Whizz-kid stuns experts by 'weaponising' teddy bear via Bluetooth

Eleven-year-old Reuben Paul at the International One Conference in The Hague on Tuesday. During the event attended by cyber-security experts, the sixth grader from Austin, Texas, hacked into his teddy bear live on stage, using Bluetooth to take contr
Eleven-year-old Reuben Paul at the International One Conference in The Hague on Tuesday. During the event attended by cyber-security experts, the sixth grader from Austin, Texas, hacked into his teddy bear live on stage, using Bluetooth to take control of its functions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

THE HAGUE • An 11-year-old "cyber ninja" has stunned an audience of security experts, hacking into their Bluetooth devices to manipulate a teddy bear and show them how interconnected smart toys "can be weaponised".

American wunderkind Reuben Paul might be in sixth grade only at his school in Austin, Texas, but he and his teddy bear Bob wowed a cyber-security conference in the Netherlands on Tuesday.

"From airplanes to automobiles, from smartphones to smart homes, anything or any toy can be part of the Internet of Things (IOT)," the young boy said as he paced the huge stage.

To demonstrate, Reuben deployed his cuddly bear, which connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth smart technology, to receive and transmit messages.

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Plugging into his laptop a rogue device called a Raspberry Pi - a computer the size of a credit card - he scanned the hall for available Bluetooth devices and, to everyone's amazement including his own, downloaded dozens of numbers, including some belonging to top officials.

Then, using a computer language programme called Python, Reuben hacked into his bear via one of the downloaded numbers to turn on one of its lights and record a message from the audience.

"Most Internet-connected things have a Bluetooth functionality... I basically showed how I could connect to it, and send commands to it, by recording audio and playing the light," he explained later.

"IOT home appliances, things that can be used in our everyday lives, our cars, lights, refrigerators, everything like this that is connected can be used and weaponised to spy on us or harm us."

They can be used to steal private data such as passwords, as remote surveillance to spy on children, or to employ a GPS to find out where a person is.

More chillingly, a toy could say "meet me at this location and I will pick you up", said Reuben.

His father, information technology expert Mano Paul, said that his son's aptitude in this area showed up when he was just six.

"He has always surprised us. Every time we teach him something, he's usually the one who ends up teaching us," said Mr Paul.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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Cyber kid stuns with teddy bear 'weapon' .

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Whizz-kid stuns experts by 'weaponising' teddy bear via Bluetooth'. Print Edition | Subscribe