Watch how a cheap Robot crack open a safe live

Just within 30 mins, a team from SparkFun Electronics was able to open a SentrySafe safe live on stage in Las Vegas using a cheap Robot.

The robot has the ability and capacity to reduce the number of possible combinations from one million to just 1,000, before quickly and automatically trying the remaining combinations until it breaks in.

From the uploaded video, the robot found that the safe combination was 51.36.93, the safe popped open - to rapturous applause from the audience of several hundred hackers keenly watching.

In an interview, a team member from SparkFun, Nathan Siedle  said, "that was one of the scariest things we’ve done. Lots of things can go wrong, and this was a very big audience. "We’re really happy it opened up.”

The latest demonstration was performed at Def Con, the largest gathering of underground hackers in the world who desperately watched how the job was done.

The SparkFun team performed on stage with a new safe that has never been opened by the Robot. The robot can be adapted to fit any combination safe by 3D-printing two new parts.

The team joked the safe could have been cracked sooner - but they had to fill their 45-minute time slot.

The robot, which cost around $200 to manufacture, makes use of 3D-printed parts that can be easily replaced to fit different brands of combination safe.

How the team cracked the safe:

The team said that the robot doesn’t simply try every combination. It was able to suss out one of the dials within 20 seconds by detecting the size of indents on the dial. In simple terms, the “solution” indent is slightly larger than the “incorrect" indents. In the demonstration, this method meant the team discovered the third and final number was 93.

The other two dials cannot be measured - but eliminating one greatly reduces the number of possible combinations.
It was made easier when the team also discovered that the safe’s design allows for a margin of error to compensate for humans getting their combination slightly wrong.

For example, if one dial is set to open at 14, using 15 and 13 will work as well. It meant the robot could check every third number, making it possible to quickly test the remaining combinations much faster than a human being.

Using this method, they could cut down the number of possible combinations to around 1,000 - a far more manageable challenge.


Before the performance, Mr Nathan Siedle said that the robot could be easily adapted to tackle any combination safe.
“We designed it for a particular type of safe, but it doesn’t really matter - you can actually 3D-print a coupler that can match any safe that you may have.”

Some SentrySafe models come with an additional lock and key, but the team was able to unlock it by using a Bic pen.
“No matter how much money you spend on a safe… nothing is impervious,” Mr Siedle added.

When Mr Siedle was asked how the safe cracking thing with a Robot started he said that the team’s work began when his wife Alicia bought a safe on eBay that was cheap due to the previous owner not knowing what the combination was.

“She gave it to me for Christmas."
The mechanism in the safe consists of three dials which, when aligned, allow the safe to be opened. Each dial can be any two digit number - meaning one million potential combinations.

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