gq.com: The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist

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The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist

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The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist

They were an all-star crew. They cooked up the perfect plan. And when they pulled off the caper of the century, it made them more than a fortune—it made them folk heroes.

By Josh Dean
February 20, 2020
illustration of robbers on a dingy
Illustration by Paul Lacolley

It was 12:38 in the afternoon on January 13, 2006, when the call went out to police: a bank robbery in progress. Moments later, cops were racing through San Isidro, a leafy, affluent suburb north of Buenos Aires. When officers arrived at the scene—a tan two-story branch of Banco Río, one of Argentina’s largest financial institutions—they were pleased to discover that the thieves were still inside.

As officers established a perimeter, they watched as the bank’s lone security guard ambled out the door, carrying his gun.

The robbers had emptied the weapon and placed its bullets in the guard’s pocket before permitting him to leave. There were hostages inside, he reported, and 10 minutes later, another of them, a young, nervous man, was released. Shortly after that, a masked thief appeared at the door, clutching a woman.

When he caught a glimpse of the assembled police force, the thief let the woman go and he ran back inside the bank.

There were five thieves in the bank, costumed in various disguises, and now they were trapped, along with 23 hostages. Outside, the streets were swarming with police, who soon established radio contact with one of the robbers, who called himself Walter. The thieves knew they were surrounded, Walter said, but they weren’t yet ready to give up. And until they were, the police had better stay back. Nobody wanted to see another Ramallo.

This struck a nerve. The heist in the town of Ramallo was infamous in Argentina. Six years earlier, three armed men had burst into another bank, not far from this one. As on this day, the thieves held hostages and, during an attempted escape, used them as shields. That’s when things went sideways. Police opened fire, killing a robber and two hostages. Ramallo was a national scandal, but what made it especially terrible is that the fiasco played out on live TV.

Now, in San Isidro, the news cameras had arrived again, training their lenses on the scene as more than 100 cops surrounded the bank and cordoned the nearby streets. Every available perch that afforded a view to the bank was occupied by either photographers or snipers.

For more than six hours, the nation was transfixed. The police had nicknamed Walter “the Man in the Gray Suit.” He was instantly famous. The hostages, Walter said, were being treated well. The mood inside seemed oddly ebullient: At one point, Walter and another robber could be heard singing “Happy Birthday” to a bank employee whose phone had been buzzing with birthday messages from friends and family. At 3:30 in the afternoon, Walter asked for pizzas; the hostages were hungry, he said. Then, only a few minutes later, Walter went silent.

For over three hours, police leaders and city officials fretted over what to do as further attempts to reach Walter failed.

Finally a team of special-forces officers took up position outside the bank. At 7 p.m, they burst inside. But there was no shoot-out, no commotion. And no sign of the thieves. The hostages were dispersed on three floors—the lobby level, a mezzanine space, and down in a basement conference room, which had been locked from the inside. They were all unharmed.

It wasn’t until detectives reached the basement that they discovered what the robbers had truly been after. There, in the expanse of the bank’s subterranean level, hundreds of reinforced-steel safe-deposit boxes lined the walls. And in a place like San Isidro, at a time like 2006, those boxes represented a veritable treasure trove.

Argentines are uniquely distrustful of their banks, and for good reason. They’ve been betrayed by them, over and over. Most famously in 2001, when the collapse of the national banking system, known as the corralito, erased entire fortunes, affecting millions. With no faith in accounts, bank customers began tucking their savings—their cash, jewelry, and other valuables—into safe-deposit boxes. And this particular bank, situated in one of the richest enclaves of Argentina, must have seemed especially enticing, flush as its deposit boxes were sure to be with the fortunes of the city’s most well-to-do.

Somehow the thieves had smashed open a huge number of the boxes—143 of the bank’s 400—and cleaned them out. But what exactly they’d grabbed, or where they’d gone, was a mystery. Cops swept every inch of the bank’s three floors but failed to locate a single member of the gang. The bank had only two exits—both of which had been covered by police since the siege began. All of the building’s windows were intact. And the robbers were not hiding among the hostages. They’d simply vanished.

The thieves had left a few things behind. Detectives found a battery pack, a tool that they surmised had been used to crack the boxes, a row of toy guns laid neatly on the floor, and a note, taped to the wall above the toys. It was handwritten and must have seemed like a taunt: “In a neighborhood of rich people, without weapons or grudges, it’s just money, not love.”

The Argentines who had sat glued to their televisions that Friday the 13th would spend the next weeks engrossed by the story of the Banco Río job—and years after enthralled by a saga that provided one unbelievable twist after another. The incident is still as legendary today as it was 14 years ago. Long after its mysteries were untangled, the so-called Robbery of the Century endures as a modern-day Robin Hood saga—one that immortalized a crew of colorful thieves who set out to become rich and became folk heroes instead. And it all began with Fernando Araujo.

Araujo had a crazy idea, and he shared it with his friend Sebastián García Bolster. This was a few years after the botched Ramallo heist had lodged itself in Araujo’s brain. It would be crazy to rob a bank but not leave, he mentioned to Bolster. To disappear through a hole. Bolster had been friends with Araujo since high school, and he agreed: That did sound like a wild way to rob a bank. But he assumed it was just some lark; his pal Araujo smoked a lot of weed.

The two had grown up together in upper-middle-class homes in the north suburbs, but they were very different. Whereas Araujo pursued eccentric—occasionally illegal—interests, Bolster was a law-abiding family man. He worked mostly at repairing small engines—motorcycles and Jet Skis. But he was also an inveterate tinkerer, the kind of guy who sketches plans for a cheap, homebuilt helicopter in his spare time. Araujo might have had his friend’s mechanical talents in mind when he floated the idea of a bank robbery. But Bolster paid it no mind.

Araujo, on the other hand, couldn’t get the notion out of his head. He was a free spirit and an artist. He’d gone through a breakup and was now cultivating various strains of high-grade marijuana. He had blacked out the windows of his loft, in order to remove the world. He ate sporadically, slept when he felt like it, and taught martial arts to pay his bills. He studied Eastern philosophy and was consumed with bank robberies, watching every possible film, TV show, and documentary he could find, searching for inspiration—and also mistakes—as he set out to architect the perfect heist. He listened to Mozart and Beethoven, for creativity, and also “Bankrobber” by the Clash, for motivation.

When Araujo came back to Bolster, in 2004, it was with more concrete plans. I need technical things, he told his friend. You will be my Lucius Fox, Araujo said, referencing the comic-book purveyor of Batman’s fantastical tools.

Bolster was wary. He was disinterested in crime; plus, he knew that banks were no easy target. He had worked part-time at one, even earning employee-of-the-month recognition. But he’d grown to hate financial institutions. His father and grandfather had both lost money in crashes. “I watched my father working all my life, and I saw how the banks stole his money,” Bolster thought. “Well, I went to get it back.” If Araujo could promise him that the robbery would not involve violence—that they wouldn’t even carry weapons—he was in.

Araujo’s years of contemplation had landed him on an audacious and complicated plan. He would arrive, and exit, using a tunnel. The suburbs of Buenos Aires were honeycombed with enormous storm tunnels that ran beneath the streets and drained to the river. Araujo figured that all he needed to do was find one that could get him near the bank he had in mind and then dig upward. The idea began to take shape.

One obstacle vexed Araujo longer than others: How would he disable the alarm systems that protect the bank when the place is empty? The only viable solution ratcheted up the degree of difficulty. They’d have to go in during a workday, when alarms weren’t a factor.

And how, Bolster wondered, would they do that?

By creating a diversion, Araujo said. He already had a clever one in mind: They could stage a phony bank robbery—a traditional smash-and-grab. Then, with the entire country focused on that, he’d quietly drain the boxes in the basement.

In Bolster, Araujo had his engineer—the guy who’d mastermind the tunnel work—but for a job of this magnitude, he needed a dream team of thieves. Via friends in the city’s underworld, he recruited a veteran bank robber whom everyone called Doc, plus an old associate of Doc’s named Rubén Alberto de la Torre. “Beto” and Doc had both been members of a legendary crew of armed thieves known as the Super Banda, which terrorized banks across Argentina in the 1980s and ’90s, often engaging in wild daylight shoot-outs with the police.

The pair had mellowed with time, but their violent pasts made Bolster nervous anyway. He decided that the biggest of his jobs—carving the tunnel from the city’s storm drains up into the bank—was best done alone. The solitude made it easier for him to compartmentalize the operation as an engineering problem, not a major criminal scheme.

For months, Bolster would drive his truck down to Perú Beach at night, parking near the spot where the city’s huge drain tunnel emptied into the Río de la Plata. He’d slip inside around 9:30 and slosh his way through the labyrinthine drain network, hiking for about a half hour to reach the location adjacent to the bank from which his work would commence—located beneath a manhole cover in the street.

With a hydraulic shovel, Bolster spent his nights chiseling the hard earth beneath the street, inching ever closer to the bank. He claims that his wife never questioned his nocturnal absence. She just assumed, he says, that he had a mistress.

Problems arose and problems were solved. For instance: What is the proper angle for a tunnel that runs from an underground canal to the bank’s foundation, many meters above? Misjudge by even a little and you could end up in an old lady’s basement. The answer, of course, was just math. Bolster knew he could calculate the precise angle if he had lengths for two sides of a triangle—the vertical distance from the street to the floor of the canal below, and the horizontal distance that the tunnel would travel to reach the exterior wall of the bank.

The first measurement was simple to obtain. Araujo rode his bike one night to the bank and found a storm drain through which he fed a string with a weight tied to one end. When it clanged on the canal floor, he had his triangle’s height. Calculating the horizontal distance was trickier. But Bolster had an idea. There was that manhole cover in the street, directly above the spot where his tunnel would begin. He’d measure from there to the wall of the Banco Río—but he knew he couldn’t just show up on Calle Perú using a measuring tape to size up a bank without arousing some suspicion. So he measured the circumference of his bike tire and then, late one night, walked his bike from the manhole cover to the wall of the bank as inconspicuously as possible, counting each full rotation by watching the air valve as the tire rolled. It was 37.5 rotations, or about 185 feet. Bolster did the math: The tunnel should be 69 degrees.

Would it all be worth the effort? It was tough to guess how much they’d make, but Araujo tried. He says he used the purported take from a 1997 robbery of safe-deposit boxes to work up an estimate. In that heist, thieves opened 167 boxes and took a total of $25 million in cash. By that formula—and accounting for some inflation—the 400 boxes in the Banco Río, Araujo decided, might yield as much as $60 million.

To finance what was quickly becoming a costly scheme, Araujo sold his car and plowed about $5,000 into the endeavor, but supply costs ran amok and the money didn’t go very far. They needed an investor. And Doc had the perfect man in mind: a renowned Uruguayan thief named Luis Mario Vitette Sellanes. Vitette had money, style, and expertise. He was a specialist in exotic entries, having been the famous Spider-Man of Buenos Aires. Back in the 1990s and 2000s, a slimmer Vitette scaled buildings in order to rob apartments. Until he was caught, he had a grand old time frustrating cops while supporting his voracious booze and coke habits. When Araujo reached out, Vitette had been semiretired from crime. He had a nice home and a comfortable life, but “once a thief, always a thief,” he says. This was too sweet to pass up. He invested about $100,000 and was immediately helpful as a problem solver.

One big chore on Bolster’s list was figuring out how to crack into the safe-deposit boxes. Easy enough, he figured, if he had one to practice on. So Araujo set out for a neighboring branch of Banco Río, where he asked to rent a box, made note of the brand, and then bought a few from the manufacturer.

Whatever Bolster built had to be fast, powerful, and quiet, so as to not reveal to anyone inside the bank that someone was breaking into boxes. That ruled out explosives. Cutting wouldn’t work, either; that would create fumes, which could become dangerous in the confined space of the basement box room.

His solution was a jackhammer with ample force to punch through the locks. He built it in a way that ensured it could be transported in pieces, assembled in the bank, and taken apart rapidly. He called it the power cannon. This would get them inside the boxes, but how to get their contents out of the bank? If they contained the kind of cash and valuables that Araujo imagined, there was no way to carry the loot out by hand. Boats would work. Specifically, inflatable Zodiacs. But the water level inside the storm canal was rarely deep enough; a raft loaded with men and money would drag on the bottom.

Araujo wanted the cops to think that they had the panicked gang surrounded; he wanted to lull the police into feeling they were in a position of power.

No problem, Bolster thought. He’d build a dam to raise the water depth. He designed one in his shop, using wood, then took it apart so it could be installed in the storm canal over several nights.

At every turn, Araujo imagined what could go wrong. He began to wonder what would happen if the cops discovered they were escaping through the tunnels beneath the streets. Naturally, he figured, cops would assume that the robbers would exit through the canal’s terminus, at the river. But he wanted as much advantage as he could create. A better idea was to flee the other way, by going deeper into the dark, fetid canals. This way, they could pop up anywhere in town. They simply could park a getaway van above a manhole and have a driver waiting patiently while a tense hostage situation occupied the city’s entire police force barely a mile away.

On the day of the robbery, the seven men went about their regular morning routines and then prepared for their roles in the big play. Some of the gang members met for coffee at a bar. While there, they applied glue to their to their fingertips, hoping that when it hardened they wouldn’t leave prints. Then they set off in three vehicles—a pair of cars stolen that morning headed to the bank while the getaway van, driven by a man named Julián Zalloecheverría, cruised to the pickup spot. Bolster, as usual, worked alone. He drove separately to Perú Beach, parked his car, and entered the tunnel around 7:00 that morning.

First into the bank was Beto, dressed as a doctor, in a baggy lab coat, followed by Doc, who wore a ski mask. Beto pulled out a toy gun he’d taken from his nine-year-old son that morning, flashed it around, and told everyone to get on the floor. This was a robbery.

Meanwhile, Vitette and a last-minute addition—a seventh member, known as Luis the Uruguayan, whose true identity is still a mystery—drove one of the stolen cars into a garage under the bank. Vitette and Luis carried the power cannon and some other tools into the bank, shut and locked the garage door, and used the car to barricade it. Then both men joined their friends upstairs, pretending to be part of a frantic robbery that was about to go bad.

Araujo hung back outside in one of the stolen cars. He parked alongside the bank and put the flashers on, to create the impression that this was the getaway car. He’d filled the back seat with nail strips and oil cans, knowing that cops would recognize these as the kinds of things a gang fleeing after a robbery might use to slow down pursuit.

As the mastermind strode into the bank, he wore a baseball cap and a ski mask pulled tightly over a long blond wig, plus sunglasses—and he looked so unlike himself that Beto put a toy gun to his head the minute he stepped through the doors. “Beto,” Araujo hissed. “It’s me.”

Each man now had a task prescribed by Araujo. Vitette would deal with the cops. Luis and Beto would subdue the hostages. And Doc would go the cleaning room and activate the final man: Bolster. The Engineer had been sitting there in the dark, waiting patiently at the terminus of the tunnel he’d dug, separated from the basement now by just a thin wall. Doc arrived and carefully broke the wall from the inside, trying not to leave debris, and greeted the Engineer. The game was on.
illustration of robbers inside the bank vault with hostages
Illustration by Paul Lacolley

Upstairs the gang emptied drawers. Vitette sat atop a counter and stepped into his lead role as Walter the negotiator, a charming man with a fake mustache, a tailored gray suit, and a yarmulke. It was his job to buy the men in the basement the time they’d need to empty the boxes, luring the police into believing that the standoff they were now engaged in was the result of a botched robbery.

As planned, Vitette released the bank’s armed guard and told the police negotiator that this was “proof that we are good people.” He said he was freeing his worst enemy. The actual motivation to free the guard was that Araujo didn’t want a single real gun inside the bank, because someone might use it.

They released a second and then a third hostage too, as part of Araujo’s psychological strategy to convince the police that they were making progress, that they had the upper hand and that time was in their favor. Araujo wanted the cops to think that they had the panicked gang surrounded; he wanted to lull the police into feeling they were in a position of power. “We must look nervous and stupid, like we’re losing control,” Araujo had told his crew. Also, people watching at home “must have sympathy for us.” Some freed hostages should buy goodwill.

On the radio with the police negotiator, Vitette emphasized that the robbers wanted to avoid a reprise of the Ramallo gunfight. He warned that the members of the gang were armed—a complete lie—and prepared to shoot their way out. But they really didn’t want to do that. A peaceful resolution, Vitette said, was in everybody’s interest.

According to news reports, this mysterious band of thieves, who’d embarrassed Argentine police on national TV, got away with almost $20 million in cash and valuables. The cops had no leads.

In the weeks that would follow the robbery, as the details of the caper captivated the country, Vitette’s role—glamorized in the press as the Man in the Gray Suit—drew particular notoriety. Over time, the legend grew even more, especially when Vitette started to share dramatic embellishments with reporters. Like that he’d prepared for the role by taking acting classes and had put coins in his mouth so that no one would recognize his voice or detect his Uruguayan accent.

Finally, when Vitette got the signal from Araujo, he told the police negotiator to order six pizzas. Then he put down his radio and told the hostages that the gang needed to step away for a meeting. Anyone who moved, he said, would be killed.

Down in the basement, Bolster worked fast. Araujo had given them all two hours, and he started his stopwatch the minute Doc punched through the wall to let Bolster in. It took Bolster 20 minutes to assemble the power cannon, but soon he was rapidly opening safe-deposit boxes and kept the pace up for the better part of 90 minutes. Before long the loot was piling up around him. Once things were settled upstairs, Araujo and Doc arrived and began to stuff their haul into bags.

Araujo knew they couldn’t linger. The stalemate upstairs wouldn’t last all day. When it was time to go, Bolster took the tool apart, lowered the pieces to Luis the Uruguayan, now in the tunnel, and cleaned the room. Then he assembled a series of fake bombs he’d created and scrambled back through the hole, followed by Beto and Vitette.

That left Araujo and Doc to finish up around the basement. One sprayed bleach, hoping to destroy any remnant DNA, while the other grabbed fistfuls of barbershop hair from a bag and tossed them around in order to further stymie investigators. Finally, the two men cleaned all evidence of the wall breach from the room where Bolster had entered, ducked into the tunnel, and moved a heavy cabinet in front of the hole. To anyone who entered, the room would appear to be an empty, untouched storage space.

Five guys piled into the first Zodiac, the one with the engine, and hooked a line to the trailing raft, which held a mountain of bags loaded with loot, plus Araujo, who stood atop it like a conquistador. Not everything went perfectly. The engine wouldn’t start, and Bolster was too exhausted to argue with whoever kept yanking the starter, which flooded the motor.

Araujo had planned for this too. He handed out paddles.

It was about 10 blocks to the passage where they ditched the boats and climbed up a ladder into an elevated side channel that led to the getaway van. The men took turns hoisting up the bags, using a pulley system Bolster installed a few days before. Then he pulled up the ladder, leaving no sign that this channel, of the dozens along the pitch-black canal, had been the escape route. The Zodiacs, abandoned below, just floated off.

When the special forces team finally stormed the bank, the seven bandits watched it live on TV while counting cash and eating pizza. Or at least they thought it was live. TV stations covered the operation on a 30-minute delay, because they assumed the gang would be watching from inside the bank and didn’t want to tip them off that a raid was coming. They figured they would trick the thieves.

Welp.

A day later Bolster gathered all the credit cards they had found in the safe-deposit boxes and scattered them around various storm drains in the area, all of them far from the actual exit point the gang had used. This “evidence” forced cops to case the wrong blocks and also created dozens of bogus leads, because every time a stolen card was used by someone who’d found one, the police had to dispatch detectives to open an investigation. “Their forces—and energy—were diluted,” Bolster recalls proudly. “Our advantage was huge.”

According to news reports, this mysterious band of thieves, who’d embarrassed Argentine police on national TV, got away with almost $20 million in cash and valuables. The cops had no leads.

How it all came undone—how the gang got caught and sent to prison—in a fit of impulsive pique hardly seems appropriate, given the precision and care of the crime. If the men were stunned by their capture, a bigger surprise might have been the trajectory their lives have followed since—one marked by curious opportunity, improbable fame, and perhaps the odd satisfaction that getting nabbed could well have been something of a lucky break.

Five weeks after the heist, Beto de la Torre was out for a drive with his girlfriend when police pulled him over. This, he just knew, was the end.

Beto had often been unfaithful to his wife, but this particular dalliance had apparently been too much for his then wife, Alicia di Tullio, who he claims alerted cops to his role in the heist—and to the fact that he was making a run for it with his girlfriend. (Beto swears he wasn’t.)

The specific details of what transpired between Alicia and Beto before the cops entered the picture remain unclear—Beto has given conflicting accounts over the years, and Alicia has rarely spoken publicly. But the basics seem to have gone like this: Beto brought home his share of the Banco Río haul, making no secret of its provenance. Beto claims that later, when he moved some of the loot, he discovered that a sizable portion was missing. The couple fought over it, he says.

Before long, the cops were pursuing a tip that Beto and some friends—Araujo, Bolster, Vitette, and Zalloecheverría—were the Banco Río gang. Apparently, Alicia was able to ID most of the crew because she’d seen them in her garage, working with Beto to prep the getaway van in the days before the job. (Doc and Luis, who had never come to the house, weren’t on the police’s radar and were never charged with a crime.)

In her most recent interview, given to the journalist Rodolfo Palacios in 2015, Alicia claimed she’d intended to hurt only Beto, and she has asked for the forgiveness of Araujo and Vitette.

“I never thought she would do that,” Beto tells me. Beto was accustomed to jail; he’s spent much of his adult life behind bars. While there, he became the first to talk publicly about his role in the heist, speaking to Palacios for a book the journalist wrote, called Without Arms or Grudges.

That book, Beto says, is fine, but it’s not 100 percent accurate. It leans too heavily on Araujo’s perspective, he thinks. The truer story, he tells me, can be found in a book that he helped a different journalist write. “These are my words,” he says, tapping his hand on a copy of Robbery of the Century: The Secret History, which had been rushed out in order to beat Araujo’s version to market. There is also a third book, written by yet another journalist, and just this year, a major film was released in Argentina, heightening national interest in the caper all the more.

Beto is 66 now and, like the other major players in the heist, agreed to talk with me about the long, strange shadow the scheme cast in his life. As you might expect, he’s defensive about the notion that he’s responsible for their capture. “I will always be angry, for the rest of my life,” he tells me at a bar not far from the dodgy neighborhood where he used to run a cell phone chop shop.

But there’s also this: If they hadn’t been collared, there’d be no books, or movies. The Robbery of the Century would have remained something of a mystery. Which is a satisfying result—pulling off one of the greatest heists in history and walking away with millions. But isn’t there something special about the credit, the recognition warranted by a genius scheme of this magnitude?

Beto thinks for a second, and his eyes—so blue that a witness recalled them vividly at the trial, even though he’d worn a mask—light up. “There’s something true about what you say,” he answers. Beto sold the rights to his name to the producers who made the film and he visited the set a few times. He pulls out his phone to show me a photo. It’s of him, dressed for a small but important role—as the cop who pulls over the actor playing Beto, who in the movie version is definitely making a run for it with his mistress.

But it’s not just the fame. He’s proud of the robbery. “Of all the things I’ve done—all the stupid things—this makes up for that,” he says, and then searches for a way to describe it. “It’s like this beautiful brooch.”

When cops arrested Beto, Vitette, Bolster, Zalloecheverría, and Araujo, they recovered only a small fraction of what was stolen.

Where is the rest?

Beto rubs his head. “You know, when they arrested me, I got a big knock on my head,” he says. “I can’t remember.”

Sometime after Luis Vitette, the Man in the Gray Suit, was tried and sent to prison, his lawyers took advantage of a legal loophole. He was not an Argentine national and thus was eligible to have his sentence cut in half, provided he left the country and never came back. So in 2013, Vitette was deported to Uruguay, having served only four years behind bars.

He moved to San José de Mayo, the small town outside Montevideo where he’d grown up, and married a much younger woman, had a son, and opened a jewelry store called the Green Emerald.

Vitette is standing outside the store as I arrive, and he closes his shop to give us privacy. The gang’s most dynamic member has been out of jail for six years now, which has been the longest period of sustained freedom he’s enjoyed since he was a teenager. The life of crime just sucked him in, Vitette says, and he got stuck in a cycle of stealing to support his lavish habits, then getting locked up, then starting all over again. Before computers, cops never connected his crimes. Jail stints were short. But when digital records arrived, he adapted. “I became Spider-Man. That guy was thin and athletic,” he says, patting his belly.

At the jewelry store, live footage from four different security cameras plays on a computer screen as we talk. “Here too,” Vitette says, pulling out his phone. “And at home. Remember, I’m a thief.”

Vitette has mixed emotions about getting caught. Obviously the point of a robbery is to get away with it. So the outcome, in that sense, was bad. But bad things can become good. Argentines now come by his shop to take photos. Sometimes they buy jewelry. This very afternoon he is scheduled to talk to the editor who will publish his book. Yes, another book.

Each book is just a “version” of the story, Vitette explains. And, to him, every version so far is wrong. Or least embellished. Only Vitette’s book will be true: “My truth!”

Vitette has given many interviews and spread his legend proudly. But here’s the thing, he tells me: It wasn’t really him. The persona—the guy from the interviews—that’s the Man in the Gray Suit. He was created for cops and the media. “But when you come here, to the shop, you see the person.” Vitette!

Vitette has some things to tell us: He did not take acting classes, nor did he put coins in his mouth. “Have you tried to talk with coins in your mouth? It’s impossible.” It’s fiction, he says, then stops. It’s the Man in the Gray Suit’s truth.

In Araujo’s gang, Zalloecheverría was known as “El Paisano,” or sometimes just “Paisa.” It means, basically, a guy from the country, and Zalloecheverría was essentially retired from crime in 2005, when his old buddy Beto called with an opportunity. “Robbing a bank is what every criminal wants to do,” he tells me in the bustling cafeteria of a university south of Buenos Aires, where he’s now in his final year of law school.

Impressions are important to Zalloecheverría. He still dresses immaculately and has lost weight, so his other old nickname, Gordo, no longer applies. He insisted we meet on campus, during lunch, and that I wear something that made it clear I was a journalist. He asked for a “press jacket,” which is maybe not a thing, so instead I wore a “press” badge my fixer got at the last G-20 summit.

Zalloecheverría’s main regret seems to be that he wasn’t inside the bank. Vitette had wanted him there, he says, because of his experience. But Araujo wanted him to be the driver. So Zalloecheverría sat in the van, over that storm drain, for two hours. The spot was chosen because the storm drain there is close to the sidewalk and not in the middle of the street, which meant that Zalloecheverría could just park over it, for a long time, without attracting undue attention. He could have sat there and waited for hours, he says, for days.

Bolster says that this heist changed the way that Argentine police respond to robberies. Cops now question whether what’s happening is actually what it seems.

When the gang divvied up the loot, the shares were not all entirely equal. Bolster, Beto, Vitette, and Araujo all got more or less the same—likely millions each. Zalloecheverría and Luis the Uruguayan got less, because they joined much later. This was prearranged, and no one was upset about it.

The morning that police came for him, Zalloecheverría spotted suspicious vehicles at both ends of his block. He had a feeling he was screwed. But he got in his car anyway. The moment he pulled out of his driveway, cops descended. He’d been here before. He braked to a stop, rolled down the window, and asked, “What’s wrong, officers?”

Here at school, Zalloecheverría tries to keep a low profile, but his past is not a secret. Professors sometimes ask for photos, which is awkward. Why, he wonders, do people care so much for these stories? Why are even law-school professors attracted to criminals? “Don’t you think it’s a little morbid?” he asks me.

Zalloecheverría has little desire to talk about his crimes these days, he says, except to show people that another life is possible—that he made it to the other side: “I’m not interested in publicity. I’m not interested in what the others do—like films or books.”

But he’s not especially embarrassed about Banco Río, either. “I’m a professional thief,” he says. A thief with standards, who steals with dignity and honor.

“Do I regret it? How can I?”

Was it perfect?

“Yes,” he says, with no hesitation. “It was a work of art.”

The Engineer got the shortest sentence, and he served just 25 months. Bolster apparently confessed his involvement under duress but was convicted only of helping to construct the tunnel, and—until last year—Sebastián García Bolster had never publicly admitted his role in the robbery. He was always coy about it. He would say things like “The judge said I did it, and judges are always right, so I suppose I must have.”

But on May 3, 2019, Bolster finally told the people of Argentina, on TV, what they already knew—that he was Araujo’s MacGyver, the famous Engineer. I spoke with Bolster around then too, as crews were at work on El Robo del Siglo (“The Robbery of the Century”), the big movie dramatizing the heist.

The statute of limitations has expired, which is one reason Bolster is opening up. Another feels more strategic: “I want to collaborate on the film. I can’t collaborate on the film until I say it was me.” He smiles. He’s sitting in a booth at a fast-casual burger spot, directly across from the Banco Río site, which is still a bank—now called Santander Rio. Bolster was a customer at the branch before the robbery. “They kicked me out,” he says.

Bolster points to the spot on Calle Perú where Araujo parked the decoy getaway car and left its blinkers flashing. He says that this heist changed the way that Argentine police respond to robberies. Cops now question whether what’s happening is actually what it seems. They call this, Bolster says, “the Man in the Gray Suit Protocol.” Before Banco Río, he says, police considered only that thieves might escape via the obvious points of egress—doors, windows, the roof, or maybe even a hole in the wall that connects to an adjoining structure. Now they carry tunnel maps and look for every possible point of access, he says—above the ground or below it.

He still talks to his old friend Araujo; their relationship endures. But he’s not in touch with the others. “I was a strange guy in the band,” he says, the only one who’d never been convicted of a crime. Araujo has respected Bolster’s desire to remain quiet. He’s never used his name publicly; when he refers to Bolster, in relation to the heist, he says “the Engineer” or sometimes “El Marciano,” which means “the Martian,” which is what the other guys called him, because he was so different from them.

The film that Araujo is making, he says, is much more exciting than what actually happened. It’s more dramatic and features a thrilling climax. “The truth is too boring,” he says, “because we made no mistakes.”

“No one has ever said anything bad to me,” Bolster says. “Many people congratulate me. That’s very confusing. I know it’s wrong to steal. But they congratulate me.”

What had always appealed to him about Araujo’s plan was the challenge of it. “Yes, it’s a robbery,” he says, “but it’s a technical challenge too.” Also, he was angry at banks for what they’d done to his family. In a sense, this was revenge: “Stealing is wrong, but I can justify it here. What I can’t justify—and didn’t contemplate—is what it did to my family.”

Bolster says his family was horrified, and then humiliated. “They were all working people,” he says. “My father, an engineer; my grandfather, also an engineer; my sister, a doctor. A normal family. It changed my life.”

For six months after prison, he says, he was depressed. It was difficult to even go outside. “I was Sebastián the mechanic,” he says. “Then I became Sebastián the bank robber.” But over time, that new identity wasn’t so bad. Bolster says he earned a kind of absolution that, he admits, surprised him. “No one has ever said anything bad to me,” he says. “On the contrary, many people congratulate me. That’s very confusing. I know it’s wrong to steal. But they congratulate me.… To understand this, you have to be Argentine.”

When he was planning things, Fernando Araujo called his scheme the Donatello Project—but not because of the Renaissance artist. Because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which are green like his beloved cannabis, practice martial arts, and take huge risks. Also, they move around under cities using tunnels, which they access via manholes. He now has “Donatello” tattooed in large script on his forearm.

He shows me that tattoo, and many others, late one night in the kitchen of his one-bedroom apartment, which is illuminated entirely with blue lights. Araujo sits on a counter, smoking a cigarette. He has shaggy dark hair with frosted portions and wears loose green track pants. The clock on his microwave is 5 hours 32 minutes fast.

He has just returned from the set of El Robo del Siglo, directed by one of Argentina’s best-known directors and based in part on a script Araujo worked on for four years. He says he’d planned to go to Europe to live after prison but “found myself doing a book,” and that book helped lead to the movie, and here we are. He wrote two versions of a script himself, and then, when producers bought the rights, they hired two screenwriters to move it forward.

He secured cameo roles for Beto and Bolster and would have found one for Zalloecheverría, had he not refused to participate. Vitette couldn’t appear, because he’d been deported from Argentina, but Araujo proposed at least including his voice, as a newscaster or something. The Man in the Gray Suit declined. “[Vitette] loves cameras,” Araujo says.

That reminds me, I tell him, of what Vitette said to me—that the legend of the Man in the Gray Suit is, at least in part, a lie. That he did not take acting classes or talk with coins in his mouth. Araujo listens intently, then nods. “He likes to confuse people,” he says. “He is a manipulator.” Also, he says, Vitette did take acting classes and did put coins in his mouth.

The movie, Araujo admits, takes some liberties to dramatize the events: The true story had no real climax. The gang escaped. The police were not even sort of on their heels. “So these things you have to change; otherwise you do a documentary,” he explains. Which, by the way, he plans to do next. Well, not next. After the movie, he hopes to produce a nine-part Spanish-language TV series about the heist. Then he wants to do a documentary.

What everyone else in the gang told me is also true in the eyes of the Mastermind. The point of the robbery was to steal money, but it was also to make art. Over time, Araujo has come to see this even more clearly. “I am not a bank robber,” he says, suggesting that he is something more. Maybe getting caught was inevitable: After all, executing a crime this perfect and then never getting a chance to take credit for it is a little like owning a Picasso you can’t display.

Now Araujo is free to brag about his own masterpiece and monetize it. He can be proud, and he is. “In the history of humanity,” only two things “transcend life,” he says grandly: children and art. “I came to the conclusion that I did it for the artistic part. Not so that they know about Fernando Araujo,” he says, “but so that the art remains. Great works of history, you know exactly who made them—not by the name on the side but by the artwork itself.” Like the pyramids! Generation after generation knows the pyramids by sight. And our wonder over them never ebbs. But almost no one knows the name of anyone who built them.

Two bottles of Malbec are gone. A joint has been smoked. It’s approaching midnight. At some point Araujo ordered some pizza and empanadas, and when his doorman calls up to say that the food has arrived, I pull out my wallet. As the guest, I say, I should pay. He shakes a finger.

“No, no,” he says, his mouth curling into the widest, most mischievous grin you can imagine. “Banco Río is paying.”

Josh Dean is the host of the true-crime podcast ‘The Clearing’ and the author of ‘The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History.’

A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2020 issue with the title “The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist.”
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The Bash Hackers Wiki

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This wiki is intended to hold documentation of any kind about GNU Bash. The main motivation was to provide human-readable documentation and information so users aren’t forced to read every bit of the Bash manpage – which can be difficult to understand. However, the docs here are not meant as a newbie tutorial.

This wiki and any programs found in this wiki are free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

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There is a section that holds small code snippets.

See also some Bash source code excerpts.
How to….

Doing specific tasks: concepts, methods, ideas:

Simple locking (against parallel run)
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Editing files with ed(1)
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Introduction to pax – the POSIX archiver
Small getopts tutorial (under construction!)
Dissect a bad oneliner An example of a bad oneliner, breakdown and fix (by kojoro)
Write tests for ./your-script.sh by using bashtest util

Bash syntax and operations

Bash features overview by version
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Compound commands overview
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This is a selection of builtin commands and command-like keywords, loosely arranged by their common uses. These are provided directly by the shell, rather than invoked as standalone external commands.
Declaration commands
Commands that set and query attributes/types, and manipulate simple datastructures. Alt Type
declare Display or set shell variables or functions along with attributes. typeset builtin
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Commands for reading/parsing input, or producing/formatting output of standard streams. Alt Type
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printf “advanced echo.” – builtin
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Commands that modify shell behavior, change special options, assist in debugging. Alt Type
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Commands that operate on data and/or affect control flow. Alt Type
colon “true” null command. true special builtin
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[ The classic test simple command. test builtin
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Alt Type
Dictionary
A list of expressions, words, and their meanings is here.
Links
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Chet Ramey’s Bash page and its FAQ.
GNU Bash software page
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General questions: help-bash@gnu.org (archives)
Official Bash git repository:
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Clone: git: ssh://git.sv.gnu.org/srv/git/bash.git • ssh: ssh://git.sv.gnu.org/srv/git/bash.git • http: http://git.savannah.gnu.org/r/bash.git

Recommended Shell resources

Greg’s wiki – Greg Wooledge’s (aka “greycat”) wiki – with MASSIVE information about Bash and UNIX® in general.
BashFAQ • BashGuide • BashPitfalls • BashSheet
Sven Mascheck’s pages – A goldmine of information. A must-read.
#ksh channel page – #ksh Freenode channel page maintains a solid collection of recommended links.
The Grymoire Unix pages – Good scripting information, especially read the quoting guide.
Heiner’s “Shell Dorado” – Tips, tricks, links – for every situation.
The Single Unix Specification (version 4, aka POSIX-2008)
The Austin Group – List archives , Bug tracker
comp.unix.shell FAQ

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Bash: man page info page
AT&T ksh: ksh88 ksh93
mksh (pdksh successor)
zsh
dash
Heirloom Bourne shell
Thompson shell

Assorted interesting links

History and development of the traditional Bourne shell family – very interesting and nice to read!
Interview with Chet Ramey
Interview with Steve Bourne • Stephen Bourne – BSDCan 2015 keynote
Interview with David Korn
Kernighan on the Unix pipeline (computerphile video)
Linux in general, with some shell related stuff: nixCraft: Linux Tips, Hacks, Tutorials and Ideas
Linux tutorials, guides and how-tos: RoseHosting Blog, bash script for installing WordPress and some basic shell commands
Bashphorism list from the Bash IRC channel on Freenode
Some more or less funny commandline stuff
How to Enable SSH on Ubuntu Tutorial

Bash Libraries (needs review)

An oo-style bash library for bash 4 – provides tools for rapid script development and huge libraries.
General purpose shell framework for bash 4 – in development.
General purpose bash library for bash 4 – active development

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Model Hacking ADAS to Pave Safer Roads for Autonomous Vehicles, Tesla speed limit

Model Hacking ADAS to Pave Safer Roads for Autonomous Vehicles

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Home/ Other Blogs/ McAfee Labs/ Model Hacking ADAS to Pave Safer Roads for Autonomous Vehicles

By Steve Povolny and Shivangee Trivedi on Feb 19, 2020

The last several years have been fascinating for those of us who have been eagerly observing the steady move towards autonomous driving. While semi-autonomous vehicles have existed for many years, the vision of fleets of fully autonomous vehicles operating as a single connected entity is very much still a thing of the future. However, the latest technical advances in this area bring us a unique and compelling picture of some of the capabilities we might expect to see “down the road.” Pun intended.

For example, nearly every new vehicle produced in 2019 has a model which implements state-of-the art sensors that utilize analytics technologies, such as machine learning or artificial intelligence, and are designed to automate, assist or replace many of the functions humans were formerly responsible for. These can range from rain-sensors on the windshield to control wiper blades, to object detection sensors using radar and lidar for collision avoidance, to camera systems capable of recognizing objects in range and providing direct driving input to the vehicle.

This broad adoption represents a fascinating development in our industry; it’s one of those very rare times when researchers can lead the curve ahead of adversaries in identifying weaknesses in underlying systems.

McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) has a specific goal: identify and illuminate a broad spectrum of threats in today’s complex landscape. With model hacking, the study of how adversaries could target and evade artificial intelligence, we have an incredible opportunity to influence the awareness, understanding and development of more secure technologies before they are implemented in a way that has real value to the adversary.

With this in mind, we decided to focus our efforts on the broadly deployed MobilEye camera system, today utilized across over 40 million vehicles, including Tesla models that implement Hardware Pack 1.

18 Months of Research

McAfee Advanced Threat Research follows a responsible disclosure policy, as stated on our website. As such, we disclosed the findings below to both Tesla and MobilEye 90 days prior to public disclosure. McAfee disclosed the findings to Tesla on September 27th, 2019 and MobilEye on October 3rd, 2019. Both vendors indicated interest and were grateful for the research but have not expressed any current plans to address the issue on the existing platform. MobilEye did indicate that the more recent version(s) of the camera system address these use cases.

MobilEye is one of the leading vendors of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) catering to some of the world’s most advanced automotive companies. Tesla, on the other hand, is a name synonymous with ground-breaking innovation, providing the world with the innovative and eco-friendly smart cars.

Tesla model X (2016)

Tesla model S (2016)

MobilEye camera sensor
A table showing MobilEye’s EyeQ3 being used in Tesla’s hardware pack 1.

As we briefly mention above, McAfee Advanced Threat Research has been studying what we call “Model Hacking,” also known in the industry as adversarial machine learning. Model Hacking is the concept of exploiting weaknesses universally present in machine learning algorithms to achieve adverse results. We do this to identify the upcoming problems in an industry that is evolving technology at a pace that security has not kept up with.

We started our journey into the world of model hacking by replicating industry papers on methods of attacking machine learning image classifier systems used in autonomous vehicles, with a focus on causing misclassifications of traffic signs. We were able to reproduce and significantly expand upon previous research focused on stop signs, including both targeted attacks, which aim for a specific misclassification, as well as untargeted attacks, which don’t prescribe what an image is misclassified as, just that it is misclassified. Ultimately, we were successful in creating extremely efficient digital attacks which could cause misclassifications of a highly robust classifier, built to determine with high precision and accuracy what it is looking at, approaching 100% confidence.
Targeted digital white-box attack on stop sign, causing custom traffic sign classifier to misclassify as 35-mph speed sign

We further expanded our efforts to create physical stickers, shown below, that model the same type of perturbations, or digital changes to the original photo, which trigger weaknesses in the classifier and cause it to misclassify the target image.
Targeted physical white-box attack on stop sign, causing custom traffic sign classifier to misclassify the stop sign as an added lane sign

This set of stickers has been specifically created with the right combination of color, size and location on the target sign to cause a robust webcam-based image classifier to think it is looking at an “Added Lane” sign instead of a stop sign.

Video demo of our resilient classifier in the lab which correctly recognizes the 35-mph speed limit sign, even when it is partially obstructed

In reality, modern vehicles don’t yet rely on stop signs to enable any kind of autonomous features such as applying the brakes, so we decided to alter our approach and shift (pun intended) over to speed limit signs. We knew, for example, that the MobilEye camera is used by some vehicles to determine the speed limit, display it on the heads-up display (HUD), and potentially even feed that speed limit to certain features of the car related to autonomous driving. We’ll come back to that!

We then repeated the stop sign experiments on traffic signs, using a highly robust classifier, and our trusty high-resolution webcam. And just to show how robust our classifier is, we can make many changes to the sign— block it partially, place the stickers in random locations — and the classifier does an outstanding job of correctly predicting the true sign, as demonstrated in the video above. While there were many obstacles to achieving the same success, we were ultimately able to prove both targeted and untargeted attacks, digitally and physically, against speed limit signs. The below images highlight a few of those tests.

Example of our resilient classifier correctly classifying the 35-mph speed sign with 95.93% confidence

Example of targeted digital perturbations printed out using a black and white printer which cause a misclassification of 35-mph speed sign to 45-mph speed sign.

Physical targeted black-box attack on speed limit 35 sign resulting in a misclassification of the sign to a 45-mph sign

Black-box attack on the 35-mph sign, resulting in a misclassification of 45-mph sign. This attack also transfers on state-of-the-art CNNs namely Inception-V3, VGG-19 and ResNet-50

At this point, you might be wondering “what’s so special about tricking a webcam into misclassifying a speed limit sign, outside of just the cool factor?” Not much, really. We felt the same, and decided it was time to test the “black box theory.”

What this means, in its most simple form, is attacks leveraging model hacking which are trained and executed against white box, also known as open source systems, will successfully transfer to black box, or fully closed and proprietary systems, so long as the features and properties of the attack are similar enough. For example, if one system is relying on the specific numeric values of the pixels of an image to classify it, the attack should replicate on another camera system that relies on pixel-based features as well.

The last part of our lab-based testing involved simplifying this attack and applying it to a real-world target. We wondered if the MobilEye camera was as robust as the webcam-based classifier we built in the lab? Would it truly require several highly specific, and easily noticeable stickers to cause a misclassification? Thanks to several friendly office employees, we were able to run repeated tests on a 2016 Model “S” and 2016 Model “X” Tesla using the MobilEye camera (Tesla’s hardware pack 1 with EyeQ3 mobilEye chip). The first test involved simply attempting to recreate the physical sticker test – and, it worked, almost immediately and with a high rate of reproducibility.

These adversarial stickers cause the MobilEye on Tesla Model X to interpret the 35-mph speed sign as an 85-mph speed sign

In our lab tests, we had developed attacks that were resistant to change in angle, lighting and even reflectivity, knowing this would emulate real-world conditions. While these weren’t perfect, our results were relatively consistent in getting the MobilEye camera to think it was looking at a different speed limit sign than it was. The next step in our testing was to reduce the number of stickers to determine at which point they failed to cause a misclassification. As we began, we realized that the HUD continued to misclassify the speed limit sign. We continued reducing stickers from 4 adversarial stickers in the only locations possible to confuse our webcam, all the way down to a single piece of black electrical tape, approximately 2 inches long, and extending the middle of the 3 on the traffic sign.
A robust, inconspicuous black sticker achieves a misclassification from the Tesla model S, used for Speed Assist when activating TACC (Traffic Aware Cruise Control)

Even to a trained eye, this hardly looks suspicious or malicious, and many who saw it didn’t realize the sign had been altered at all. This tiny piece of sticker was all it took to make the MobilEye camera’s top prediction for the sign to be 85 mph.

Black tape attack shows the 35-mph sign being incorrectly read as an 85-mph sign on the HUD of a Tesla model X

The finish line was close (last pun…probably).

Finally, we began to investigate whether any of the features of the camera sensor might directly affect any of the mechanical, and even more relevant, autonomous features of the car. After extensive study, we came across a forum referencing the fact that a feature known as Tesla Automatic Cruise Control (TACC) could use speed limit signs as input to set the vehicle speed.

There was majority of consensus among owners that this might be a supported feature. It was clear that there was also confusion among forum members as to whether this capability was possible, so our next step was to verify by consulting Tesla software updates and new feature releases.

A software release for TACC contained just enough information to point us towards speed assist, with the following statement, under the Tesla Automatic Cruise Control feature description.

“You can now immediately adjust your set speed to the speed determined by Speed Assist.”

This took us down our final documentation-searching rabbit hole; Speed Assist, a feature quietly rolled out by Tesla in 2014.

Finally! We can now add these all up to surmise that it might be possible, for Tesla models enabled with Speed Assist (SA) and Tesla Automatic Cruise Control (TACC), to use our simple modification to a traffic sign to cause the car to increase speed on its own!

Despite being confident this was theoretically possible, we decided to simply run some tests to see for ourselves.

McAfee ATR’s lead researcher on the project, Shivangee Trivedi, partnered with another of our vulnerability researchers Mark Bereza, who just so happened to own a Tesla that exhibited all these features. Thanks Mark!

For an exhaustive look at the number of tests, conditions, and equipment used to replicate and verify misclassification on this target, we have published our test matrix here.

The ultimate finding here is that we were able to achieve the original goal. By making a tiny sticker-based modification to our speed limit sign, we were able to cause a targeted misclassification of the MobilEye camera on a Tesla and use it to cause the vehicle to autonomously speed up to 85 mph when reading a 35-mph sign. For safety reasons, the video demonstration shows the speed start to spike and TACC accelerate on its way to 85, but given our test conditions, we apply the brakes well before it reaches target speed. It is worth noting that this is seemingly only possible on the first implementation of TACC when the driver double taps the lever, engaging TACC. If the misclassification is successful, the autopilot engages 100% of the time. This quick demo video shows all these concepts coming together.

Of note is that all these findings were tested against earlier versions (Tesla hardware pack 1, mobilEye version EyeQ3) of the MobilEye camera platform. We did get access to a 2020 vehicle implementing the latest version of the MobilEye camera and were pleased to see it did not appear to be susceptible to this attack vector or misclassification, though our testing was very limited. We’re thrilled to see that MobilEye appears to have embraced the community of researchers working to solve this issue and are working to improve the resilience of their product. Still, it will be quite some time before the latest MobilEye camera platform is widely deployed. The vulnerable version of the camera continues to account for a sizeable installation base among Tesla vehicles. The newest models of Tesla vehicles do not implement MobilEye technology any longer, and do not currently appear to support traffic sign recognition at all.
Looking Forward

We feel it is important to close this blog with a reality check. Is there a feasible scenario where an adversary could leverage this type of an attack to cause harm? Yes, but in reality, this work is highly academic at this time. Still, it represents some of the most important work we as an industry can focus on to get ahead of the problem. If vendors and researchers can work together to identify and solve these problems in advance, it would truly be an incredible win for us all. We’ll leave you with this:

In order to drive success in this key industry and shift the perception that machine learning systems are secure, we need to accelerate discussions and awareness of the problems and steer the direction and development of next-generation technologies. Puns intended.

About the Author

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Steve Povolny

Steve Povolny is the Head of McAfee Advanced Threat Research, which delivers groundbreaking vulnerability research spanning nearly every industry. With more than a decade of experience in network security, Steve is a recognized authority on hardware and software vulnerabilities, and regularly collaborates with influencers in academia, government, law enforcement, consumers and enterprise businesses of all …
Read more posts from Steve Povolny

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Shivangee Trivedi

Shivangee is with the Advanced Threat Research Team at McAfee with a focus on data science. In the past, she has worked on sentiment analysis using NLP techniques on Twitter data and contributed to a marketing automation tool by performing data analysis on SiteAdvisor data. Her current interests include adversarial machine learning and reinforcement learning …
Read more posts from Shivangee Trivedi

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Deutsche Telekom Speedport Smart 3, 40769531

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A List Of Useful Console Services For Linux Users

A List Of Useful Console Services For Linux Users

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OSTechNix

Command line fun / Command line utilities / FAQ / Linux / Linux Basics / Linux Commands / Opensource / Tips and Tricks / Unix/Linux Beginners / Utilities

A List Of Useful Console Services For Linux Users

by sk · February 13, 2020

A while ago, we have seen a list of useful tools for Linux sysadmins and useful BASH scripts for commandline users. Today, we will discuss some useful console services for Linux users. These console services are nothing but minimal web applications that performs a particular operation. All of the console services are accessible from command line via http, https and other network protocols like ssh and telnet. Good thing is they don’t require any installation or additional applications, except curl or wget tools which comes pre-installed in almost all Linux and Unix distributions. If you have a Linux system with an active Internet connection, you can start using these console services to perform various tasks.
List Of Useful Console Services For Linux Users

To access the following console services, we use the below tools:

curl or wget
ssh
telnet
nc

These tools comes preinstalled in many Linux operating systems. Just in case if they are not available, just install them using your distribution’s package manager.

To install them on Debian-based systems, run:

$ sudo apt install curl wget openssh-client telnet nc

On RPM-based systems:

$ sudo yum install curl wget openssh-client telnet nc

On Arch Linux:

$ sudo pacman -S curl wget openssh-client telnet nc

On openSUSE:

$ sudo zypper install curl wget openssh-client telnet nc

Now let us see the usage of some console services.

Please note that some of the services listed here may not work all the time. If they don’t work, try after some time or try different service.
Cheatsheets for Linux/Unix commands

You probably heard about cheat.sh. I use this service everyday! This is one of the useful service for all Linux users. It displays concise Linux command examples.

For instance, to view the curl command cheatsheet, simply run the following command from your console:

$ curl cheat.sh/curl

curl command cheatsheet

It is that simple! You don’t need to go through man pages or use any online resources to learn about commands. It can get you the cheatsheets of most Linux and unix commands in couple seconds.

ls command cheatsheet:

$ curl cheat.sh/ls

find command cheatsheet:

$ curl cheat.sh/find

It is highly recommended tool!

Recommended read:

Good Alternatives To Man Pages Every Linux User Needs To Know

World Map

Did you know we can view the World Map right from the Terminal? Yes! MapSCII, a Braille and ASCII world map renderer for your xterm-compatible terminals.

To display the world map from your console, simply run:

$ telnet mapscii.me

MapSCII World Map

Don’t underestimate it. MapSCII is not a lame project. It is highly commendable project. It can even display the map of a small town accurately. More details in the following link.

MapSCII – The World Map In Your Terminal

Weather details

This is another commendable console service. It will get us the weather details of any location in the world.

To know the weather details of your current location, simply run:

$ curl wttr.in

wttr weather details from Terminal

You can also display the weather details of a particular country, city, airport, geographical location and a lot more.

Refer the following guide for more details.

How To Check Weather Details From Command Line In Linux

IP Address

We can find the local ip address using ip command. But what about the public IP address? It is simple!

To find your public IP address, just run the following commands from your Terminal:

$ curl ipinfo.io/ip
157.46.122.176

$ curl eth0.me
157.46.122.176

$ curl checkip.amazonaws.com
157.46.122.176

$ curl icanhazip.com
2409:4072:631a:c033:cc4b:4d25:e76c:9042

Console Services To Find Ip Address

There is also a console service to display the ip address in JSON format.

$ curl httpbin.org/ip
{
“origin”: “157.46.122.176”
}

Geolocation

The following console services will display the geolocation details.

$ curl ipinfo.io/8.8.8.8
{
“ip”: “8.8.8.8”,
“hostname”: “dns.google”,
“city”: “Mountain View”,
“region”: “California”,
“country”: “US”,
“loc”: “37.3860,-122.0838”,
“org”: “AS15169 Google LLC”,
“postal”: “94035”,
“timezone”: “America/Los_Angeles”,
“readme”: “https://ipinfo.io/missingauth&#8221;
}

Or only display the location:

$curl ipinfo.io/8.8.8.8/loc
37.3860,-122.0838

Display country:

$ curl ifconfig.co/country
India

Display city:

$ curl ifconfig.co/city
Chennai

Related read:

How To Find The Geolocation Of An IP Address From Commandline
Geo – A Simple BASH Utility To Get Network And Geolocation Details
How To Get Your Geolocation From Commandline In Linux

Money

Wondering what is happening in Cryptocurreny market?

Get Coinmarketcap Top 100 Cryptocurrencies:

$ curl cmc.rjldev.com

Sample output:

Get Coinmarketcap Top 100 Cryptocurrencies

Get Cryptocurrencies Exchange Rates:

$ curl rate.sx

Sample output:

cryptocurrency exchange rate

You can also display a specific currency rate:

$ curl rate.sx/btc

Dictionary

Want to know the meanig of an English word? Here is how you can get the meaning of a word – gustatory

$ curl ‘dict://dict.org/d:gustatory’
220 pan.alephnull.com dictd 1.12.1/rf on Linux 4.4.0-1-amd64
250 ok
150 1 definitions retrieved
151 “Gustatory” gcide “The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48”
Gustatory \Gust”a*to*ry\, a.
Pertaining to, or subservient to, the sense of taste; as, the
gustatory nerve which supplies the front of the tongue.
[1913 Webster]
.
250 ok [d/m/c = 1/0/16; 0.000r 0.000u 0.000s]
221 bye [d/m/c = 0/0/0; 0.000r 0.000u 0.000s]

Text sharing

You can share texts via some console services. These text sharing services are often useful for sharing code.

Here is an example.

$ echo “Welcome To OSTechNix!” | curl -F ‘f:1=<-' ix.io
http://ix.io/2bCA

The above command will share the text “Welcome To OSTechNix” via ix.io site. Anyone can view access this text from a web browser by navigating to the URL – http://ix.io/2bCA

text sharing console service

Another example:

$ echo "Welcome To OSTechNix!" | curl -F file=@- 0x0.st
http://0x0.st/i-0G.txt

File sharing

Not just text, we can even share files to anyone using a console service called filepush.

$ curl –upload-file ostechnix.txt filepush.co/upload/ostechnix.txt
% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current
Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed
100 72 0 0 100 72 0 54 0:00:01 0:00:01 –:–:– 54http://filepush.co/8x6h/ostechnix.txt
100 110 100 38 100 72 27 53 0:00:01 0:00:01 –:–:– 81

The above command will upload the ostechnix.txt file to filepush.co site. You can access this file from anywhere by navgating to the link – http://filepush.co/8x6h/ostechnix.txt

filepush file sharing console service

Another text sharing console service is termbin:

$ echo "Welcome To OSTechNix!" | nc termbin.com 9999

There is also another console service named transfer.sh. But it doesn’t work at the time of writing this guide.
Browser

There are many text browsers are available for Linux. Browsh is one of them and you can access it right from your Terminal using command:

$ ssh brow.sh

browsh text browser

Browsh is a modern, text browser that supports graphics including video. Technically speaking, it is not much of a browser, but some kind of terminal front-end of browser. It uses headless Firefox to render the web page and then converts it to ASCII art. Refer the following guide for more details.

Browsh – A Modern Text Browser That Supports Graphics And Video

Create QR codes for given string

Do you want to create QR-codes for a given string? That’s easy!

$ curl qrenco.de/ostechnix

Here is the QR code for “ostechnix” string.

create QR-codes for a string
URL Shortners

Want to shorten a long URLs shorter to make them easier to post or share with your friends? Use Tinyurl console service to shorten them:

$ curl -s http://tinyurl.com/api-create.php?url=https://www.ostechnix.com/pigz-compress-and-decompress-files-in-parallel-in-linux/
http://tinyurl.com/vkc5c5p

Entertainment / Fun / Games

Feel bored at work? Here are some console services to pass your time.

Display random jokes in Terminal:

$ curl https://icanhazdadjoke.com

Display animated Parrot:

$ curl parrot.live

Disco in Terminal:

$ nc rya.nc 1987

Watch StarWars in terminal:

$ nc towel.blinkenlights.nl 23

Multiplayer tetris game:

$ ssh netris.rocketnine.space

Snake game:

$ ssh sshtron.zachlatta.com

Play Chess:

$ telnet freechess.org

Recommended read:

PacVim – A CLI Game To Learn Vim Commands
Test Your BASH Skills By Playing Command Line Games

In this guide, I have listed only a few console services that I use from time to time. There is more. You can view the complete list in the following link.

Awesome Console Services

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