Weaponizing a Kindle

Converting a Kindle into a cybersecurity weapon

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This occurred to me while at the airport in Europe, people were using their phone/tables while waiting on the line. As usual, officers came by and demanded to put phones and tablets down.

Somehow a young lady had a Kindle or similar eInk device and was reading without worry — officers completely ignored her.

Kindle's (or other eInk Devices) are not categorized in the same branch with smartphones and tablets are — even copyrights laws and licenses treat eInk devices with different eyes.

I had a Kindle myself but I never wondered what was under the shell and how powerful it could be. Kindle's have rather inoffensive look — after all, they are just electronic books.

This project will consist in transforming a Kindle (hardware and software) allowing the device to run offensive cybersecurity tools.

In order to run customized tools into the Kindle we will need to know the OS that is running and how to get into it. I suspect that it will run a light version of Linux under an unprivileged user. I updated my Kindle so I get use play with my old one :-]

The following phases illustrate how the process should look like:

PHASE I — Discovery & Research (What's a kindle? What runs inside it? Can we break in?)

PHASE II — Elevating privileges — from reader to super-admin

PHASE III — Compiling or  necessary arsenal of tools for security testing

PHASE IV —  Perform security tests with it — it will be slow but at least the battery can last for a long time :-]

PHASE V — Document the process

Opening Kindle

Getting Access To Serial Port

Gaining Root Access

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  • 1 × Kindle — $20 (Used and Old) There is a big change that you will break the Kindle if you are not careful
  • 1 × Soldering Tools (Only if you need to access the Kindle using the Serial Port) If you are not an expert soldering — good luck! I underestimated it.
  • 1 × FT232RL FTDI Serial Adapter ($4.25) You will need this translate the USB of your computer with the Serial Port of the Kindle.
  • 1 × 5v-3.3V to 1.8V Converter ($0.99) The Kindle runs at 1.8 V — the FT232RL only has 5v-3.3V you will need this to not burn your Kindle.

  • PHASE III — Installing/Compiling Tools

    ap0l003/27/2019 at 02:30 0 comments


    I was able to install a few tools like a terminal, packet analyzer, etc. I was trying to run Debian/Ubuntu via chroot but I got stuck here for two reasons:

    1. I corrupted the FSTAB and the Kindle reformatted the entire disk destroying all the work.

    2. Since my soldering skills are not the best, thus I made damage to the Serial Port while removing soldered cables. Not sure if it is fixable. 

  • PHASE II — Elevating Privileges

    ap0l003/27/2019 at 01:47 0 comments

    The Kindle runs in a low-privileged user — what a surprise.  There are several ways to elevate the privileges to super-admin ("root"), in my case the only way was using the Serial Port. 

    Some solding needs to be done. Sounds fun!

  • Phase I — Discovery & Research

    ap0l003/27/2019 at 01:45 0 comments

    As expected Kindle is running a light version of Linux 

    The GUI runs on a Java app

    It looks like the only way of installing apps is compiling them following Debian ARMel architecture

    I collected most of the information in MobileReads Forum. They have a section for Kindle Dev, very useful.

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