Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
However, there are less obvious -- yet equally dangerous -- risks that can result in device or network intrusion, or even device destruction.
The tools that execute these actions can appear perfectly innocent and can even resemble toys. But the fact that they can blend in as ordinary pieces of technology makes these hacking tools especially dangerous.
Here are seven bits of kit that look like ordinary tech gadgets, but that are actually powerful hacking tools.
Note that none of these tools are sold specifically as hacking tools. Instead, they have been designed for security experts and penetration testers to examine the security of companies. But that doesn't stop them -- or similar tools -- from being misused.
1. Flipper Zero
The Flipper Zero looks like a kid's toy, all plastic and brightly colored (just like Tamagotchis, those digital pets that would die or turn evil if you neglected them).
But beneath the fun exterior and the dolphin virtual pet is a pen-testing Swiss army knife, capable of all sorts of things, thanks to the built-in infrared transceiver, sub-GHz wireless antenna, iButton/NFC/RFID reader/writer/emulator, and GPIO connectors, which allow the Flipper Zero to connect to other gadgets. There's also a USB port that can be connected to computers and smartphones.
This broad capability means the Flipper Zero can be used to control items that have an infrared remote control, to clone RFID cards and NFC tags, to capture and retransmit radio frequencies that control things, such as access barriers and even car locks, and to be connected to computers or iPhone and Android devices, which can be used to send keystrokes to the system to do… well, pretty much anything you can do from a keyboard.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. For $169, the Flipper Zero is an extremely capable tool.
2. O.MG cables
They look like regular charging cables, but built into the connector at one end of the O.MG cable is a tiny computer, which remains dormant until the cable is connected to a device such as a PC or Mac, or even an iPhone or Android smartphone. Then, when it's connected, the computer wakes up and gets to work.
The computer at the end of an O.MG cable acts like a tiny keyboard, pumping out keystrokes to the device it's connected to.
This hidden keyboard can do pretty much whatever an operator at a keyboard can do. It can steal Wi-Fi passwords, copy files and move them to remote locations, delete files, plant spyware or malware, and much more.
The capabilities of these cables are terrifying. The elite version can connect to Wi-Fi, be programmed to trigger remotely, and can even self-destruct, so the O.MG cable becomes a regular cable, which makes it hard to identify the technology as the source of a hack.
Believe me when I say these cables look, feel, and work just like regular cables. They come in a selection of colors and connection types and blend in with your other cables.
The Pineapple can also be used to monitor the collection of data from all devices in its close vicinity, and users can save and go back to this data at a future date.
The Pineapple can also be used to capture Wi-Fi handshakes, and this information can then be used to crack Wi-Fi access passwords. In short, the Pineapple is an incredibly powerful tool.
6. USB Rubber Ducky
A computer will trust a keyboard that's plugged into it because, well, humans use keyboards. So, one easy way to attack a system is to get a device to pretend to be a keyboard and have it act like there's a human typing.
If you've ever watched the TV show Mrs Robot, then you will have seen a Rubber Duck attack. While we've already looked at devices that can send keystrokes to a device, this tool is a dedicated Rubber Ducky device.
While the tool looks like a regular flash drive, the Rubber Ducky can be programmed to "type" commands into any device it's plugged into.
The tool is yet another reason why you shouldn't just plug random stuff into your electronics. However, the Rubber Ducky is so discreet that someone might plug it into a device, leave it connected, and it might be days, weeks or even months before it's found.
7. LAN Turtle
On the outside the LAN Turtle looks like a generic USB ethernet adapter, but on the inside is a tool that provides the hacker with a number of ways to watch and then gain access to a network.
With a built-in microSD card holder, the LAN Turtle is a perfect tool for gathering up interesting data that's travelling across a network.