Frequently I post news stories on this site pondering how absurd, awful ideas made their way from boardrooms to retail, but this surely tops them all.
TrackingPoint are gun manufacturers that are perhaps most well-known for their AR series weaponry, most notably their sniper rifle. This Wi-Fi enabled rifle runs on Android and Linux, and utilizes the artificial intelligence gifted to it by being able to lock onto targets selected by the user, which leads to pinpoint accuracy and, according to TrackingPoint, “enables shots previously considered beyond human capability.”
If you’re the kind of person who loves guns and Wi-Fi, this sounds like a match made in heaven. But unfortunately there’s one glaring issue, and that issue is that anything with a Wi-Fi connection can be hacked. No matter how many barriers a company will set up to prevent this from being the case, there will always be someone more tech-savvy than them who will find a workaround and manage to hack into your device and make you look silly. Unfortunately, in the case of the AR series sniper rifle, these guns being hacked can lead to the hacker being able to shut them down or, terrifyingly, allow them to select a different target.
While the guns still have to be fired manually (thank God they do not shoot bullets of their own volition), a hacker can infiltrate their software and select a different target as the weapon is being utilized, or brick it altogether. While the former solution sounds like it would require a lot of preparation on behalf of the hacker, the potential issues it posits for tech of this nature in the future is alarming, if TrackingPoint and other arms manufacturers are to continue down this route.
This discovery was made by Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger, who are set to present evidence of them remotely hacking the TrackingPoint sniper rifle at the upcoming Black Hat hacking conference. The couple have spent $13,000 on putting in the research to prove that hacking the weaponry is possible, with them having contacted TrackingPoint multiple times with their findings but never receiving a response.
Thankfully only 1,000 of these sniper rifles have been purchased, and TrackingPoint itself is currently restructuring and therefore not selling any more of its rifles at this point in time. However, the threat of this kind of technology being implemented by other companies is very real, and we can imagine other weapon manufacturers overlooking the potential security flaws in order to deliver similarly accurate weaponry. Hopefully Sandvik and Auger’s findings will convince them otherwise.