Useless video glasses: One person’s license is another’s ransomware

Orqa’s video glasses, which are particularly popular with flight drone pilots, can no longer be booted since Saturday, April 29, 2023, provided the correct date is set. This caused quite a stir at a drone flight competition. Apparently a software license has expired. The Croatian manufacturer Orqa, on the other hand, is bringing out the heavy artillery and making criminal charges.

“This mysterious problem was the result of a ransomware time bomb secretly planted in our bootloader a few years ago by a greedy former contractor with the intention of extracting an exorbitant ransom from the company,” Orqa writes on its website. Orqa does not reveal how expensive the license extension would be. The company sees the software supplier’s “particular perfidiousness” in that he has provided other services over the years.

The supplier is apparently the Croatian company Swarg Antenski Sustavi. She explains the failure with the expiry of her license and points out that Orqa has not acquired any rights to the relevant source code. The binary files are encrypted and cannot be reverse engineered. Swarg is offering affected end users a temporary solution: A new firmware update will unlock the firmware by July 1st. Until then, Orqa would either have to purchase a new license or find replacement software.

According to Orqa, the latter is already in the works, especially since the program that no longer works accounts for only a fraction of the glasses software. At the same time, the video glasses manufacturer warns against installing the update, claiming that it is “probably compromised”. She doesn’t say where she comes from.

She speaks vaguely of “pending legal and criminal proceedings” against Swarg. A “ransomware time bomb attack” is a criminal offense, even if you call it a license. Orqa asks affected customers to be patient. heise online has invited Swarg to comment.

Without insight into the contracts concluded between Orqa and Swarg and the communication between the parties to the dispute, it is not possible to assess whether the alleged attempt at rip-off actually exists here, or whether Orqa simply did not read the license conditions carefully. Software that goes on strike after license expiration and rising license prices are not new inventions.

If you have Orqa glasses but have not yet experienced the stuck bootloader, you should not reboot your device until further notice. (Unless a date before April 29, 2023 is set on the device.) For two of their three video glasses models, Orqa initially published an emergency update method, which cannot be implemented non-destructively and requires some screwing. Orqa promised to replace the damaged foam parts free of charge.

Then the company withdrew this method, relegating it to a simple software update. It is currently being tested with a small number of devices and should appear soon.

Drone pilot Jon E5 shares how he and other pilots dealt with the problem at the Ice Storm drone flight competition in Milwaukee over the weekend:

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