What are your devices saying about you?


In our recent blog, Ryan Ng wrote about new Smart Home connected devices being developed and sold in 2018. There are many new and innovative ways to improve our lives using technology appearing in stores and on crowd funding platforms such as Kickstarter every day. The majority of these devices interact with mobile apps, whether they are sending notifications or allow the user to control functionality, these devices often require a hub to connect the devices to the wider internet. Smart speakers and thermostats are now being used as hubs to connect other smart home appliances. Many of these devices, such as a PIR or door open/close sensors, are running on coin cell batteries which are expected to last multiple years and for this they need to use a low powered radio network to communicate with their hub. The Bluetooth and Zigbee radio protocols are widely used in this area with well-defined standards and optimisation of power usage  to maximise battery life.


We thought it would be interesting to buy some tools and see what data we could capture.


Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (which is a subset of Bluetooth 4.0) are maintained by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group and runs on 2.4 GHz. Bluetooth Low Energy was designed to provide much reduced comms and power drain whilst offering a similar range of communication.


We purchased an Ubertooth One from Greatscottgadgets.





The Ubertooth One is “an open source 2.4 GHz wireless development platform suitable for Bluetooth experimentation”. The device allows us to promiscuously sniff packets of Bluetooth data using a tool such as Wireshark, but something we found much more interesting is the open source project BlueHydra available on GitHub. BlueHydra is a Bluetooth discovery service built on top of BlueZ, the official Linux Bluetooth stack. Using these tools allows us to track Bluetooth devices as they pass by with BlueHydra showing us how often the devices are in our vicinity, how close and in many cases who the manufacturer of the device is. Devices can be detected even when Bluetooth is not in discoverable mode!





Functionality can be further extended with simple python scripts such as ble_finder.py written by Troy Brown and Garrett Gee which allows you to create a list Bluetooth devices to be monitored and will alert you when a device is detected in close proximity to the Ubertooth One.


We also purchased a Zigbee packet analyser a few years ago for a project before Zigbee became so popular in Smart Home systems. Based on IEEE 802.15.4, Zigbee is a low powered radio standard developed and maintained by the Zigbee Alliance with most devices running at 2.4 GHz, with some other regional frequencies available (784 MHz in China, 868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the USA and Australia).





The device was manufactured by Freescale although they merged with NXP  in 2015. The analyser we’re using is a NXP USB-KW24D512 using this device, the Kinetis Protocol Analyser Adapter software provided by NXP and Wireshark, we’ve captured data packets being communicated between Amazon Echo Plus and Phillips Hue smart light bulbs and also Samsung Smart Things communicating with sensors. Although this data is encrypted, it does allow us to scan for Zigbee based Smart Home devices around us and as all devices are allocated their own Device Network ID, so we can see how many devices someone has in their home.




In Zigbee, the protocol is designed to not leak information beyond the initial pairing process. This prevents arbitrary traffic analysis. In Bluetooth, however, when a device communicates with another device e.g. a fitbit with a phone, the traffic can be observed, which gives at the very least metadata about user habits such as what time they get up in a morning. This is not good for user privacy.

New Smart Home Technology in 2018


Copper Horse’s Ryan Ng takes a look at some of the smart home technology that has taken in his interest in the first part of the year.


A few months into 2018 and we are already seeing a lot of new smart home technology, some of which are great ideas and useful devices, but others which are questionable.


To kick-start this year we had the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January where lots of new products and concepts were shown off. This included all kinds of tech including cars, TVs, and of course smart home devices. A noticeable trend in a lot of the devices announced is that they are providing support for two of the biggest smart home competitors, Amazon and Google. Providing Alexa and Google Assistant support allows these products to be better integrated into customers’ homes for those who already own an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker, so they can control their devices via voice commands.


Another big event which took place this year was Mobile World Congress (MWC) which happened at the end of February. This event not only showed off a load of new smartphones, but it also again showed off a wide range of other technologies including smart home devices.


Whilst smart home devices are constantly improving, many are still insecure. Copper Horse provides training for all levels of expertise in designing and implementing security in smart home and Internet of Things products. Our next training course will be in Barcelona in May.


Here are some of the latest smart home devices shown off at these events that took my interest:


Lenovo Smart Display with Google Assistant


Google has teamed up with Lenovo to create a new product to compete with the Amazon Echo Show which was released in 2017. This smart display is essentially a Google Home speaker with an 8” or 10” display (depending on the model) attached to visually show information when asked. The Smart Display can also be used to perform video calls via the Google Duo application. It is very similar to Amazon’s Echo Show product and it remains to be seen whether users will take to this or prefer a voice-only product.



Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator


Samsung showed off its latest smart fridge powered by its virtual assistant Bixby. This refrigerator also acts as a SmartThings hub for all SmartThings enabled home automation devices. It has a huge touch display on the door which allows users to see inside the fridge using internal cameras, make shopping lists, play games, check the weather and more.




Smart Shower System Livin


A team from Fitbit and Foxconn have developed a new product in the smart home market called Livin. This is a smart shower system designed to minimise water waste and can be installed within 15 minutes. It features precise temperature controls via a smartphone that allows you to preheat the water before turning the shower on. It also features smart lighting and music playback with a knob for in-shower temperature and music controls.




Laundroid Laundry-Folding Robot


A Japanese company called Seven Dreamers showcased their latest model of Laundroid, a product which uses artificial intelligence to sort and fold your clothes. This is one of the more questionable products shown off as I do not expect the average consumer to spend $16,000 on a machine to fold and sort their clothes.




The new smart home technology featured above is only a small selection of products which have recently been announced and there will be many more to come in this year alone. It remains to be seen how successful or secure they’ll be, or most importantly, how useful.


Vehicle Communications and the Road to Driverless Automotive

Copper Horse’s Development Lead, Mark Neve discusses technology being deployed in the vehicle comms space.


The car of tomorrow is going to be communicating with many different things and not just for passenger entertainment. The field of Vehicle-to-“X” communications is growing considerably. The X can mean Vehicle-to-Vehicle (known as V2V) or Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and even V2P – Vehicle to Pedestrian or V2B – Vehicle to Bike, with many different applications within. The opportunities to improve road safety are enormous but the security and safety implications of getting it wrong are equally as important. This is something that we’re looking at as a company and we’ve already trained vehicle OEMs on our IoT Foundations of Security training course which will be running again soon.



So how do vehicles communicate with their surrounding environment and how does new technology assists the driver in keeping control of the vehicle? This not only affects current human driven vehicles but also the drive towards fully autonomous vehicles with Alphabet company Waymo planning to have 20,000 self-driving vehicles on the road by 2020. The government statistics for casualties on UK roads for 2016 state that 448 pedestrians were killed and more than 23,000 were injured on our roads. If vehicles can assist the driver in avoiding obstacles, or reduce the collision speed, they can possibly lead to a reduction in deaths and injuries on our roads.


Let’s look at some of the technology emerging on cars which shows the evolving path towards full V2x communications:


Independent Autonomous Braking

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) works in conjunction with vehicle mounted sensors and cameras which are used to detect obstacles and if needed, apply the brakes. According to Thatcham Research, 8 of the top 10 selling cars in the UK offer AEB, with 50% of vehicles fitting at standard.


Image source


Drivers have experienced issues with this type of technology and an article in UK newspaper the  Plymouth Herald in October 2017 highlighted problems with a Volkswagen Tiguan where the “Front Assist” system may mistake high roadside hedges as an obstacle and brake sharply. This behaviour could lead to accidents if drivers in following vehicles do not see the same hazard and react more slowly in applying their brakes.


V2V for Emergency Vehicles

Emergency Vehicle Approaching warning systems are currently being trialled. Trying to locate the source of a siren can be difficult and can slow the progress of the emergency vehicle, costing precious time.  Warning systems being trialled allow the emergency vehicle to report its location and direction when it is approaching other vehicles on the road, allowing them extra time to create space for the emergency vehicle. This solution is further being developed so that emergency vehicles can be given priority at traffic lights, turning the lights green as they approach.


V2V Platooning

In the US, several companies such as Volvo, Daimler and Tesla are testing Platooning, the coordinated operation of two or more vehicles. The lead vehicle wirelessly communicates its speed, distance, brake status and information about any obstacle. Platoon vehicles use another V2V technology: cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC) – a feature which monitors the speed of the vehicle ahead and adjusts its own speed to maintain a safe distance. Platooning could improve fuel economy by reducing drag as well as reducing accidents through safer following distances and instant notification of emergency braking.


V2I for Traffic Lights

Audi US and Traffic Technology Services (TTS)  have launched a vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) service which communicates with traffic lights and informs the driver how long before their lights turn green.

Image source


The vehicle communicates with the lights using a built-in LTE connection, communicating through an Audi connect PRIME feature called Traffic Light Information (TLI). This system is currently on trial in Las Vegas and has been rolled out to other cities across the US including Dallas, Denver, Houston, Palo Alto and Washington DC supporting signals for more than 1,600 intersections.



Vehicle to pedestrian (V2P) technology is under development by vehicle manufacturers using DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication) technology built into both vehicles and the smartphones of pedestrians, notifying the vehicle of the speed and direction of pedestrians and alerting drivers to a hazard. There are several other V2P technologies currently under development, the US Department of Transportation keep a publicly available excel “database” of current V2P technologies here .



Vehicle to bike (V2B) technology is a more of a problem to implement as cyclists sometime behave like pedestrians and at times like cars making it much more difficult to track their movement. Proximity sensors can detect cyclists in certain areas around the vehicle but there are still many blind spots. One solution that is currently being suggested is bicycles with a beacon attached to communicate with other vehicles on the road although this idea has been met with scepticism by some of the biking community, with them suggesting that pedestrians and wild animals will also need a beacon.



Driverless Vehicles and Accidents

Vehicle technology continues to evolve very quickly with the move towards driverless cars. The Google self-driving project, Waymo has now clocked up over 5 million self-driven miles, although the vehicle is being constantly monitored by a driver, who should be ready to take control if the self-drive systems fail as they did in 2016.


There have been numerous stories in the news highlighting accidents involving autonomous vehicles. A study commissioned by Google and carried out by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that the US national crash rate is 4.2 accidents per million miles and 3.2 accidents per million for self-driving cars. There is a lack of data currently available due to the lack of self-driving vehicles, however many countries have plans to test self-driving cars on their roads over the next few years.


In March 2018 it was reported that an Uber car being tested in Tempe, Arizona struck Elaine Herzberg who was crossing a road while carrying a bike. She was transferred to hospital but later died of her injuries. At the time of this blog, Uber are yet to release their full report, so all the evidence isn’t currently available. There have been some articles highlighting how Uber scaled back their LIDAR sensors from seven sensors to one 360-degree sensor when they replaced the Ford Fusion vehicle with the Volvo XC90. The internal camera shows how the vehicle minder sitting in the driver’s seat was distracted for around 5 seconds prior to the crash; the former may have played a role in the inability to detect the pedestrian.


Where are we going?

It’s clear that there’s still much research and development to be done prior to fully-autonomous vehicles being allowed to share the highways with human driven vehicles. While not yet at the level required, systems which aid drivers could both help to reduce accidents and help test out safety technology critical to fully-autonomous vehicles. The more connected vehicles are to their surroundings correlates with the chance of avoiding obstacles. When we do see self-driving vehicles on our roads, it will be interesting to see the interaction with the human drivers and how human attackers may target these systems to exploit them for various purposes, but that’s a story for the future.




Inspiring Young People into Cyber Security and STEM Careers


Our Lead Software Developer at Copper Horse, Mark Neve talks about inspiring young people to get into careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).



During the summer, I represented Copper Horse at a STEM careers day organised by the excellent people at Learning to work. The event was held in the grounds of the stunning Ditton Manor. The first set of students arrived promptly at 9am and had an hour to look around and talk to the companies present before leaving and being replaced with new students every hour, which worked well and kept us extremely busy all-day long.


I had the chance to talk to several students who were looking to move into careers in computers and cyber security. As I’ve spent most of my career as a software developer I was pleased to see that some wanted to move into programming, spurred on by using programming tools such as Scratch and Python.


The students and I often discussed online safety and I was surprised to see how few seemed to have been given instruction by their school about staying safe online. They hadn’t even been taught the basics around good password practice such as not using obvious words or methods for making passwords more difficult to guess.



I spoke to the students about security research and some work we had done, showing them some of the equipment we use. The stars of the show for Copper Horse were our Phantom Drone and our ever-popular mobile phone stands (you’ll have to meet us in person to get one). We had one visitor to the stand who loved the stands so much she took enough for her whole class! Some of the students took a real interest in our WiFi Pineapple hacking tool and hopefully I’ve inspired some future white hat hackers. It was particularly nice to see so many girls interested in STEM subjects and cyber security.



The biggest take away I had from this event was observing the number of students who really don’t know what career they’d like to pursue when they finish education. I spoke to very few students who had decided the exact path they wanted to follow. Hopefully I’ve been able to give them a few ideas.


I’d like to finish by thanking the people from Datchet Water Sailing Club who took pictures and generally helped me out during the day.

Exhibiting at Mobile World Congress 2016 – Stand 7C70e


We are excited to announce that Copper Horse will be exhibiting at Mobile World Congress 2016 at the Grand FIRA in Barcelona 22-25 February 2016. Come and visit us in Hall 7 at Stand 7C70e. We will have some fun challenges on our stand including the chance to try your hand at lock picking. We will also be demonstrating the intelligent door, part of the Motion Project, allowing the monitoring of very distinct data points while allowing you full control of your privacy. Here at Copper Horse, we firmly believe that you are not the product.


You’ll find us at a number of events on-site including running the UKTI Cyber Security in the Mobile World sessions at lunchtimes on Monday 22nd (Connected Car Security)Tuesday 23rd (Future Network Security) and Wednesday 24th (Cyber Security in IoT) on stand 7C40 as well as speaking in the main conference on Thursday 25th. Monday the 22nd evening sees the “Dark and Stormy – The Cyber Happy Hour” from 17:15 onwards which will include drinks, food and some amazing Pecha Kucha talks. Our CEO, David Rogers will be MC’ing the event. We encourage you to come along to the cyber sessions as they’re all good learning opportunities as well as good for networking with other security professionals and experts. For all the UKTI events, just turn up to the UKTI stand 7C40 and try to get there early as the seats fill up fast.


We will also be hosting our invitation only, annual security dinner on the Sunday at a secret location in Barcelona.


Copper Horse is a UK based mobile systems security consultancy and solutions provider. The company provides world-leading security expertise on mobile and connected devices. The organisation is currently focused on advising clients on Internet of Things security threats, strategies and solutions as well as developing a security-focused IoT product through the company’s “Motion Project”. The company will focus on a consumer-focused IoT security strategy in 2016 with the theme of “You are not the product”.


If you’re interested in working with us, here are some of the services we provide:


• Security threat and risk analysis, strategies and solutions
• Internet of Things solutions development (security, software, hardware)
• Mobile handset security expertise (throughout the stack from hardware to browser)
• Incident handling and responsible disclosure expertise
• Smart Home security consultancy
• Connected Car security consultancy
• Small cells security
• Bespoke security and anti-fraud solutions development (including software and hardware)
• Standards consultancy
• Specialist investigations and product/market threat and risk analysis
• Technology horizon scanning


We look forward to meeting you in Barcelona!



Note: This blog was edited to add more details and events on the 10/02/16.

Meet the Copper Horse Drones


Copper Horse Solutions’ Lead Developer, Mark Neve introduces some of our recent acquisitions…


Here at Copper Horse we’ve recently been taking to the sky with our mini-fleet of quadcopter drones.  Although we have some really cool projects simmering away which we can’t talk about just yet, we think this would be a good time to introduce our quads.


The first copter we purchased was the Hubsan X4 which cost around £40 from the high street.  This quad was primarily used for flight practise before we graduated to bigger and better equipment.  It’s a very robust piece of kit, having had a few crashes and going through a few sets of propellers.  I actually bought prop guards, as it’s very easy to damage the propellers when flying into objects around the house.  I did find the quad much easier to fly in advanced mode.  We’ve called this one Magneto, as it seems strangely magnetised to objects in my house, or could that be my piloting skills?


Nickname Magneto
Gyro 6 axis
Size 60 x 60 x 22mm
Flight time at least 8 minutes
Charging time Around 30 minutes
Battery 3.7 v 240 mAh LiPo battery


We were given the Cheerson CX-10 as a gift for attending the excellent dronesforgood event, which was put on by the awesome guys over at Lab.  The CX-10 was the world’s smallest quadcopter when we got it.  For such a small device, the handling is very good.  Even our CEO was making it do flips in no time.  We’ve nicknamed this one Wolverine – even though it’s a little small, it sure as claws.  Here are the specs:


Nickname Wolverine
Gyro 6 axis
Size 40 x 40 x 22mm
Flight time about 5-8 minutes
Charging time 30 minutes
Battery 3.7V 100mah


Our most recent purchase is the impressive DJI Phantom 2 Vision.  Boasting a 1080p camera with first person view on your mobile phone.  The quad flight is very smooth and the inbuilt GPS triangulation is able to keep the quad hovering within’ a 2.5m area.  As this is our first quad with a fitted camera, the name Cyclops seemed fitting.

Phantom 2 Vision 2

Nickname Cyclops
Size 37.1 x 21.1 x 33.5 cm
Flight time Up to 25 minutes
Charging time 2 hours
Battery 5200mAh LiPo
Camera HD Video Recording (1080/p30 or 1080/60i) with 14 Megapixel stills.


Just to demonstrate the size difference between the Hubsan and the Phantom, here’s a picture of the Hubsan taking a ride on the Phantom




Would any quad blog be complete without a crash video? It has been suggested to me that it was more of a bumpy landing, but I’ll leave you to judge for yourself –