Pinky & Brain are taking over the world with vacuum cleaners


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Extracting and dissecting Neato Connected firmware to control high-end vacuum cleaners

The Neato Botvac Connected vacuum cleaners offer a nice platform with up-to-date sensors, including laser scanner mapping your home. The newest Neatos, which are coupled to cloud services over WiFi, run QNX and little was known about them so far. Connected vacuum cleaners are an interesting target regarding privacy, security and safety, as they have access to your home and move freely therein.

The firmware is protected by a write-only interface and an undocumented chip layout - extracting it is a very interesting process. It is a struggle against proprietary chips and QNX systems. We found an upload serial console, which is their anti brick interface, that only accepts QNX file systems, and guessed the chip family correctly, enabling us to print out some memory contents over the serial console. To actually extract something meaningful from this memory, we performed a regular firmware update process on the robot and rebooted into our modified minimal QNX without re-initializing memory - thereby stealing their complete firmware.

Based on the firmware extraction, we found many interesting firmware internals. The main process brain is woken up by the standby process pinky, suggesting that the Neato developers already divined their firmware will be presented cinema style.