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Hardware Hacking

CCC Mods Rent-a-Bike To Allow Free Rides 384

Autoversicherung writes "Germany has an activated by phone bike rental system across all major cities. At 6 cent a minute quite pricey, germanys famous Chaos Computer Club thought a free ride every now and then couldnt hurt. Optimizing the original system in the process, modifying the blink code to be easier found and changing the logo. About 10% of Berlins bikes are patched already. A detailed description of how they did it, and how the system works."
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CCC Mods Rent-a-Bike To Allow Free Rides

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  • War Biking? (Score:5, Funny)

    by B4RSK ( 626870 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:38AM (#11145085)
    Heh. War biking. Cool!
  • by hashish ( 62254 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:42AM (#11145097)
    Darn things require so much energy to move.
    • pedal (Score:5, Funny)

      by upside ( 574799 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @05:52AM (#11145511) Journal
      This was a message from FHNESTS (Foreigners Helping Native English Speakers To Spell).

      Nanana SNANA & GNANA - beat you to it!
      • Re:pedal (Score:3, Funny)

        by nsayer ( 86181 )
        Technically, he did spell it right. It was just the wrong word.
  • I'm impressed. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kngthdn ( 820601 ) * on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:42AM (#11145099) Homepage
    Their website [callabike.de] explains...To return your bike, take it to the nearest major crossing within the core area and lock it to a fixed object, e.g., a traffic sign or a bicycle stand but not, please, on a traffic light.

    This would not work in America.
  • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:51AM (#11145126)
    But isn't mucking around with other people's property, without their permission, called "vandalism" ?

    "We don't know what we are doing, but we are doing it very carefully..." -Wherry

    • But isn't mucking around with other people's property, without their permission, called "vandalism" ?

      Not in Germany, it's called "Vandalismus".
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It is a tort in commonwealth countries - technically a trespass to chattels. But you have to understand the law is normative, in the sense that it reflects social norms. See
      http://www.smh.com.au/news/Icon/Squeeze-the- e ase/2 004/12/15/1102787132795.html

      which notes that ripping DRM/usurping WiFi is more a psychological barrier in civil disobediance, that becomes an etiquette issue. Whilst not humerous from the companies point of view, I note that the perpetrators of this hack were in fact very careful of th
    • by phr1 ( 211689 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:14AM (#11145229)
      someone tries to convert the streets of a city into their private retail space without paying anything for it?

      If I run a bike shop and pay rent and/or taxes on the property, so anyone can come look at the bikes but if they want to use one, they have to pay, that's a normal retail situation. I'm entitled to control what happens with my bikes within my private space.

      What happens, though, if I just start locking the bikes up to lampposts and advertising that anyone can call a phone number to pay to unlock them? Am I not trying to convert the public lampposts into private retail space without paying any rent or tax? Who is taking what from whom? Perhaps some philosopher could conclude that I've really just abandoned the bikes, and rather than hacking 10% of them, CCC might have done better to hack 100%.

      BTW, the public bicycle concept AFAIK started in Holland, with the Witte Fietsen ("white bicycles" in Dutch) project. Hippies scrounged up old bikes and parts during a transit strike, got them working and painted them white, and then just left them all over the place for people to use for free. Sort of a bicycle version of the GNU project. If you needed to get somewhere, you'd just find a white bike, ride it wherever you were going, and leave it for someone else to find and use.

      This was several decades ago. Witte Fietsen actually worked as envisioned by the hippies, and was successful enough that local government decided to pick up the expenses. It is still active today in some parts of Holland, though in the big cities, sadly, the bikes get stolen too fast.

      The dial-a-bike thing seems like a pale imitation. Witte Fietsen didn't need to be hacked.

      • The "someone" in this case is the city or some such municipal body, so they own the streets, so what they do with them is their business, so all your talk of "private retail space without paying anything for it" is just a complete red herring.

        Regardless of that, a weak lock isn't an excuse to commit what's clearly a crime, taking something that's not yours to take without paying the proper price for it. A weak front door lock doesn't give you the right to enter someone's house, watch their TV and take a na
      • If people believe that the scheme should be banned because it's taking advantage of public property without paying for the privilege, then the proper first course of action is to complain to the authorities. Only if that fails, and fails repeatedly, could you potentially argue that this course of action - *as a protest* - is justified, and even then it would be a real stretch.

        No matter how you cut it, circumventing protection to gain use of a (non-essential) resource without the permission of the resource
      • by schmaltz ( 70977 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @08:43AM (#11145991)
        Perhaps some philosopher could conclude that I've really just abandoned the bikes, and rather than hacking 10% of them, CCC might have done better to hack 100%.

        Ah, so without having to think about whether you're stealing from a fellow citizen, you blame it on an unspecified, undefined "philosophy". Ridiculous.

        You can't compare the taking you're doing with the Dutch bicycles, because those were intended to be free - here, you're just committing robbery from your neighbor. Everybody leaves bikes locked to public property, everywhere. You just aren't willing to admit that you like being a thief, and only because your victim doesn't get to see or catch you. Because if you did, you'd start stealing from little old ladies, and you'd probably like it too. You have no shame.

        Saying that bikes locked to public property are abandoned is absurd - when you park a car on a public street, and lock the doors, you must be abondoning that fine set of wheels [www.inet.hr], I guess, right? Let me know where you live, and I will come rid the street of your trash!

        For the record, Witte Fietsen didn't work because nobody wanted to take responsibility for fixing or replacing broken parts, plus people like you stole the bicycles and painted them other colors.
        • when you park a car on a public street, and lock the doors, you must be abondoning that fine set of wheels, I guess, right?

          Well, in my town, we have an ordinance that allows the town to tow your car if you park it on the street overnight. They don't usually enforce this until about a week has passed, but the point is still made. I'd imagine the company isn't taking the bikes back to their warehouse every night for storage.

          The original poster's point is still valid. This company is using the city stree
    • Only if it's destructive and pointless.
      Nondestructive and pointless is "mucking around"
      Nondestructive and with purpose is "hacking".
      Destructive and with purpose is "defending homeland security"
    • But isn't mucking around with other people's property, without their permission, called "vandalism"? Isn't uttering the phrase "the code is unbreakable and we are really proud of it" called product suicide? >8)
    • The same thing came to my mind, they:

      -stole a bike and stored it in their home for several month (according to article)
      -they dismantled the elctronics, destroying part of the assembly by removing protective silicone coating.

      I can see that tampering with such a bike is interesting, but wouldn't proper hacker ethics dictate that you return it after a few hours/days? Months is definitly on the "theft" side. These guys have lost my respect due to that. Also, hacking the mechanism is one thing - disabling it i
  • Price (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HFShadow ( 530449 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:52AM (#11145135)
    6c a minute sounds pricey, until you realize it's $3.60 an hour, which doesn't sound so bad.
    • Re:Price (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kngthdn ( 820601 ) *
      Until you realize it's a different currency, and it starts looking bad again. 3.60 euros is 4.81 dollars.

      That's easily $50 or $60 a day! By then, you could have bought the bike.
    • Then you realize that price is in Euros, so it's really USD$4.81 per hour.
    • Re:Price (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rasjani ( 97395 )
      You do know that in germany the currency is not a dollar but euro.

      For comparison, in finland there's also rent-a-bikes scattered all over the helsinki area. The "rent" takes 2 euro coin which you get back after you leave the big to appropriate place.

      For even more comparision, the bus/metro/tram fares are 2 euros for 1 hour of traffic inside short distances, 3.4e for 1½ hours in long distances in capital area of finland (3 cities: Helsinki/Espoo/Vantaa)

      • Really? In Los Angeles, a bus ride is US$1.25 and you can keep riding on the same bus for as long as you want, all day if you like. And for $3.00, you can get a Day Pass on any bus, allowing you unlimited use of the entire Bus/Light Rail system in L.A. Country. So it is rather cheap, depending on where you are going and how long you'll be traveling.
  • What Happens When... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NotTheEgg ( 839387 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:53AM (#11145140)
    What happens when you lock your bike to something that doesn't belong to you and someone (i.e. store owner) gets pissed?
    • Well, he can "rent" it, move it, and re-lock it for 6 cents. Just moving it wouldn't take more than a minute, right? 6 cents of cost doesn't really make this any different from asking what if you dragged trash from his dumpster in front of the store every night.

      If you did it a lot, after a while you'd either get picked up by the police, or he'd get a surveillance camera to bust you.

      I think it's actually a pretty neat idea... but the cost is getting up there; 6 cents a minute is a tad expensive; renting
      • you can also get a bike to just get across town for 60 cents...

        Uh, I've been to Berlin. Getting across that "town" at 6c/minute on a bike would cost you good 20-30 euro if you can ride really fast.
        • Uh, I've been to Berlin. Getting across that "town" at 6c/minute on a bike would cost you good 20-30 euro if you can ride really fast.

          Yeah, yeah... sheesh. Try "...to get somewhere that's a 10-minute bike ride, but more than an hour's walk, for 60 cents".

          Happy now?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      the store owner calls (telephone number on the bike), service personal removes the bike, last person[1] that rented the bike pays the fee.

      [1] in case that the bike was hacked and left there by another person ... shit happens
  • What's the upside? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:56AM (#11145154)
    If the system stops making money the bikes will be removed and the service will stop. Then who benefits? The price maybe high for the service but the option is to simply not use it. Just because the apples are over priced does that give you the right to steal them. Free market means you also have the right not to buy not to steal.
  • by poussiere ( 739579 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:57AM (#11145158)
    The CCC was sent an anonymous report on how the bikes were hacked. From the webpage: "An article in our magazine Datenschleuder that has been passed along from an anonymous source details how the the system can be circumvented to gain free access to the bikes without calling anybody: [Externer Link]"Hack a Bike" is a fine example of a true hack."
  • What a waste (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:58AM (#11145159)
    Why hack something that is for the common good, such as public, non-polluting transportation?

    • Re:What a waste (Score:2, Informative)

      by izomiac ( 815208 )
      Probably because someone said that it couldn't be done. Also, it's not like the hacked bikes aren't providing "public, non-polluting transportation", they still work just fine. The company that owns them isn't loosing much money (10% of the bikes are affected, and they only give free rides to those who know how to use the hack), and that lose comes from someone making the mistake of not setting the intellectual property lock. It's certainly not the first time a company lost money because they made a mist
    • Re:What a waste (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:38AM (#11145309)
      It's a "mod" if you do it to YOUR OWN PROPERTY, not if you steal and break into other people's.

      First they stole a bike (one that wasn't locked properly), dismantled it to reverse engineer the mechanism, (in the process depriving the owners of several months' rent the bike might have earned) then went around and opened up over 100 other bikes to reprogram them with their backdoor, and justified this by saying that they thought the work they'd done was worth the cost of several bikes.

      Would this get the same "cool hack", "fun" kind of rating if they'd done it to a similar scheme with cars? Somehow stealing bikes isn't really stealing; I've noticed this in movies where the hero appropriates a parked bike when in a hurry, dumping it on the street when he arrives without a second thought. Cyclists' blood boils when this kind of thing is done to their property; again if you tried it with cars you could easily be killed, and the owner would get a slap on the wrist.

    • Re:What a waste (Score:2, Informative)

      by KrunZ ( 247479 )
      Why is it costing money to borrow a bike? In other countries this bikeservice can be driven by for free by advertising on the bikes.

      Copenhagen: http://www.bycyklen.dk/engelsk/annoncor-info/antal .html
    • Re:What a waste (Score:4, Informative)

      by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @08:32AM (#11145941)
      Why hack something that is for the common good, such as public, non-polluting transportation?

      Because the members of the Chaos Computer Club are a bunch of hackers? They couldn't care less about the common good, they're just interested in exploiting whatever they can for their own self-interest. Read "Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier" or "The Cuckoo's Egg" to get an example of these wonderful CCC heroes in reality. They are thieves.

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:09AM (#11145206)
    Hey, sorry but it sounds to me that they are using a hole in a digital system to allow free usage of the PHYSICAL property of somebody else. I will leave to IP philosophe whether to copy IP is stealing or not, but to use somebody else property because the lock is not strong enough is obvious STEALING and VANDALISM. How about going into somebody else flat, eating their food, sleeping in their bed, because their digital alarm system with door code can be easily hacked with the maintenance password ? What on slashdot next ? How to steal a car by bypassing ignition key system ???
    • Hey, sorry but it sounds to me that they are using a hole in a digital system to allow free usage of the PHYSICAL property of somebody else. (...) STEALING (...) VANDALISM (...)

      You didn't read the article, did you? Here is its last paragraph:

      Finally, we have to admit that the technical design of the CallABike is very good. The only way to tamper with the bikes is probably the route we chose, namely to open and reflash the EEPROM. The only thing that was missed was to set the lockbits that prevent th

  • I must be backwards (Score:4, Interesting)

    by deft ( 253558 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:15AM (#11145235) Homepage
    I found learning about this very cool bike system that works for another country more interesting than some losers hacking it.... all to circumvent a 6 cent fee.

    I wish this would work in Los Angeles. It could really be useful. It wouldn't work though... too many "hackers" with wire cutters. (alot like the "hackers" above, but with less technical school clases).
  • by tmk ( 712144 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:19AM (#11145244)
    According to spiegel.de there are no bikes in Berlin today. The Deutsche Bahn has collected them all for a winter break and will check if anybody has manipulated them.

    Btw: The CCC will meet from December 26th to 29th for their annual congress. Motto: "The ususal suspects".

    P.S.: I submitted this story on Saturday.
  • by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:28AM (#11145272) Homepage
    The CCC only got a detailed report about the system and the hack from an anonymous source, and they just published it online and in their magazine.
  • German engineering (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Meetch ( 756616 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:35AM (#11145297)
    I found it refreshing that although it was possible, quite a bit of work had to go into hacking the bikes in the first place. The only way to circumvent the system was to physically get inside it and reprogram the firmware. This is solid engineering IMHO.

    Now, if they're really recalled over winter for a once-over, I wonder how much harder they will be to get into when the snow melts and they reappear? Will the Call-A-Bikes become more impenetrable, as Darwinian geek theory dictates they'll need for survival?

    On the flip side, I must also applaud the hackers for not simply vandalising the bikes, but modifying them to return to service once the "free ride" was over. (Perhaps misguided) - theft all the same, but at least free of physical destruction.

  • by KrunZ ( 247479 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:46AM (#11145335)
    If you do have the time to hack a bike before you want to use it, then come to Copenhagen, Denmark. You can use the bikes for free.

    ht tp://www.woco.dk/composite-1100.htm
    http://member s.aol.com/humorme81/citybike.htm
  • by fuck_this_shit ( 727749 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:51AM (#11145350)
    The problem I have with that is that with how often bikes are stolen, vandalised and the initial cost of purchasing them the 6cent per minute might seem costly but appears to be closer to just covering the costs of the service. This is no Robin Hood Hackjob to have those bikes available for free, it's just a way of inching the concept closer to being abandoned by the company. And with by now 10% hacked and this ongoing without publicity for a while they can't honestly claim that it's just for pointing out a security flaw in the system.
    • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @04:58AM (#11145367) Journal

      Thing is, if you leave aside the moral implications of their hack, it's still a very fine piece of hacking.

      Add in that almost nobody will know the entry code for a free ride, that 9 out of 10 bikes are untouched, the main cost to the 'victim' is the cost of reflashing the hacked bikes. And that wont take too long.

      I'm not saying I support this precise piece of hacking, but I do love that people are still getting up to this sort of thing. It's a healthy thing for society.

  • easier way (Score:5, Funny)

    by austad ( 22163 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @05:05AM (#11145386) Homepage
    Doesn't the lock bar just go through the spokes?

    They didn't even think of just cutting all of the spokes out of way. Dummies. :)

  • by Trurl's Machine ( 651488 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @05:40AM (#11145487) Journal
    Let me guess - having published your praise of all the nice German hackers, who hack the system to get the "free joyride" on someone elses' property, you will then write yet another complaint on some mainstream media "improper usage" of the word "hacker" - "Dear Editors, you confuse us, the oh-so-ethical hackers with the bad nasty crackers"?

  • I read the part that said:

    "About 10% of Berlins bikes are patched already."

    Hacking for fun, yeah sure. But doing what could ultimately cause the demise of this whole concept.. thats just Wrong.

  • I want to run the CCC hack thru Babelfish to make it run on Zipcars [zipcar.com] here in the US.
  • by dash2 ( 155223 ) <davidhughjones&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @06:45AM (#11145657) Homepage Journal
    "Inside every British person, there is a little monarchist. Inside every German, there is a little anarchist."
  • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @09:46AM (#11146303) Homepage Journal
    Here's why they did it:
    There are of course other people, which have, for sportive reasons, tried to test the robustness of the hardware or the electronic principle of the built-in microchips and processors. They tried their luck with screwdrivers and usual ordinary allen-wrenches. they even tried to use a crowbar, a sledge hammer or a motor angle grinder. or totally smart: with a laptop and some decrypting-tools, as well as some trick questions to the maintainance staff. but without luck!". again reth is smiling, who once took the first trip on a green puky-bike and looks at himself no more as a postmodern urbanite than as bicycle freak. he smiles and says: "this technology makes us to the premier station-independant city-bike-sytem. the code is unbreakable and we are really proud of"

    The designer of the lock says, "it can't be broken". This is like waving a red flag (or two) before a bull. Of course, now someone has to actually break it to prove a point.

    Call it vandalism, call it theft, call it whatever you want. Basically, the "hackers" were responding to the challenge.

    Please, lets not split hairs here. It'll leave us all bald.

  • by Linuxathome ( 242573 ) on Tuesday December 21, 2004 @03:24PM (#11150661) Homepage Journal
    One of the reasons, I surmise, that this rent-a-bike concept may not work here in the US is because of local mandatory helmet laws [bhsi.org]. I don't know about the European laws. However, I can see why in Europe, helmet use is less of a concern---less cars on the street, more pedestrians, more public transportation-friendly, shorter distances needed to travel from point A to point B. But here in the US, with the SUVs sharing the streets, helmets are a must. And to implement a rent-a-bike system would also mean co-implementation of rent-a-helmet program. But that adds the difficulty of renting the right helmet size, and putting on a helmet that a previous (sweaty) biker was using. So how is the use of helmets handled in Europe anyway?

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger