Hacking a computer-aided sniper rifle – USA TODAY
LAS VEGAS âÂ Using Wi-Fi, two security researchers found a way to subvert a computer-aided sniper rifle.
Computer security researchers Runa Sandvik and her husband Michael Auger hacked a TrackingPoint TP750 precision-guided rifle.
They were able to cause it to miss its target, disable its computer and turnÂ its scope off entirely.
They presented their findings Thursday at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.
The rifles are made by TrackingPoint, a Texas-based company founded by hunters and engineers.
Sandvik and Auger came up with several ways to make the computer-assisted rifle miss its target.
One involved wirelessly telling the gun that the wind conditions or the ammunition were different from what they actually were, which in turn caused the firing solution to be significantly off.
“Using the mobile app, you can say the bullet weighs a lot more than it does, or that it’s a super windy day,” said Sandvik.
They also found it was possible to take control of the rifle’s software, permanently changing its targeting variables or making the spotting scope inoperable.
TrackingPoint’s firearms feature software-enabled shooting scopes and aiming mechanisms that dramatically extend the effective range of the average shooter.
There’s also a Shot View app that streams video of what the shooter is seeing to a nearby phone.
“Being able to see them line up the shot and see what they’re doing, it was actually very interesting,” Auger said.
The researchers emphasized the gun cannot be fired remotely via Wi-Fi or the Internet â the trigger must be pulled manually.
Since making their discovery, Sandvik and Auger have been in contact with TrackingPoint. “They’ve been great to work with,” Auger said.
In a statement on its website, TrackingPoint said it’s investigating the issue and will provide customers with a software update for their weapons “if necessary.”
The company noted that its guns can only be compromised if the hacker is close to the gun physically. Shooters can continue to use Wi-Fi “if you are confident no hackers are within 100 feet.”
Both Sandvik and Auger work in computer security, but this research was more a lark and done on their own time.
“The reason we started doing this in the first place is because Runa is from Norway, and has a very romanticized image of the United States. So I decided we needed to go to a gun show â there’s nothing more American than a gun show,” said Auger.
They went to one near Washington, D.C., where they live, and went into a TrackingPoint booth. Sandvik started looking through its literature, which stated the firearms’ software could be accessed from the customer’s phone via Wi-Fi.
As computer security professionals, that piqued their interest.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Can we buy one and hack it?'”
Although it had a hefty $16,000 price tag, they purchased the gun and spent the next year taking it and its software apart so they could understand it.
Despite their findings, Auger isn’t particular worried about the dangers their hack of the TrackingPoint rifle uncovered.
First off, there are very few of these guns in current use. “They’ve sold fewer than 1,000,” said Auger.
In addition, Sandvik noted that for their hack to work, the gun’s Wi-Fi feature had to be turned on “and almost nobody uses the Wi-Fi feature.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Elizabeth Weise on Twitter: @eweise