Small number of computer-aided rifles could be hacked in contrived scenario

Year-long publicity effort hits bullseye ... in a way

Comment: Maybe not the most glorious bit of 'hacking' ever

So what have we got here?

Basically a very rare system can be hacked in very rare circumstances and this will very, very rarely actually be useful or have any serious consequences for anyone.

This isn't a piece of security research/hacking that was carried out to increase security, then. So why was it carried out?

You would have to say, it looks as though it was carried out pretty much solely for reasons of publicity. The method of feeding stuff to WiReD in advance of public announcement is straight out of the "tech" marketing/PR manual. And it has sort of worked, in that Sandvik and Auger have got their names all over the internet.

But it's possible to suggest that this hasn't exactly covered the pair in glory. It's possible to suggest that a good hacker, like a good programmer, needs to understand not just coding but what the code is doing and how it is doing it.

Sandvik and Auger plainly don't have any firm grasp of what the TrackingPoint system does or how it works, despite apparently spending a year hacking it. They're basically mucking about randomly with something they don't understand.

At least under some definitions of "hacking", that's not actually hacking at all. ®


The TrackingPoint system includes a laser rangefinder and other sensors, and automatically compensates for atmospheric conditions and range to the target. It also includes image stabilisation and a trigger cutout which won't let the user take a shot until he or she is on target.

What the TrackingPoint can't do anything about is wind, the real bugbear of the long-range marksman. A user can input estimated or measured values for wind, but there's no way to know what the wind is doing all along the bullet's line of flight, so this offers no better capability than the educated guesswork which is - almost always - the only way of compensating for windage.

In fact, then, the TrackingPoint merely automates some tedious but simple calculations which anyone can carry out using tables (or more commonly these days, a phone or tablet) before manually adjusting their sights to get the same benefits. The trigger control compensates for some mistakes that bad shooters tend to make, involving pulling the trigger when the sights are not on the target.

But a TrackingPoint system is heavy, complicated, extremely expensive and has a short battery life, so it has sold poorly - and indeed the company appears to be in serious trouble.

A scope with similar capabilities to the TrackingPoint is included in the US Army's XM-25 Judge Dredd style smartgun, a rather more interesting weapons development, which has been on the verge of introduction to service for some years now.

Experience has shown that some of our US readers may doubt that any Limey journo wiener could know anything of guns, weaponry, tactics etc. So, for the record, your correspondent's canned death-tech CV:

Only significant childhood experience firing a Lee Enfield .303 at the age of five and getting knocked flat on my arse (irresponsible but popular uncle involved). Member of the pistol club at university, mostly shooting .22 target weapons but heavier pistols on occasion (a while ago obviously, that).

During early Territorial involvement gained some familiarity with the old British 7.62mm SLR (aka FN FAL for non Brits), 7.62mm Light Machine Gun (Bren gun but shooting NATO rounds), 9mm Sterling submachinegun, all now long retired.

Eleven year Royal Navy service career, for most of which I had to stay current on the Browning 9mm pistol and 5.56mm SA80 rifle/"Individual Weapon" (for most of that time, the widely reviled L85A1 version rather than the new good A2 from Germany). Commando qualified, and as such also thoroughly familiar with the SA80 L86A1 "Light Support Weapon" (nowadays regarded as a marksman weapon rather than squad-auto, as the L86A2); also handled and fired 7.62mm general-purpose machine gun (FN MAG for non-Brits). Some idea how to use that latter in the sustained fire mode with dial sight.

Other things I have fired but do not know well at all: 30mm Oerlikon cannon, Sig-Sauer 9mm pistol, .45 Colt pistol, H&K MP5 submachinegun.

Also acquainted with many other kinds of weaponry, almost all other kinds in fact, but mostly from the point of view of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal operator rather than the user.

Have also fired 12-bore shotguns on a few occasions and was once even present at a grouse shoot.

Other stories you might like

  • Tesla driver charged with vehicular manslaughter after deadly Autopilot crash

    Prosecution seems to be first of its kind in America

    A Tesla driver has seemingly become the first person in the US to be charged with vehicular manslaughter for a deadly crash in which the vehicle's Autopilot mode was engaged.

    According to the cops, the driver exited a highway in his Tesla Model S, ran a red light, and smashed into a Honda Civic at an intersection in Gardena, Los Angeles County, in late 2019. A man and woman in the second car were killed. The Tesla driver and a passenger survived and were taken to hospital.

    Prosecutors in California charged Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, in October last year though details of the case are only just emerging, according to AP on Tuesday. Riad, a limousine service driver, is facing two counts of vehicular manslaughter, and is free on bail after pleading not guilty.

    Continue reading
  • AMD returns to smartphone graphics with new Samsung chip for your pocket computer

    We're back in black

    AMD's GPU technology is returning to mobile handsets with Samsung's Exynos 2200 system-on-chip, which was announced on Tuesday.

    The Exynos 2200 processor, fabricated using a 4nm process, has Armv9 CPU cores and the oddly named Xclipse GPU, which is an adaptation of AMD's RDNA 2 mainstream GPU architecture.

    AMD was in the handheld GPU market until 2009, when it sold the Imageon GPU and handheld business for $65m to Qualcomm, which turned the tech into the Adreno GPU for its Snapdragon family. AMD's Imageon processors were used in devices from Motorola, Panasonic, Palm and others making Windows Mobile handsets.

    Continue reading
  • Big shock: Guy who fled political violence and became rich in tech now struggles to care about political violence

    'I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy,' billionaire VC admits

    Billionaire tech investor and ex-Facebook senior executive Chamath Palihapitiya was publicly blasted after he said nobody really cares about the reported human rights abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China.

    The blunt comments were made during the latest episode of All-In, a podcast in which Palihapitiya chats to investors and entrepreneurs Jason Calacanis, David Sacks, and David Friedberg about technology.

    The group were debating the Biden administration’s response to what's said to be China's crackdown of Uyghur Muslims when Palihapitiya interrupted and said: “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? ... I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about … yes, it is below my line.”

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022