back to article BBC’s Micro:bit turns out to be an excellent drone hijacking tool

The BBC’s Micro:bit computer board may be winning over school kids, but hackers have found its wireless capabilities and programmable nature make it an excellent tool for mischief. In a presentation at this year's DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas on Friday, Damien Cauquil, senior security researcher at Econocom Digital …

  1. Hans 1

    16Mhz ? I'd use a pi, only slightly larger, however, so much more ooompf.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: only 16MHz?

      Who cares. Just productise it and put it on sale for £39.99.

      It will sell millions. Anything to get rid of those drones. Drones are the modern day 'boom boxes'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: only 16MHz?

        It's called a ghetto blaster're so embarassing...god.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RE: only 16MHz?

          Well said, you made my day. I wondered if anyone would take the bait.

          I guess we all live in ghetto these days. /s

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: RE: only 16MHz?

            r leaving only a few thousand bytes for the text of the source program.

            So only enough to fly to and land on the moon ?

            Actually a ridiculous comparison. It's a few 1000bytes of python source -a language where a web server takes a couple of lines

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: RE: only 16MHz?

            What are these "boom boxes" and "ghetto blasters" you are talking about .... are they some modern form of gramophone? Could I play my 78s one one of them?

            1. James Cullingham

              Re: RE: only 16MHz?


            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: RE: only 16MHz?

              What are these "78's" you are talking about ,,,, are they some modern form of recording? Could I play my wax cyilnders on one of them?

              * With apologies to, well. just about everybody....

        2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: RE: only 16MHz?

          Ironically, only the British do ghettoblasters properly.

        4. Cynic_999

          Re: RE: only 16MHz?


          It's called a ghetto blaster're so embarassing...god.


          In my day it was called a "tranny." (As in "Transistor radio"). I've recently heard the word being used by a few youngsters, so maybe it's come back into fashion.

    2. Jason Bloomberg

      A micro:bit running Python is a very constrained device. Most of its available memory is taken up by the Python interpreter leaving only a few thousand bytes for the text of the source program.

      Things are better when programming in C where there is more memory available but a Pi Zero W would be a much more capable device.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        You do not get a whole python2

        The usual (arm) python2.7 executable weighs in at 3.1M, plus another 800K of C libraries. I have another 60M python libraries, but that could easily get trimmed. The source code for your python script is not stored in the micro:bit at all. Some compiled and optimised binary gets stored in flash along with a drastically trimmed python run-time and some device driver libraries. The run-time and device drivers will eat into the 16K of ram but as you do not store any source code in ram, you have a chunky library and hefty CPU, you are still way better off than you were with a ZX81 and a wobbly ram pack.

        1. Jason Bloomberg

          Re: You do not get a whole python2

          The source code for your python script is not stored in the micro:bit at all.

          I suggest you have a read of the following and also take a look at the downloadable .hex file...

          "When you write your Python application, both the web hosted editor and the offline editor Mu create a modified .hex file for you to copy to the micro:bit. This modified file contains 3 things ... 3) A verbatim copy of your Python program, complete with comments and any spaces."

          "MicroPython builds take a firmware.hex image (the MicroPython pre-compiled image) and append your script to the end of it, in a fixed 8K region at a known address."

          PS: MicroPython is based on Python 3.

      2. 's water music

        a Pi Zero W would be a much more capable device.

        Yes, but I think that one of the points was that a shedload more Micro:bits have already been handed out to 12-13-year-olds

    3. Steve Evans

      16Mhz ? I'd use a pi, only slightly larger, however, so much more ooompf.

      That would depend on if you definition of a covert device permitted having a power cable dangling from it for a wall socket!

      The baby board sips the electrons at a very gentle rate.

      1. james 68

        @Steve Evans

        Pi's can run perfectly well on battery power (6aa batteries will get you well over 12 hours use including always on wifi and bluetooth, a phone charging pack will last much much longer even when powering various USB devices from the pi and handily has usb ports for easy power supply).

        Wall wart aint needed.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: @Steve Evans

          I got a USB 'charger' battery for running my Pi3 and Touch screen. Wired up a zero W for amusement and it was still going a week later.

          The micro:bit would have been good a few years ago but the zero is miles ahead of it. Having said that you can program the micro:bit to write rude words in the air as you spin it round on a piece of string.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: @Steve Evans

            "Having said that you can program the micro:bit to write rude words in the air as you spin it round on a piece of string."

            What a lovely idea. The possibility of taking someone's eye out with a well-chosen expletive means it might make a nice Code Club exercise. (Always assuming that it isn't already.)

          2. Linker3000

            Re: @Steve Evans

            "Having said that you can program the micro:bit to write rude words in the air as you spin it round on a piece of string."

            ...all while playing a fruit keyboard with your other hand. Rock on!

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Pi

            I'm doing the same with a v1 Pi and v1 touchscreen for fun. But hit a lot of roadblocks as it's the early hardware and I can do zero programming/scripting.

            So for now it is just a fun little mp3 player.

            For anything that meeds singular or basic function something like an arduino or bbc microbit is better. As these are microcontroller based and have no os headroom needed.

        2. Lysenko

          Re: @Steve Evans

          A MicroBit can run from a CR2032 for about the same time (12 hours), depending on how hard you're hammering the RF stage. Major size difference.

          1. Steve Evans

            Re: @Steve Evans

            Thank you Lysenko, my point exactly.

            A Pi is overkill, and over consumption. Strip it down to what you actually need, and the power consumption drops along with it (who would have guessed eh?).

            Result, *much* smaller toys of naughtiness.

            /me doesn't dare mention what you can get up to with an ATtiny.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Steve Evans

              As you say, an ATtiny and similar can do wonders for most simple projects needing to sense or control one or two things only.

              Anything more complicated, net connections etc, and going the Pi route gives you lots of easy connectability. Some of it can be done with microcontrollers, but then you are committing to lots of additional boards, and basically building your own Pi! :D

              Oh, and the downvotes on my previous post, I assume is for mentioning the Pi has an OS overhead? Which I'd assume it does if people run natively Noobs or similar, but will not if running something else (I know there are lots of options)?

              1. Steve Evans

                Re: @TechnicalBen

                Downvotes on here are an odd thing.

                I just remember you can only please all of the people some of the time. That and some people are arses all of the time ;-)

                You are of course correct. 99% of Pi projects are python scripts running under Linux. Which adds a whole load of code overhead. When it's a box on your desk this isn't really an issue, and does make a lot of things much easier.

                However, if you're trying to build something self contained and with the longevity of an elephant instead of a mayfly, you need to lose a lot of dead wood.

                If you're still measuring your power consumption in milliamps, you're not even in the same ball-park as what you can get up to with a proper low power device.

  2. K


    Wonder if I can get a 5 1/4" floppy drive for it, dust off my original copy of Elite

    1. Samoa Tech

      Re: Hmmmm

      Had a 3.5 hooked up to BBC Micro. It was like wow! Getting old...

  3. HmmmYes

    Ah get eLua on the bare metal.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it really matter if it's a micro:bit?

    Surely the story here is:

    * Bluetooth keyboards can be easily hacked over the air

    * Drones can be easily hacked over the air

    Doesn't really matter if it takes a micro:bit or an Osborne One to do it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two spuds, glass of water, some copper wire and nails

    Bluetooth hacked!

  6. Apemantus

    Or we could just use the teleporter?

    If you have to attach the gizmo to the drone controller to take over. Why not just use the drone controller?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Or a broken mini bluetooth headset suitably reprogrammed with arduino and eeprom replaced with ram chip harvested from old Web can or router.

    Keyring sized drone zapper :-)

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