on and off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42755895)

Rapidly cycling a lamp on and off (incandescents and flourescents have lag, but an LED lamp doesn't), and rapid flickering can result in those with photosensitive epilepsy to have a seizure (they give warnings on some films and video games). Remotely controlling an air conditioner or furnace can cause damage to a house (furnace in summer, air conditioner in winter). The furnace running in a hot house could cause heat damage and possibly a fire in summer. In winter, and air conditioner (or even just the lack of a furnace) can result in water pipes freezing and bursting (Ice occupies more space that liquid water, and the pressure is easily enough to rupture a steel pipe, not to mention asphault roads, rock faces, etc). Frozen/burst pipes followed by a thaw would cause flooding damage (Ice will also rupture pumps and valves). Remotely controlling a garage door is a theft problem/stray animal problem. Remotely starting and running a car can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Usually remote car starters can't control engine speed, (so no chance of over-revving and destroying the engine), but you could run a vehicle out of fuel (and since most vehicles have fuel pumps in the gas tank and these pumps are partially lubricated by the fuel, running a tank dry means running a pump dry, and so you have to replace the tank and pump if you run the vehicle out of fuel). Industrial equipment is an entirely different cat.

Older than dirt. (2)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#42756027)

An early episode of "Perry Mason" (ca 1959) turned on the use of an R/C device to manipulate an antiquated gas space heater, establishing an alibi for the killing.

When the inventor of the gadget became a plausible suspect, Mason had the gas line inspected for undocumented repairs. In the end, that made it obvious the real killer had to be the first one to discover the body --- giving himself enough time to remove the device and cover his tracks.

Re:Older than dirt. (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#42756743)

Hey, spoiler alert, jeez.

Belkins actually advertising it for this (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#42756073)

Belkins actually advertising it for the very purpose they're worried about:
http://belkinwemo.tumblr.com/post/32629402162/did-i-turn-it-off-i-must-have-turned-it-off-did [tumblr.com]

Plug in dangerous things so you can be sure their turned off by checking your phone.

FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756109)

This strikes me as the sort of thing someone would post and flood to every content aggregator if they wanted to gain themselves a lot of exposure for finding a flaw in an embedded wireless device.

The fact that it has a cute little relay on it doesn't really make the "attack" much more remarkable. $10 says that the web UI for the thing is vulnerable to XSS, completely negating the need to root the device itself. Hacking embedded web servers isn't a real feat by any measure. [devttys0.com]

Toggling a relay on and off will just result in the contacts wearing out, I could see it causing a problem if you get it to repeatedly arc, but these things won't be rated for enough current for that to be a problem - the fuse in the should blow if the device somehow draws a dangerous amount of current.

Airconditioning Unit (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#42756193)

Cycling an air conditioner quickly can do bad things quickly if the air conditioner itself doesn't have modern controls to limit power cycling. That can get very expensive, though I don't necessarily think it is dangerous.

Re:Airconditioning Unit (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | about a year ago | (#42756897)

Any air conditioner without both overload trips and compressor short cycling protection is almost certain to be dead of old age already..

People *will* die (1)

Jeff Carr (684298) | about a year ago | (#42756317)

Most nefarious use? Turning off the coffee pot in the morning.

Re:People *will* die (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about a year ago | (#42756683)

Wheels. I vote for controlling wheels.

Home Automation, "Convenience"... (2)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about a year ago | (#42756329)

Home Automation apologists, flame away!

I think things like this are the tip of an emerging ice berg relating to the ip-ification of everything:
  • You haven't upgraded the firmware in your garage door opener?
    • Did you properly set permissions on your gas furnace?
      • Which version of the HomeSafe *nix Kernel are you running in your UPnP'd entertainment system?

      etc; etc;

      To me, all Home Automation does is increase complexity and security risks for some specious conveniences.
      Maybe it's just me, but I would rather have to remember that I'm out of Mayo, than have an ip'd fridge send a message to my Android that I need to pick it up at the store.

but would someone plug into a web socket? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756365)

Please limit your suggestions to appliances that one wold expect to be plugged into a web socket. Lights yes. Space heaters maybe. Coffee pots? Well, why not just buy a coffee pot with a timer? Refrigerator? no except for a special case some mention from his peace core days. Something that could burn down the house? not likely. The only 2 scenarios I can think of do not reach the movie plot threat level.

1) strobe the lights in a house of the person with epilepsy. Could cause a epilepsy fit but I think the victim could leave the house once the fit was over (even if he had to craw out with his eyes shut).

2) Turn on the all the web outlets at the same time and hope it's enough to pop a circuit breaker. 16 of the old 100 watt light bulbs or 2 space heaters should pop a 15 amp fuse. Do it during the super bowl to a circuit with the TV and you may have an upset niner or raven fan.

evil? (1)

pbjones (315127) | about a year ago | (#42756557)

turning their computer off before they save a document, then turning it back on, so they blame Windoze.

Space Heater (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756779)

This is a bit far-fetched, but power-cycling a space heater at some certain rate might end up over-heading the wiring in the walls. When the coils in the space heater are cold they have a much lower resistance than when they are hot, so the current through them is much higher at turn-on. It's not clear to me which would happen first: the fuse heats up and blows, the house wiring heats up to the point where it causes a fire, the contacts in the wall-socket overheat, or the space heater becomes warm enough that the current is limited to a safe value.

Re:Space Heater (1)

hurfy (735314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757003)

How about:
The relay or relay contacts on this gadget give out.

Nuclear Reactor Cooling System (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42756887)

...in the movies, these aren't redundant and would likely be controlled by such a device (by an overzealous electronics geek of some sort).

Worst thing: Synchronize them! (3, Insightful)

Avidiax (827422) | about a year ago | (#42756889)

1. Root these devices, and synchronize their clocks
2. Turn them all off
3. Monitor the power network for a temporary increase in voltage (since load was suddenly shed)
4. Just as the voltage gets back to normal, turn all the devices on.
5. Watch the power network for a temporary decrease in voltage (since load was suddenly added)
6. Just as the voltage gets back to normal, turn all the devices off.
7. Once you have found the resonant frequency of corrections to the electrical grid, tell all the devices to cycle at that frequency.
8. If there is enough load handled by these devices, the system may oscillate so heavily that voltage is far outside of normal, causing overheating or fires (either too high voltage for resistive loads or too low voltage for inductive loads), excessive vibration, design parameter excursions, etc.

Re:Worst thing: Synchronize them! (1)

suutar (1860506) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757197)

ah, there we go, true movie-plot scale thinking. Bravo!

what's the most nefarious use you can anticipate.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42756981)

How about turning on the lights in the USPTO so they can see what they are doing.

Re:what's the most nefarious use you can anticipat (1)

zootbar (2025130) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757229)

How about turning on the lights in the USPTO so they can see what they are doing.

I kind of fail to see how that would change anything.

Re:what's the most nefarious use you can anticipat (1)

zootbar (2025130) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757313)

How about turning on the lights in the USPTO so they can see what they are doing.

I kind of fail to see how that would change anything.

And maybe I should read the post properly before replying. True indeed.

Thoughtful design-- (1)

sillivalley (411349) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757377)

I've been using home automation since the 80's (damn, that's a long time ago) in the dark ages of X10.
As with many systems, there are some important questions to keep in mind:
Does this system or particular controlled device have benign failure modes? The answer better be "Yes!"
How do I secure access to the system? (Hint: don't connect it directly to the Internet!)
Does this system have a master OFF switch and easily useable manual controls? (Think COLOSSUS Forbin Project - again, the answer better be "Yes!")
Is automating this going to piss off someone I don't want to piss off? (E.g. I like motion-controlled lighting in some rooms; my wife hates motion controlled lighting.)
How can this whole thing go sideways at 3AM and give me a cheap thrill?

Most nefarious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42757539)

Dr. Evil can use the WeMo to remotely detonate an explosive charge on 2012 DA14 so it DOES hit the Earth..

On a server with an HD? (1)

hedley (8715) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757561)

There I was, deep in dreamland one night when, from my server room I heard a faint beeping noise at regular intervals... Groggy, I wake up, totter over to the 'server room' door (spare bedroom) and have a gander. In a groggy state it took me a moment in the dark to perceive what was going on, the APC UPS was power cycling the server and other ancillary items at a regular interval, turns out, when the battery goes south, the UPC just crowbars the AC and reboots (repeat...). Now, HD's were connected to the server and each one was cycling up for a few seconds, then spun down only momentarily etc. Terrible on spinning media. Luckily all was well in the end but its important to understand the failure modes on UPCs for your application esp if spinning media is connected.

H.

Playing with people's minds is fun (1)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | about a year and a half ago | (#42757749)

I'm assuming one room with at least 2 WeMos for simplicity's sake... As preparation, I'd have to place wireless cameras at the windows and make sure I can see every angle from my Base Of Evil Operations.

I'd let the lights behave normally for about the first 10 minutes they're turned on with somebody in the room, then make one "flicker" (like an electrical issue might cause) and shut off. Wait for the person to approach the light, turn that WeMo back on, wait for them to head back to wherever they were at, flicker off again when they pass a certain point.

After a couple of times doing that, I'd then start affecting that light plus a second one when they pass close enough to it, and so on with all of the lights in the room. When they get frustrated/upset, turn all the lights back on right after they leave the room, keep them on when they return and sit down... ...well, that is, keep them on just long enough for them to relax, then repeat with some variation, always making sure it always appears to happen in response to something they do or somewhere they go, so it doesn't look random enough to tip them off.

Another version of this for somebody that has a partner currently doing something in another room would be to either just flicker the lamp for short bursts (maybe "WeMo Rocks" in Morse code) *or* do the earlier lamp flicker-die/on/off trick. When the person leaves to tell their partner, wait for the two of them to come, then have it act completely normal, like the original victim was imagining things or something. Wait for the partner to leave, then perhaps make one light at a time flicker and die, or do it to all of them except one -- whatever gets the best reaction.

Damn, if I had enough free time I'd go look through the BOFH website for ideas...

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