Monday, February 24, 2014

Pondering "Smart" guns

T-Bolt asks if you would get one.

A bunch of people have been musing on the reliability or lack thereof of this technology, and saying that they'd demand that the cops have them too to demonstrate adequate reliability.  Me, I'm not so sure.  My starting position is that the software quality is almost certain to be miserable, but (while I'm admittedly nasty and suspicious) that's not my beef.

This uses wireless communications between the gun and some sort of fob (watch, ring, bracelet, etc.).  What are the communication protocols?  Nobody says.  Has there been an independent security examination (a "penetration test" in technical jargon)?  Nobody says.  That silence is all you need to know that the security of the system is a sewer of vulnerability.

And so it's entirely plausible that someone could make up some sort of fob that scans for these guns and then runs an exploit against them, disabling them.  In other words, the "Bad Guy" Smart Gun® wristwatch beats the Good Guy™ wristwatch and when Good Guy pulls the trigger there's no boom.

If these sorts of guns ever become popular (because all others are banned), I expect to see this sort of attack pretty quickly.  The Computer Security crowd leans pretty heavily towards gun rights, and pretty much hates most forms of Big Government douchebaggery, and so this would get a lot of attention for the guys who pulled it off.  In other words, the motivation to do the investigation is high.

But that's not why I'll never own one of these.  This is:
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) on Friday is expected to introduce legislation requiring all smartphones and tablets sold in the state to contain a so-called "kill switch," which would render the device inoperable if it was lost or stolen. The bill, which is sponsored by San Francisco Attorney General George Gascón, would apply to any device sold after Jan. 1, 2015.
So once only "Smart" guns can be sold, how long until there's a legally required backdoor in the software that allows the Authorities to disable the weapon from a distance?  Do we measure that timespan in minutes or milliseconds?
To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them.
- George Mason
The government of Athens, TN would have loved to have this.  J. Edgar Hoover would have loved to have had this.  Viktor Yanukovich would have loved to have had this.

And quite frankly, I suspect that the people who think that you can be forced to buy insurance you don't need or want, who think that TV news content should be regulated by FCC Commissars, who like the IRS auditing their political enemies, and who think that people who advocate for decentralized government in line with the text of the Constitution are "Domestic Terrorists" - I suspect that they'd like to have this sort of capability, too.

And so the problem with "Smart" guns isn't that the technology might not work.  The problem is that it might work all too well.
A government resting on the minority is an aristocracy, not a Republic, and could not be safe with a numerical and physical force against it, without a standing army, an enslaved press and a disarmed populace. 
- James Madison 
Actually, this quote nicely captures the activity of the IRS. the FCC, and gun control laws.  Got all we can use, thanks.

Bootnote: There's no question as to whether the NSA has the expertise to crack this technology.  No question at all.


Dave H said...

Jamming a smart gun that relies on any kind of wireless authentication device is probably easier than you think. A radio transmitter broadcasting a fairly wideband signal at the gun's operating frequency would swamp its receiver, preventing it from hearing the user's tag transmitter. A jammer like that wouldn't fit on a perp's wrist, but it'd probably fit in a knapsack or a coat pocket.

Or a MOLLE pouch. (wink)

Eric Wilner said...

Ditto Dave H.
When I read of this yesterday, I pondered the wireless link with its 10-inch range, presumably under optimal conditions, and promptly figured that an unsophisticated jammer wouldn't need a lot of power.
Actually hacking the gun is neither necessary nor interesting, as long as the "smart" tech is just blocking operation of a normal firing mechanism. If it had an electronic firing mechanism, though... hoo boy! Update the firmware to fire after a 1.7 second delay, or at 11:43 on Tuesday, or....

Stephanie Belser said...

What Dave said. Any halfway competent radio geek could design and build such a jammer.

Of course, the odds of there being criminals who are smart enough to design and build one would probably be "one in a very large number". So the Chinese will make them, and ICE will track who gets them.

deadmandance said...

Nope, not interested. I did just buy a another revolver, though.

Robert Fowler said...

Most of the tech stuff is beyond me, I was a automotive tech. The thing I find amusing is the manufacturer seems to think a 10% failure rate is acceptable. How would you like to need that bad boy only to find out the chambered round is the 10th one. That would be a holy shit moment.

Robert Fowler said...

Passed along at

Dave H said...

Stephanie Belser: Criminals as a rule aren't that smart, but there are some enterprising geeks out there who'd be happy to sell such a device. Or to sell something they claimed would disable a smart gun, knowing they're not likely to get may complaints when it fails.

Kind of like some defense contractors.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Of course, the odds of there being criminals who are smart enough to design and build one would probably be "one in a very large number"."

And that "one in a very large number" is going to make a pretty darn good living selling jammers and de-borked guns to the rest of them.

And, like Dave H said, there will be plenty of others willing to sell something they claim will do it, but doesn't. They are, after all, crooks.

Ken said...

Clippy: "It looks like you want to shoot a home invader."

Borepatch said...

Ken, LOL