Detonate the transparency grenade to instantly collect and leak sensitive data
By Jan Belezina
February 20, 2012
If you thought Wikileaks was a disruptive idea, the transparency grenade is going to blow you away. This tiny bit of hardware hidden under the shell shaped like a classic Soviet F1 hand grenade allows you to leak information from anywhere just by pulling a pin. The device is essentially a small computer with a powerful wireless antenna and a microphone. Following detonation, the grenade intercepts local network traffic and captures audio data, then makes the information immediately available online.
The data obtained at the site of detonation streamed anonymously streamed to a dedicated server where it is mined for bits of emails, HTML code, images and audio material. These are then neatly presented in the form of a feed that can be accessed when clicking on the red dot highlighting the place of the leakage on a map available online. The ease of use and the mobility of this solution could make the transparency grenade a very powerful weapon in the hands of a concerned citizen or disgruntled civil servant.
Although designed by Julian Oliver for an arts exhibition, the grenade is much more than a concept. It is very much real and tangible. While the translucent shell has been 3D printed from highly resistant resin, the triggering mechanism and all other metal parts have been carefully handcrafted from silver by Susanne Stauch.
The hardware components include a Gumstix computer fitted with an ARM Cortex-A8 processor and running a modified Angstrom OS. An Arduino Nano platform is used to handle the embedded display, and the spy work is handled by a powerful 802.11 antenna and a 5 mm microphone. The collected data is stored on an 8GB MicroSD card. A 3.7 volt battery powers the whole rig, including a 64 x 32 pixel LCD display and a LED Bargraph to show the wireless signal level.
The grenade form factor may be a great vehicle for artistic expression, but its conspicuous nature makes it slightly impractical - and could see you propelled face first into the pavement by a member of law enforcement. That's why the development of an application for rooted Android devices is already under way. Constantly running in the background on a smartphone, the transparency grenade app is going to provide some of the original device's functionality.
The development process is funded by donations, so you are welcome to contribute to the project. Who knows what implications it may have. If it's used in the right time and place, the transparency grenade's impact zone may be far bigger than that of a regular Soviet F1's.
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