Flipper Zero: This is the viral ‘Tamagotchi hacker’ on TikTok | technology

César Gaitan, Security Consultant and Head of HackWise Channel, used Flipper Zero to turn on the TV, unlock his car, and even disconnect security cameras from Wi-Fi. This device, nicknamed on social networks as “tamagotchi”. hackers’, on TikTok, where many users share videos in which they simulate hotel room keys, turn on the air conditioner, or read microchips to identify animals. Some claim that the device can clone credit cards. But what is true about all this? How does it work, What is it for and to what extent is it a threat?

At first glance, this device, which costs about 155 euros, looks like a toy. It is smaller than a mobile phone and has a 1.4-inch screen on which a dolphin appears, which is a pleasure to use. It is, in the words of its creators, “a little piece of hardware With the curious personality of a cybernetic dolphin”. Inside, it is equipped with various sensors to intercept and repeat various signals. For example, infrared air conditioning or a TV remote control. Gaetan explains that it is enough to press a button to read infrared signals and then turn on TV.” The device captures this signal, stores it, and can then repeat it. When you do this, if the TV is on, it turns off, and if it is off, it turns on.”

Flipper Zero shows a dolphin on the screen that is happy when using the device.
Flipper Zero shows a dolphin on the screen that is happy when using the device.fin zero

Edgar Pons Forn, industrial design engineer, biohacker And the technology publisher on social networks, he always carries Flipper Zero with him. Although he rarely uses it, it’s nice to know that he carries in his bag a “Technological Swiss Army Knife” with the ability to read and simulate signals. When he got the device Often out of stockspent two weeks trying to read all kinds of signs, switches, devices and cards.

Part of the success of the Flipper Zero is precisely due to the fact that it combines many functions that can be found separately in other devices. For example, it can analyze radio frequency signals, such as those emitted by car keys, garage door openers, and alarm systems, among other wireless devices. It’s also able to read cards that use RFID and NFC technologies — such as credit cards, hotel cards, or gym bracelets — and can sometimes duplicate them.

The videos have been recorded to go viral

In fact, TikTok is full of videos in which Flipper Zero is supposed to be used to duplicate credit cards, unlock cars, or unlock cell phones in a matter of seconds. Pons is convinced that many “go viral by showing false or highly prepared information.” “It’s not at all as easy as it sounds,” he says. EL PAÍS contacted the creators of Flipper Zero to ask if they consider these recordings to reflect reality, but at the moment they have not received any answers in this regard.

On TikTok there are many viral videos about Flipper Zero
On TikTok there are many viral videos about Flipper ZeroTik Tok

Although Flipper Zero can interact with some systems used for credit cards or access cards, Pons points out that most of them have very advanced security measures that prevent a recurrence. “Bank cards have encryption and authentication systems that protect transactions and prevent abuse, and they can be read but not simulated,” he says. As he explains, it’s much easier to get someone’s data through hack from your computer or physical theft instead of Flipper Zero.

He is not the only one who considers that many videos are recorded to attract traffic and do not represent reality. This is the case of Josep Albors, Director of Research and Awareness of the cybersecurity company ESET in Spain: “Card cloning only works for very old versions that are not used in practice, remote unlocking of cars is possible only on older models”. Today’s remote controls “use unique codes every time, and even for older cars, specific conditions are required to reproduce the remote control signal.”

to Alex Collagen actually Pavel Govner They came up with the idea of ​​creating Flipper Zero in 2019 so that anyone can interact with the devices around them without prior knowledge. They started collecting money on the global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and to date have sold more than 150,000 devices, according to the US portal Wired. “Of course, if you don’t have a lot of ideas, you’ll just turn the TV on and off or control the fan,” says Pons, who notes that some of its advanced functions require additional technical skills, knowledge of cybersecurity, or programming.

Albors believes that the device has become fashionable because some content creators and influencers They cheated their chances. “This made many users think they have a master key at their fingertips, when in reality, without knowing and without knowing their true capabilities, they only have an expensive game to use a few times before they end up stored in a drawer,” he adds.

Is Flipper Zero a threat?

In Brazil, the National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL) has seized some shipments of the Flipper Zero, according to several affected users on the Internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) notes that this body has not certified the device, saying it has illegal purposes and facilitates crimes. For Marc Rivero, a security researcher at cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, blocking devices is not the best solution. “Clear regulations must be put in place for its use and users must be educated to use it ethically and responsibly,” says the expert, who believes that the device “has also gained a fan base thanks to its retro-programmable design”.

More powerful standalone tools have been around for decades, notes Candid Wüest, vice president of cybersecurity research at Acronis and advisor to the Swiss federal government on cybersecurity risks. “The tool itself isn’t the main problem, but vulnerable systems continue to exist. It’s like trying to block a password hack tool to protect people who keep using 123456 as a password.”

William Boddington, a staff technologist at the EFF, doesn’t see the device as a threat: “Laws against piracy are already in place and we should let them do their job rather than restrict access to tools like Flipper Zero.” He and Albors confirm that the device can be used to test the security of systems. Blocking tools the pirate It does not solve the problem, but rather exacerbates it, because it prevents researchers from alerting us to potential security holes that can be exploited later, ”says Albors. In the end, everything depends on the use given to the device, which Gaetan compares to a knife: “With it you can make the most delicious food tasted by humans or you can kill someone. This is the responsibility of the user.

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