Portable Hacking Tools: Fun Digital Toys or Potentially Dangerous Cyberweapons?

In the era of digitalization, hacking is becoming a costly issue that can deplete resources and damage business reputation. Today, cybercrime is costing trillions of dollars for businesses and companies worldwide.

Despite the increasing cost of this digital misdeed, there is a growing interest in portable versions of hacking devices among internet users. This short article will discuss different portable hacking tools and their potential to become harmful cyberattack tools.

What are portable hacking tools?

According to a 2022 study about cybersecurity, cybercrime can have a global annual cost of $8 trillion in 2023 and reach $10.5 trillion two years later. The number highlights the expensive consequences of poor cybersecurity systems within modern organizations and companies.

Cybercriminals launch digital attacks using hacking tools, which are programs or devices that crack or break network security measures. These tools have different capabilities depending on the systems they can penetrate. Modern system administrators use similar tools called “ethical hacking devices” to test security and identify vulnerabilities within their systems.

Security professionals use ethical hacking tools to improve security. These tools include packet sniffers that can intercept network traffic, port scanners to find open ports on active devices, and password crackers to steal passwords.

There are countless ethical hacking tools in the market designed for various purposes since the field of network administration has grown tremendously over the years. Before, security leads could only monitor specific networks, but now, they can manage firewalls, antivirus software, virtual private networks (VPNs), and anti-spam filters.

Meanwhile, malicious actors use hacking tools to steal sensitive data and disrupt business operations. Moreover, the attacks they launch constantly evolve to evade complex cybersecurity systems, making them more challenging to prepare for and combat effectively.

Today, there are even videos going viral on the internet showing the use of portable hacking tools. While these mobile devices may seem harmless, they can become dangerous cyberweapons.

Portable Hacking Tools as Dangerous Cyberweapons

While hacking tools allow malicious actors to access encrypted data, they are not enough if the user lacks the skill and cybersecurity knowledge to pull off the attack. However, portable hacking devices make “hacking” easy, even for those who are not cybersecurity experts.

Flipper Zero: The viral portable hacking tool

Flipper Zero is a toy-like portable hacking device marketed to ethical hackers, tech geeks, and penetration testers. It was pushed to the spotlight when the device appeared in a flurry of TikTok videos from script kiddies playing public pranks.

In the videos, hackers use the tool to remotely open the charging ports of unsuspecting Tesla drivers, turn off the electronic menus at restaurants, and change prices on gas station displays. They only point the device at the target system and press a button, then the charging port opens, the screen turns off, and the display numbers change.

Jeroen van der Ham, a security researcher, experienced the disruption caused by this portable hacking device firsthand. One morning, he was traveling by train when his iPhone suddenly showed a series of pop-up windows, making it almost impossible to use.

According to van der Ham, the pop-ups would appear every few minutes, and his device would reboot. He said he tried to put the phone in lockdown mode, which did not stop the barrage of pop-ups.

When he was on the train on his way home, the pop-ups restarted. This time, however, other passengers experienced the same issue. Van der Ham then noticed that one of the passengers nearby had also been present at his commute earlier that morning. Putting two and two together, he found the culprit for the attacks.

The attacker was working on an app on his laptop, and his iPhone was connected to his Macbook. Van der Ham said the culprit was not even paying attention to his surroundings while devices around him rebooted.

As it turned out, the attacker used Flipper Zero to send Bluetooth pairing requests to all devices within radio range. This tool allows users to covertly switch television channels, read pet microchips, and replicate hotel key cards. Apparently, disrupting the normal use of Apple phones is another way to use the hacking tool.

While these types of attacks have been possible for decades, they require specialized equipment and a certain level of expertise. Flipper Zero removed these barriers and enabled everyone to launch these attacks by pressing a button or two.

However, consumers need to know that while the viral videos made the device look like a master key for all things tech, this may be an exaggeration. Some internet users believe that the uploaders could have staged the pranks and that some attacks were harmless.

While the tool is powerful, it cannot manipulate every wireless device in its radius. It can only read and respond to the signals wireless tools emit. Examples of this capability include:

  • Read the body temperature of a microchipped cat or dog
  • Read someone’s car tire pressure sensor data
  • Detect the signals an iPhone transmits for facial recognition and note their frequency
  • Read and store the signal from a garage door opener

Like other cybersecurity solutions today, Flipper Zero is not inherently evil and dangerous. Yes, it can potentially be a significant security threat in the wrong hands, which is why Amazon banned it on the platform. However, severe cybersecurity attacks using the device will still need a fair amount of planning and intent.

Moreover, most hacking techniques the device enables have been around for years. It just makes them more user-friendly and accessible.

Aside from Flipper Zero, other portable hacking tools like ChameleonMini and the USB Rubber Ducky are also gaining popularity.

The ChameleonMini is a portable tool designed for near-field communication (NFC) security analysis. Meanwhile, the USB Rubber Ducky is a flash drive that allows users to launch BadUSB attacks.

A BadUSB attack targets USB devices, causing them to act as human interface devices. A targeted device can execute commands or run malicious programs on a victim’s computer.

How To Secure Your Device Against Hackers

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If you are concerned about the dangerous use of portable hacking devices, you can take preventive measures to keep your device secure. Here are simple steps to protect your data against malicious hackers:

  • Always update your system, browser, and other crucial apps regularly to remove software vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
  • Always use strong passwords to prevent network intrusions.
  • Invest in antivirus software to save and protect your devices from viruses that can slow them down, destroy your data, crash your device, or allow spammers to find your accounts.
  • Ignore email messages from unknown individuals or companies, and never click on suspicious online links or attachments.
  • Store backups of your data so rebuilding can be easier in case of a data breach.
  • Turn off your machine when not in use to lessen the windows of opportunity for hackers.
  • Be vigilant when shopping online and entering your financial information.

Keep these simple tips in mind to keep your data and devices safe from hackers. Remember that malicious actors exploit gaps in your cybersecurity, so make sure to fill in those gaps as soon as you detect them.

Those who experience any disruption caused by portable hacking tools will need the help of IT experts and security professionals. With their help, you can get your devices back in working order and safeguard your phones against new attacks.

Practice Good Cyber Hygiene and Keep Your Devices Safe and Secure

As cyber technology continues to change rapidly, hackers and their methods will likely evolve with every shift. While most tips above can help protect your devices, you must remember that your methods to secure your data must also adapt.

Cyber awareness is crucial whether you use your personal or company phone or laptop. The more security-conscious you are, the harder it becomes for hackers to target you and your devices.