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HackyPi Is a USB Dongle Designed to Teach Ethical Hacking | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


The general public still hears the word “hacking” and pictures black hat baddies trying to steal innocent identities. But our entire community is built on the fact that hacking is so much more than that. Hardware hacking is all about tinkering out of curiosity and a desire to improve consumer devices. White hat hacking explicitly rejects nefarious activity in the name of improving security and better understanding of computer systems. If that sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, the new HackyPi USB dongle was designed to teach you how to start your ethical hacking journey.

HackyPi recently launched on Kickstarter with a modest $609 funding goal. The campaign has already raised more than $16,000 from 444 backers, so it is clearly capturing the interest of burgeoning white hat hackers. This device is a simple and affordable platform that makes it easy to practice some hacking techniques. It doesn’t somehow give people the ability to break into bank accounts or steal cars — that would be unethical and isn’t very feasible anyway. HackyPi just gives people a tool to practice a handful of techniques that can affect computers that they can physically access.

HackyPi puts three important components on a single board: a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller, an SD card slot, and a 1.14” LCD screen. The RP2040 is configurable as USB HID, which means a computer will see it as a standard keyboard or mouse. That is the key to most of the hacks that the device can enable. They perform a series of key presses or mouse clicks automatically, which can make the computer follow a pre-determined set of actions. For example, you can shut down a Windows 10/11 PC by sending the following keyboard shortcuts: Win + X, U, and U again. If you programmed HackyPi to send those shortcuts, it would shut down any Windows PC it was plugged in to.

There are many simple hacks like the above example that one can perform. Some are more interesting, like opening a web browser to access Gmail and send an email. But it is important to note that the potential for abuse is minimal. The key press/mouse click technique can’t accomplish anything that a user wouldn’t be able to do on their own using the actual keyboard and mouse. More complex hacks are possible, but modern operating systems have protections in place to prevent unauthorized users from utilizing those well-known attacks.

If you want a HackyPi, the Kickstarter campaign will run until February 5th. Backers can snag a single device with an enclosure for $25. Rewards should ship in March.

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