02.26.2017: HACKING THE HOME

DataTribe kicked-off our 2017 event series by giving away $5,000 in prizes and equipment for our “Hacking The Home” contest on Feb 26, 2017.   Over 20 teams signed up to use various Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices (such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, Nest, and Raspberry Pi) to hack together a useful home solution or identify security weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Our judges picked three teams to win a $2000, $1000, and $500 main prize and two honorable mentions.

First place ($2000) went to “Team Margarita” for demonstrating a residential emergency response voice app. When commanded, Google Home would bridge a call to a preset phone number; a practical and potentially life-saving "hack". In addition, they created a muffle that slipped over the Google Home device to sufficiently anonymize the speaker's voice without compromising the speech-to-text recognition.  Team Margarita showed how there are many industry disruptions yet to come for voice-controlled home IoT while still preserving personal privacy. 

Second place ($1000) went to Seth Jenkins from University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) who took Jeff Bezo’s suggestions that an Amazon Echo was harder to break into than a smart phone as a challenge. Team Seth was able to infiltrate the first level of the Amazon Echo security. Upon gaining access to basic device and user information, he demonstrated navigating through the user's account. It was a small leap of imagination to see how this could be used as the first step in a more sophisticated cyber-attack.

Third place ($500) went to “Team Yinhao Xiao“ from George Washington University Computer Science.  This team skillfully demonstrated their network scanning and vulnerability analysis prowess focusing on what information was unprotected and leaked by an Amazon Echo. They were able to demonstrate a way to geolocate an Amazon Echo and gather up other home network details that could leave a user vulnerable to other hacking.

An honorable mention goes to Team Lisa who used a Google Home to demonstrate how much our devices record and can learn about our behavior. When asked where she would be for a date in the future, the device responded with a location and probability based on the team’s analysis of past pattern of movement information.  A second honorable mention to Team Amanda for rigging a “hack” in a few days that integrated an Amazon Echo to control other devices and presented the audience with a URL to remotely turn them on/off without authenticating.

All our "Hack The Home" finalist presenters were invited to participate in a soon-to-be-announced mid-year "electrifying" hackathon event that we hope will "drive" them crazy (hint, hint, hint).

And, of course, a special DataTribe thanks to our esteemed judging panel - Noel Calhoun from Kensho, Seth Spergel from InQTel, and Jason Barbour from Data Science Maryland - for their time and torment trying to pick the winners!