Saturday, January 30, 2010

A "safe" handgun or a $9700 design fail waiting to happen?

Wired is reporting that Armatix introduced a Euro 7000 (US$ 9700) handgun that can only be fired if it is armed via a wristwatch worn by the shooter.
This year, the highest-tech gun belonged to Armatix. The German firm has an electronic safety that automatically disables the pistol when it’s not within a few inches of a custom wristwatch. The watch sends a wireless arming signal to the gun. If the gun is picking up a signal from the watch, a green LED on the back lights up. Try squeezing the handle without wearing the watch, and you will see a red warning light. Anyone can pick up a limited edition version of the pistol for about 7,000 euro, which is pretty steep for a .22cal plinker. They start shipping next month.

Few inches, eh? Smells like RFID. Then we found this on Armatix's website:
The benefits of biometrics (sole allocation to specific people) are also combined with those of Radio Frequency Identification ( split- Seconf activation, hands-free operation.

"Seconf" above should be "second", but that might be the least of their problems. My problem is, given the many, many security failures I have seen in basic authorization/authentication schemes, I anticipate a slew of them in this handgun. Here are some of them:
  1. It's not like RFID has been read or cloned. Oh wait!
  2. RFID can be jammed. For that matter, any RF can be jammed.
  3. Forget hightech.. throwing a bucket of water at the person holding the gun at you might work. I see a Rush Hour sequel where Chris Tucker almost gets Jackie Chan killed by spilling coffee on his wrist and rendering his gun into a paperweight.
  4. The flip-side of jamming is arming. People have read RFID passport numbers and cloned them. Then it is just a matter of playing that back, from a more powerful transmitter, and suddenly the "safe" gun will fire a bullet.
  5. And then ofcourse, the same RFID scanners can be used to identify who is carrying those guns and wrist-watches.

One can only hope that this gun will be completely safe because there are no morons who will pay that kind of money for a .22