• United States



Man booby-trapped boxes with exploding shotgun shells to stop package thieves

Dec 20, 20174 mins

Man 'hacked' a box to stop would-be thieves from stealing packages off his porch.

amazon package doorstep
Credit: Amazon

While Microsoft and Facebook admitted to disrupting North Korean hacking operations, announcements made shortly after the White House blamed WannaCry on North Korea, and there are endless reports of IoT devices with shoddy or sketchy security, such as the spying Bluetooth LED bedside lamp Yeelight or the remote root in DirecTV’s wireless video bridge — I thought we could look at something silly instead: an odd type of security system.

During the holiday season, some people are overcome with a peace-on-Earth and goodwill-to-mankind mentality, but not everyone because the holidays are also a busy time for criminals — and that means there are plenty of victims. When it comes to non-online crime, there are sons of Grinches stealing toys meant for tots and outdoor holiday decorations and displays, but others focus on outdoor heists that involve snatching packages delivered to homes.

Back in the day, before the term hacker started to imply malicious, a hacker was someone who tinkered with and tweaked gadgets — who thought outside the box. Well, in this case, using the old-school definition, a “hacker” thought outside the box but tinkered with a gadget inside a box in order to put a stop to “porch pirates” — or people who steal packages that have been delivered but not yet taken to indoor safety.

In Jaireme Barrow’s case, it wasn’t a matter of thieves stealing would-be holiday gifts that had been delivered to his home; instead, thieves were making off with Jeep parts and electronics that had been delivered while he was at work.

“I got tired of all my packages coming up missing,” Barrow told Q13 Fox. “I’d be at work, and I’d get home and they wouldn’t be on my front porch. And I’d watch my surveillance and see someone running away with them.”

He reportedly showed the surveillance footage to local Tacoma, Washington, police, but no one was ever arrested. So, to quote Dr. Seuss, “Then he got an idea! An awful idea!” Barrow “got a wonderful, awful idea!”

He told The Washington Post, “I was thinking, how could I scare them and make them drop my package and then never come to my front porch again. And I thought, ‘Getting shot at is scary. That’ll make them think twice.’”

Boxes booby-trapped with shotgun blank

Yeppers, he started booby-trapping empty boxes with fishing string and a 12-gauge shotgun blank that would go off when thieves picked up the package he left on his porch. Barrow likened it to “any alarm system. It’s just a loud noise to deter theft. It just happened to be a 12-gauge blank in this case.”

It worked so well that he now sells The Blank Box online, showing its effectiveness via videos of would-be package thieves screaming, falling off the porch and running away. I’ll leave it to you to decide if it is mean or funny.

He gave a couple of examples to the Washington Post: “The very first guy I did it to, he was so scared he dropped his cellphone in my front yard. I gave it to the cops. Turns out, he lived, like, three blocks away from me.” The would-be thief was not charged.

As another example, Barrow said, “One girl, she screamed so loud — it was instant karma. Someone is trying to commit a crime, and you’re able to get back at them instantly. It’s a satisfaction I can’t describe.”

A word to the wise though, a Tacoma police spokesperson suggested the device might be illegal or the thieves might sue if they get hurt, for example, by falling off the porch stairs after the fright of picking up a package and hearing a shotgun blast. Barrow suggested posting a no trespassing sign, as well as a note, that tells people not to take packages from the porch as a way to negate any potential lawsuits, but that’s up to you if believe that to be true.

Lastly, just a reminder: If you have some spare time during this holiday season, consider taking on the 2017 SANS Holiday Hack Challenge. This year it is centered around “Wintered: The Untold Story of the Elves of the North Pole.”

Happily holidays to you and yours!

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.