Pull off a Sticker Heist to learn about cybersecurity

Sticker Heist is a fun, hands-on approach to learning the basics of cybersecurity. It is the brainchild of Ohio-based college professor Dr Mike, and it’s built around Raspberry Pi 4.

Seems a bit weird to us, but Dr Mike spends his days educating the youthful next generation, and is therefore much more likely to be down with and/or up on apocalyptic trends. And Dr Mike believes our future dystopia-dwelling descendants will deal in laptop stickers as currency. It all sounds very The Last of Us. We’re in.

sticker heist full set up
Crack the locked box to get to the priceless laptop stickers

How to break into the box

I certainly never came across a lesson brief like this when I went to college. But then, I never had Dr Mike as a professor. Here is what students learning cybersecurity in one of his classes get as a task:

In the not-too-distant future, laptop stickers are the new global currency, and you’ve just gotten your hands on a safe full of them. The safe is locked for now, but its security system is no match for your team’s hacking skills. Your mission: hack into the security system, disable the alarms, and pull off the heist of a lifetime… but you’re already running short on time.

Can you pull off the Sticker Heist?

Students have to use free open-source tools to expose the locked box’s security flaws and disable the alarms within a time limit.

How is it made?

The heart of the system comprises a stacked Raspberry Pi 4 and Arduino UNO (below left). An ElectroCookie Uno Terminal Block Shield is wired to the Arduino (below right).

A keypad, lights, buzzer, RFID Module, LCD display, and magnetic door sensor are all connected to the Arduino. And the OLED display and on/off button are hooked up to the Raspberry Pi.

sticker heist lock boax layer 3
All internals stacked and ready to go in the box

Students break open the safe in stages by cracking the code to the padlock on the lid (below right), which then reveals additional hardware (below left) to figure out before you get to the sticker box inside.

Visit Dr Mike’s online Heist School to get an overview of the hacking process and some ideas about which kinds of security vulnerabilities might help you crack the safe.

Meet Dr Mike

Sticker Heist inventor Dr Mike is a Professor of Computer Science & Information Technology at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio. He also has a cool YouTube channel that you should definitely subscribe to if you’re into cybersecurity, digital forensics, or Python.


Bartek avatar

Does cracking it open against a wall count ?

Ashley Whittaker avatar

Nooooooope. Dr Mike stipulated *rules*.

Nicko avatar

Rules are fine, but when you’re designing for security you need to remember that the bad guys don’t play by the rules!

Billybob avatar

Who knew????

Meow avatar

Not me

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