In July, a video of a robot dog with a submachine gun strapped to its back terrified the internet. Now a hacker who posts on Twitter as KF@d0tslash and GitHub as MAVProxyUser has discovered that the robot dog contains a kill switch, and it can be accessed through a tiny handheld hacking device.
“Good news!” d0tslash said on Twitter. “Remember that robot dog you saw with a gun!? It was made by @UnitreeRobotic. Seems all you need to dump it in the dirt is @flipper_zero. The PDB has a 433mhz backdoor.”
In the video, d0tslash showed one of the Unitree robot dogs hooked up to a power supply. A hand comes into the frame holding a Flipper Zero, Tamagotchi-like multitool hacking device that can send and receive wireless signals across RFID, Bluetooth, NFC, and other bands. A button is pushed on the Flipper and the robot dog seizes up and falls to the ground.
Motherboard reached out to d0tslash to find out how they hacked the robot dog. The power supply in the video is an external power source. “Literally a 24-volt external power supply, so I’m not constantly charging battery while doing dev,” d0tslash said.
d0tslash got their hands on one of the dogs and started going through the documentation when they discovered something interesting. Every dog ships with a remote cut-off switch attached to its power distribution board, the part of a machine that routes power from the battery to its various systems.
The kill switch listens for a particular signal at 433mhz. If it hears the signal, it shuts down the robot. Some of the Unitree robot dogs even ship with the wireless remote that shuts the dog down instantly.
d0tslash then used Flipper Zero to emulate the shutdown, copying the signal the robot dog’s remote broadcasts over the 433MHz frequency.
Over on Github, d0tslash has shared their work and the code emulated from the remote. This should allow anyone with a Flipper Zero or similar device to shut down robot dogs without emulating the remote themselves.
Fear not the armed robot dogs, for a hacker always finds a way.