In an article about Flipper Zero, the hacking device is shown with orange buttons and a credit card against a gate keypad.

Flipper Zero, A New Digital Security Tool Floods US Markets

Flipper Zero Allows DIY Penetration Testing at Home
September 13, 2023
8 mins read

Physical and digital security is a concern for most people. We spend our time locking the windows and bolting the doors in an attempt to protect ourselves, our family, and our assets from strangers. But as the thread of human history has unwound across time and new technologies develop, what it means to be secure has changed drastically. In the past,  the invention of the gun blew away any previously held sense of safety in swords and armor. The creation of the submarine threatened the previous queen of the sea, the battleship, because the newest technology allowed submarines to travel underwater. The development of new technology and the security threats they can pose have continuously sped up, reaching a streaking lightning pace in this digital age. Being up to date on technology is vital to security but many people do not know about the security issues that have recently emerged. Keyless locks and remote start cars can host network issues that put the public at risk for hacking. Today, the most innovative way to test physical and wireless security is using Flipper Zero, the TikTok viral Tamagotchi-like cyber security information tool.

Because of its ability to help the user gain physical access to previously secure places, the public should be aware of the potential uses of Flipper Zero and other technology of its ilk. Testing and finding gaps in cyber security is important for securing personal data and physical safety, but many people are not even aware that any risk is present. In the past, securing the house key was vital to protecting the home. With the rise of keyless locks and cars, having the ability to test for gaps in security at home is vital. Today, with a Flipper Zero, the average person can perform penetration testing on their home to look for any security risks. Penetration testing is a simulated cyber attack that allows the tester to look for vulnerabilities in a network. With a Flipper Zero and third-party firmware, the average person can learn how to gain entry to a keyless apartment, open a garage door, open and start a car remotely, unlock a bike lock, or gain access to a keyless hotel room. The television series “Mr. Robot” includes a scene realistically showcasing how easy it is to hack a car’s key fob signal to unlock and lock a car. Once a person realizes how easy it is to gain physical access to supposedly secure places, it can motivate them to learn how to protect themselves.

Flipper Zero is a Kickstarter funded toy that acts as a versatile hacking tool that can be used to test, access and emulate different types of wireless signals. Smaller than a cellphone, the powerful device can be discreetly carried around by its user to any physical location desired. Within Flipper Zero are several different antennas that allow the tool to capture, store, and emulate wireless signals. It has a built-in Tamagotchi-like game featuring a dolphin (Flipper) to help teach the user how to test different wireless signals. The signals Flipper Zero can access and emulate include Near Field Communication (NFC) signals used in building access and bank cards, infrared signals used in remote controls, radio signals like sub -1 GHz frequencies used for garage door remotes as well as remote keyless door systems and 125kHz signals which are commonly used in hotel’s keyless door systems. And while all the different technologies contained in the device have been available to purchase commercially for years, the Flipper Zero is revolutionary because it contains many types of antennas needed in a single device while utilizing an easy-to-use operating system. With powerful technology and portability built-in to Flipper Zero, it means it’s a potent tool and toy for any tech fan. 

Much of the controversy and news surrounding Flipper Zero has been centered around the legality of the device. While Flipper Zero is legal to purchase in the United States, it was originally held at customs for months as the government agencies questioned its legal status. The Flipper Zero ships with a firmware loaded that prohibits the user from committing most illegal acts but the device is open source. That means that different, more powerful firmware can be loaded onto the device, unlocking its full potential for penetration testing. It is restricted from sale in other countries because some of the ways the device can be used are against the law. That explains why, in 2023, all orders of Flipper Zero were seized in Brazil by their telecommunications agency Anatel. The device is restricted from sale on Amazon because it can be used as a card skimmer. But the Flipper Zero does not introduce any new technology that cannot already be purchased and used for nefarious deeds by people dedicated to committing criminal activity. All it does is package each of the different technologies into a small, portable device and make it available to the average person. Flipper Zero allows the layman to conduct penetration testing on their home network and learn to protect themselves from digital criminals. 

Technology has always been a double-edged sword. It can make life easier, communication faster and speed up progress, but not understanding how new technology operates can put a person at risk. When we understand exactly how different technology works and why, we can learn to protect ourselves and our families more effectively. Most households operate using wireless signals without understanding that those signals are at risk of hacking. With a Flipper Zero, anyone can conduct their own penetration test on their networks, exposing where their digital information or physical person may be at risk. Once a risk is known, it can be addressed, fixed, or accepted. That’s why it’s a great thing to have Flipper Zero and similar technology available on the market for anyone to purchase and keep in their home toolbox.

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