Hacker detects a kill switch to take down the gun-toting robot dog

A hacker discovers that an AI Dolphin-branded tool can be used to remotely turn off a submachine-equipped robot dog.
Christopher McFadden
Kill switch found for gun-toting robot dog.
Kill switch found for gun-toting robot dog.Modified from KF/Twitter
  • Videos of a submachine gun-wielding robot dog did the rounds back in July 2022
  • In response, a hacker decided to investigate the robot further
  • They discovered a backdoor "kill switch" that can be exploited using a common hacker tool

A video of a robot dog carrying a submachine gun on its back scared the wits out of internet users back in July 2022. However, a hacker going by the handles [email protected] and MAVProxyUser on GitHub and Twitter has found that the robot dog has a kill switch that can be accessed using a tiny handheld hacking tool.

“Good news!” d0tslash said on Twitter. “Remember that robot dog you saw with a gun!? It was made by @UnitreeRobotic. Seems all you need to dump it in the dirt is @flipper_zero. The PDB has a 433mhz backdoor.”

One of the Unitree robot dogs was visible in the video being connected to a power source by d0tslash. A hand enters the frame clutching a Flipper Zero, a multitool hacking device akin to a Tamagotchi that can communicate wirelessly across RFID, Bluetooth, NFC, and other bands.

In the video, the hacker can be seen activating the button on the Flipper, resulting in the robot dog freezing up and collapsing to the ground.

In order to learn how they were able to hack the robot dog, Motherboard, according to Vice, contacted d0tslash. In response, he explained that the large grey box seen in the video is an external power source. D0tslash provided further details on the power source, "[it is] literally a 24-volt external power supply, so I’m not constantly charging battery while doing dev,”

d0tslash then further explained how they got their hands on one of the dogs and began reading the paperwork. They soon made an intriguing discovery.

Apparently, every dog ships with a remote cut-off switch attached to its power distribution board, or the part of a machine that routes power from the battery to its various systems.

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It turns out that this kill switch scans the 433 MHz band for a specific signal. When it receives this signal, it turns off the robot in quick order. Even the wireless remote that instantaneously turns off some Unitree robot dogs is included in the box.

Armed with this information, the shutdown protocol was then simulated by d0tslash using a Flipper Zero, which copies the signal the robot dog's remote transmits over the 433MHz frequency.

D0tslash posted their work and the remote code emulation over on Github. This should make it possible for anyone owning a Flipper Zero or similar gadget to turn off robot dogs without having to copy the remote.

Thanks to the work of hackers like D0tslash, it appears that the rise of the killer machines has been temporarily put on hold!

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