A pair of computer programers have found a way to hack into electronic skateboards, and force them to toss the riders off the deck, slamming them onto the ground.
Richo Healey was cruising around on his e-board in Sidney, Australia last year, when all of a sudden the wheels stopped and he got jacked onto the pavement.
Being a computer security engineer, he quickly checked out his board, and seeing no obvious mechanical failure, concluded that it must have been some interference in the bluetooth signal sent from the boards handheld controller to the motor that powers the board.
“the best thing you can do when you take over a skateboard? Tell the wheels to go full speed backwards”
Teaming up with fellow computer boffin Mike Ryan, Healey then set about reverse engineering the fault to find out what caused it. The pair then developed a program that they called FacePlant, designed to take control of other digitally controlled skateboards.
Using FacePlant, anybody can stop boards dead in their tracks, or even jam the wheels into full reverse, tossing whoever’s riding to the ground.
But are the fellas up to no good? They claim they aren’t.
“It’s easy to point to this and say, oh it’s just a skateboard, but for people who are buying these boards and commuting on them every day … there is risk obviously associated with that…. ” insists Healey. “We explicitly did this research in order to make the devices safer.”
“This thing can cause some serious damage,” added Ryan. “Usually you don’t face plant, because the board slows down enough. But if you’re not expecting it, and you’re going fast enough, it could go pretty bad”.