The idea for Project Rogue Server A.K.A. Project Silver was started after an interesting conversation I had with a friend of mine. I had this dead ups lying around and didn’t know what to do with it. So we threw some ideas back and forth and the one that stuck was a hidden rogue server. This could be used for both good and awesome. Just think of the possibilities. A hidden file archive, hook it up to your hacked tivo, mess with the RIAA when the come search your house….. (#$))_%$)*@&^( )%^@ (NO CARRIER)
So the other day I had a UPS of mine die. After taking it apart as I like to do with everything I thought what could I turn this into? After several ideas had passed I realized that I had come up with a real good one. I thought hey why not make it a hidden storage server. The question now is where to hide such a hideous creation. Well that part was the easy part. Plain sight. So after some tinkering and a few experiments and some research I decided to go ahead with it. The ultimate hidden rogue server.
The Server Camouflage (also known as an UPS):
This is the UPS we will be modifying. We chose a UPS for several reasons. First off is we need the housing to be large enough to hide our server in, but still be totally inconspicuous. second we needed to have network cables coming out of our housing and not have it look odd, if we used a toaster with a LAN cable for instance it might look a little suspicious but a ups with a LAN surge suppressor in it for instance, no problem! Finally we wanted it to be an object in the vicinity of the computer that would be connecting to it, after all the best hiding place is in plain sight. I recommend finding a broken UPS from your local surplus or thrift store, although CompUSA often has them on sale for about 35.00. Make sure to find one with the rj45 surge protector.
I love this thing, ok maybe not that far. But when I first started creating scope for this project I looked at various embedded technologies, nano-itx, sbc’s and pc-104. I chose the NSLU2 since it is small and already has Linux loaded. It is natively a very robust piece of hardware and has several customized and extended Nix based platforms available for it. I turned mine into a DNS server for instance as well as my file server core.
Remember that RJ45 surge projector? This is going to connect the two RJ45 ports to the inside. The NSLU2 is also going to be connected to this. Since we don’t have an expensive UPS the rj45 ports aren’t for remote management. You can choose to use a 4 port switch or a 4 port router. I prefer the router because it provides another layer of obscurity and security on the LAN in case it was ever “audited”.
Laptop Drive with USB2:
Any USB enclosure drive should work as long as it fits inside your ups. This one is a 40GB laptop drive. The USB cable is a little weird on this 2.5 inch external drive model, but as I didn’t have to provide the drive with extra power it was ideal. The second USB connector is for the extra power when used with low power devices.
The Misc Junk:
Some of the things that used for the build out were: 12 gauge copper wire, solder, hot glue and glue gun, electrical tape, adhesive laminating film.
First step is to gut your ups. This is not necessarily a haphazard hack and slash step. We need to preserve the leads, switches, breakers and the entire outlet wiring 100% as we will be keeping this as a striped down power strip as well to help with the camouflage process. As you can see there is plenty of room as long as we lay it out right.
Next up is to carefully remove the innards of the switch or router you chose. While doing this use the same careful consideration you would lend a new CPU or motherboard as one bad zap of static can toast the unit entirely.
The nslu2 naked. This is really the heart of our stealth server. The outer shell is really oversized for what’s inside of it. But that’s marketing’s fault I suppose. Now that the shells are off we will have an easier time fitting it all in. there are a few LED’s for status on the unit, but we don’t care much for those showing in this “stealthy project”
The walwarts have a pretty big shell too. They are actually fairly easy to take apart. I use my dremal tool on high and melted around the seam being super careful to not cut to deep. Once it was melted around the edges I used a flat screwdriver to snap it open and all the innards just fell out. You will want to prepare both power supplies like this. I hope for the sake of your genetic line I don’t have to remind you to not have this plugged in when you do this.
The first real assembly step is to place the drive inside the ups. That’s where the UPS’s original circuit board used to sit. It fits the drive nicely. There a number of choices for attachment. We chose hot glue, though one problem was the drive was cold so the hot glue had a slight problem adhering, so we just used more hot glue. A better choice might have been using carved out soft foam. Though there are heat concerns there. While where the drive is mounted in this example it has some generous air vents for it. take away your Xbox and your UPS away with it as well?
For the attachment of the nslu2 we used hot glue again. Before we seated the board into the chassis we took some time to make notches in the plastic sides. There are a couple ribs of plastic that run around the case that were real easy to get to. This will help secure the board into the chassis
In this instance it was important to plug in the USB cables before we put the board into the case due to slim tolerances. We had to use a razor to carefully trim some of the plastic away from the plug end so the cable would flex enough for what we needed. Cutting into the side supports protruding out from the sides of the ups case gave us a precious extra 1/8th inch.
Since the switch is going on top of the nslu2. We wanted the bottom contacts to be protected with something. After all you don’t want the project smelling like a dead ups right? So cover that up with a little clear self adhesive laminating material. Just take the routers innards and trace out a sheet of the material to be cut out.
With the film in place we no longer have to worry about tolerances inside the chassis. And as a bonus when in operation you could place this on a metal table with no consequence.
So far the layout is coming along nicely. Everything fits like a glove. The ports are close. The hot glue was placed around the edges where the notches were. This makes for a strong hold. Drill a small hole for the nslu2’s on button. In the side of the case so you can turn it on with a paperclip. (not something you will have to do often.)
Since I want to use those two RJ45’s as a false surge protector. I need to make an extender from the inside to the outside. Some may argue “why not use just one for the nslu2 and get rid of the switch” Well I say this isn’t an expensive unit that has such remote management, so having one network cable coming off would look suspicious. The smaller cable is to connect the hub to the nslu2
That’s one good looking layout. So far everything has been pretty straight forward. The server hardware and drive are nice and cozy. The network cables are run and the USB cable to the hard drive is in place. We just to figure out how to power this thing. So the next step is to place the power wiring in.
Things are going to get a little more complicated with wiring. The first step is to rewire in the original plugs on the ups. Why go to the trouble of doing this? we want it to look legit don’t we? There is a small area for the walwarts. It does not look like they will fit but they will. During this part make sure to use caution and not to plug the unit in.
Since the plastic covering adds a ton of bloat to the transformers, I decided to remove them. Next up was to lengthen the 110V leads with our 12 gauge wire. Then we cut the longer cables to the device and shortened them with some solder and electrical tape.
Now things are starting to get a little tight. Once the walwarts were plugged into there appropriate parent devices we can hot glue them in. Then comes the soldering the wires together into the 110V system. Once the wires are soldered together use a piece of electrical tape to keep the wires from shorting out on each other.
We are almost done, just the most nerve racking step left. Turning it on for the first time. This is the do or die for your wiring job. Just make sure that everything powers up, you should have your LED’s on and the nslu2 should perform its booting beeps. If it does close that sucker up and get on with the hiding. Else, get a fire extinguisher.
This is the completed unit. Funny that looks like a ups, who would have guessed there was a hidden server in there. Just don’t try to use it as one as it has no battery backup. Everything on the outsides works as expected, from plug outlets to the LAN ports. Even the weight is similar. It’s a good disguise if you ask me.
The best place to hide this unit is almost in plain view, why not on that game system of yours that you’re running Linux on? After all you wouldn’t want to lose those precious save games, right? There are multiple reasons that you’d want to place it on your home entertainment center or your computer. for instance one of the main ones is if your computers get taken away by evil recording industry baddies or the like, who’s going to think to take away your Xbox and your UPS away with it as well?
Can it do more then just serve out files? I loaded mine with uNSLUng 5.5 which has bind 9 which is a DNS server. After a few minutes and a few reboots it’s now repurposed as a slave DNS server to main system as well.
Although messing with the RIAA could be fun with this project… it does have more practical uses. For instance if your house was broken into. I doubt a burglar would burden them self’s with a 10 Lb ups worth 35.00 verses a 1500.00 computer. So as a backup file system it is really ideal for that. It can also be used as a remote drive on your web server. The uses are really limitless.