Sublethal Camera Gun Examined

By IPVM, Published Dec 06, 2018, 10:31am EST

Sublethal is a South African company that manufactures a remotely-controlled, camera-enabled gun called the Boomslang, which is Afrikaans for tree snake. The company says it is non-lethal and is designed to deter intruders and protect lives.

The solution and its use case present interesting questions of legality, liability, and potential misuse.

In this note, based on our research and interview with Sublethal President Peter Rolfe, we examine:

  • Company background
  • Military vs. commercial use
  • Solution information
  • Designed for a specific setting
  • Potential problems to International / US adoption
  • Potential to do serious injury
  • Industry legal expert opinion

Company **********

********* ** ***** ** Johannesburg, ***** ******, * place ***** ******* ***** is ****** ****** *** the ************ ** ******* crime *** ********* ** deter, ** ************ ************:

** **** ******* ****,********* *********:

***** ****** *** * notably **** **** ** murders, ********, ***** *** other ******* ******, ******** to **** *********.

Military ** ********** ***

******, ****** **** *** military *** **** *** M240************ ***** *** ******.

*******, ********** **** *** highly ******** *** **** is *** ***** **** IPVM *** **** ******** marketed.

Solution ********

********* *** ***** * turn-key ****** **** ******** a ******, ******* *********, off-the-shelf ********* *** **** gas ******, *** ******-******-*****, key-switch-secured ********** **** ** on-board ****** ** *** video ***** ************:

**** **** **** *** $1,390 ***, ****** ** is **** **** ** a ******** *** ****** of ***** ******. *** kit ***** **** * Hikvision ****** ********, *** the ********* *** **** it *** *** ****** any ****** **** ****, according ** *********. *** system *** **** ** used ** *********** **** a *** **** ********* or * *** ** order ** ****** *** notify ** *********.

*** ******* **** * nylon **** ******* ** shape *** **** ** rubber **** ******* **** by ***** ******'* ******:

*** ****** ***** **** 100 ******* *** *** gun ******** ***** ** to *** ******.

*** ****** ** ******** to ** ******* ** corners ** ********** ** order ** ******** ********:

On-Site *** ****

*** ****** ** ******** to ** **** **-**** only, **** * ********* controller-to-gun ******** ***** ** 30 ******. ***** ******** this ** ** ***** for * ****-******* *****:

*** ****** ******* **** be ****** ** ****** of *** *** ** uphold **** **** **** the ****** ** **** for ***/*** ****.

***************, **-******* ****** ******* is ********* ********. *******, the ******* **** ** decided *** ** ** that ***** *** ** litigation ********:

** **** ** ***** a ****** *** **** could ********, **** * photo ** *** ********, send ** ** *** user, *** **** ***** give * '*****' *******, then *** *** ***** autonomously ****** *** ******** and ***** ****. **** system *** ************ **** advanced **** *** ******* system *** *** ******* made ** ***** **** it *** ******** ******* for ********* *** ***** result ** ********* **********.

** ****, *** *** case *** **** ****** is ** ****** ******* against ********* ***** *** is ** ***** ********.

Potential ** ** ******* ******

********* **** ***** *** system ** *** ******** to ** ******, ** can ****** *********** ********, as ***** *** ***** below *****:

*** ******* ********** ******* the ****** ~**' ** create * ***** ***** of ********** ** ******** the *********** ** ******* intruders ** *** ****:

*** **** **** *** be **** ** ** mount *** ****** *** 6m (******) ***** *** ground. **** * **** elevation *** ****** **** strike *** **** ******* instead ** *** ***. This ** *** * perfect ******** *** ** dramatically ******* *** ****** of ********* ****.

*******, ***** ****** *** gun ** **** ******** and **** ** ******:

*** *** ** **** accurate *** ** ** fully ******** ** ****** whether ** ***** *** intruder ** *** **** ass ***** ** *** right *** *****, ** if ** ******** ** shot ** *** ***, it ** ****** ** be **********. * **** that ************ ****** *** remote *** ** ***** injuries *** ****** **** be ******* ****** *** their *******.

International ***** **********

*** ********** ** **** Sublethal **** *** **** the ****** *** ******* of ***** ******. *******, they **** **** * non-weaponized ******* *** ***** the ******** ** *******, purchasers *** *** *** excluded ********* *** *** gas ****** ** **** the ****** ***********:

*********** ** ** **** simple. ** ***** ****** the ********* *** *** gas ****** *** **** everything ****. ** *** US ****, *** ******** would **** ** ******* the ********* *** *** gas ******, **** *** Boomslang ****** ***** ** complete.

Problems *** ************* / ** ********

*** **** ******* *** use ** ********* ****, either ******** ** ****. For ******* ** *** US,**** ****** ********** *************** *** ******** ** using **** ********** *******:

***** *** **** *********** in ***** ** **** the *** ** ******** controlled ******* ** *********** in **** ******* **** a**** ***** ** * farmer *** *** ** remote ********** ***** ******** ***** pigs ** *** ****:

*** ***** *** **** that ****** ***** *****, which ************* ******* * weapon **** **** *** interacted ****, ****** ***** **** *******.*** shows:

*******, *** *** ***** that ******** *********** ******* are ********* **** ***** traps. *** **** ***** to ** ******** ** the *** ** * maximum ******** ** ** meters *** *** *** is *** ***** ********* since ** ******** **** control ** * ***** operator ****** *** ** real ****. ****, *** Boomslang ** *** *** up *** **** ** activate ** ****** ******* input **** *** **********.

********* *** ********** ** its **** ** *** to *** *** ****** within *** ***:

********** *** ******** ** legality ** ************ *** this ******** ***** ** be ******** ** ***'* own ***** ************. ** is ************ ******* ** not **** ** ****** modified ******** **** **** see ********** ******* ** South ******'* *********** *************. For *******, ********* **** the ******** ***** ** easily ******** ** *** other **** **** * very ********* ********* ******:

*** ********* ****** *** can ** ******* **** a ****** ******* ****** sprinkler ** ********* *** paintball *** **** * garden **** *** ******** valve. ** ***** ** the ******' **** ****-********** sprinkler, *** ** ***** be **** ** *** had *** ***** ** burn.

**** ** ** **** someone **** *** ********* ability **** ********* *** Boomslang's ***-****** ******** ** accommodate ** ****** *******?

Legal ******* - *********** ** ** **

**** ***** **** *** security ******** ***** ******* who **** ** *** possibly ***** ********* ** how ** ** ****.

*** **** [**** ** longer *********] ** **********-************ **** *** ** force ** ****-******* ** okay ** **** ** the ***** ******** ** self-defense ** *** ******* than *** ********* ******:

*** *** *** ****-******* as **** ** *** method *****’* ****** *** threat. ** ******* ** the *************. ** ** wasn’t ********** ** * live ******, ***** ***** be * *******. *******, if **’* ********** ** a **** ****** ** real ****, **’* *** a *********.

*** ************ [**** ** longer *********] ** *** York-based************ & ************, *.*.****** *** ** ***** is ***********. ** **** says **** ***** *** businesses **** ********* *****, with ********** ***** ******* on ******** *** *** requiring ******** ****** ******* they **** ** ****** and **** **** *** not *** ***** **************** to *** ***** ** threat:

*** *** ********* ** use ****** ***** ** someone ****** **** ****. There ***** ** ** need ** ********* **** the *********** *** * lethal ****** ** **** you **** ** ******** danger. *** **** ***** be ********* ** * business, ***** *** ***** have ** ********* **** you **** ** ****** and **** *** *** not *** **************** ***** to ******* ********.

************ **** ********* *** booby-trap *****:

*** ******* **** ** that *** ****** ****** a ****. *** *******, you ***'* *** ** a **** *** ** go *** ** **** door ** ******.

Vote / ****

Comments (37)

Imagine if Hikvision built these, talk about a way to have fun with backdoors!

Agree: 4
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 10

Can someone 'hack' a Sublethal unit and potentially control it from the internet?

Agree: 4
Disagree
Informative: 1
Unhelpful
Funny: 3

I certainly wouldn't enable the Sublethal skill on Alexa

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 14

The 30 meter control range limit makes it sound like it can only be controlled wirelessly. It is not clear from the report exactly what the controller to camera communications protocol and signaling method is, how specific the 30 meter limit is, etc.

It seems like the device does not reside on an IP network, so it probably couldn't be hacked from the internet. It is possible though that the wireless control signal could be taken over, this would be a particular risk the if the company tried to develop their own RF signaling and/or encryption here (it is extremely hard to roll your own cryptography that actually prevents attacks). Of course, if they used off the shelf components, attackers could find weaknesses in those to exploit as well.

The most likely exploit scenario I would see would be an attacker having a device that connects to local cameras and just shoots out all the ammo, leaving the property more vulnerable to an attack. This is not very hard to imagine considering similar units for stealing cars, etc. It might be even easier to just have an RF jammer that prevents the command and control of the units, rendering them useless.

This is, to me, one of those neat ideas that works well for a short time, but then has risk of becoming too popular and in the cat-and-mouse game of security attackers start to find ways to disable them. The mechanism itself looks like it could be disabled in a number of ways (throw a rope over it attach to a cinder block, tarp over the top, jamb a stick in the mechanism, etc.). 

Agree: 3
Disagree
Informative: 2
Unhelpful
Funny

Hey Brian, I'm not 100% certain of the answer to your question (I've emailed the president to ask for clarification), but my feeling is that the controller is hard-wired to the system. In the video included above, it looks like it might actually be mounted on a piece of pipe. Or at the least, there appears to be a stiff whip/cord coming out the bottom. 

I'll respond back again when I hear from Sublethal.

As far as the exploit scenarios, I think it likely that by the time an intruder approached with a cinderblock, tarp or stick, the person on the other end of the controller would have already unloaded 150 rounds into them. I've never been hit with one of these things, but that bruise picture above looks like it hurt a whole heck of a lot. 

Of course, in order to defend the sabotage efforts, the system owner would have to be home to shoot the gun. That means that if a bad guy cased the house and knew when the person wasn't home, they could take their time defeating the system when the homeowner wasn't home, then come back later. Or just get it done right then.

Or more likely, why couldn't an intruder simply bring their own paintball gun with actual paintballs and just blast away at the camera, effectively blinding the homeowner.

Basically, once the bad guys know you have this solution, it seems likely that an overcome strategy would be worked out pretty quickly.

Agree: 1
Disagree
Informative: 3
Unhelpful
Funny

Good question, Brian. The system as it exists now is not networked. Here is Sublethal's statement on that:

We have been working on IP controlled remote guns for a while and it does work in the lab but we have decided not to test it for now in the field. Remote guns are a very new product and it will take time for people to become comfortable with the technology. Only when there is a lot of trust and experience will it be prudent to bring out something like an IP system. We will also need to do some serious work on figuring out a way to prevent hackers from taking control of a remote gun controlled over the internet. That is why we decided to make a very simple, un-hackable remote gun that gives the users total control, and liability if they abuse it.

Agree
Disagree
Informative: 3
Unhelpful
Funny

This is how I would 'hack it'.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 12

This would absolutely, positively solve the porch pirate epidemic.

Seriously speaking though, South Africa has a real and out of control violent crime problem. 

Agree: 5
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 2

They should actually try "Policing" first. I lived there for a year and never saw Police patrolling etc. 

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative: 1
Unhelpful
Funny: 1

So Sublethal says only use to defend your person, yet their video shows them using it against someone trying to break into a vehicle in the driveway?

Agree: 3
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Good point. Perhaps the shooter would argue they feard that once the intruder secured the getaway vehicle, he'd head inside to burgle and murder?

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 1

This looks like this is a gas fired paintball gun. As such, it could be used to shoot pepper balls. They are filled with powered irritant. The cops use them.

Agree: 1
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

@Jason, you're correct. In fact, though it wasn't mentioned in the story Sublethal does say on its website that gun can accommodate Pepper balls:

Agree
Disagree
Informative: 3
Unhelpful
Funny

The gun is very accurate and it is fully possible to choose whether to shoot the intruder on the left ass cheek or the right ass cheek, so if an intruder is shot in the eye, it is likely to be deliberate.

Yet when it is “fully possible” to shoot either cheek, it is NOT possible to shoot them in the eye.

Agree: 1
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

I don't see how this product would sell in the USA with the 2nd amendment around. I'm going to deter a potential rape or murder with lethal force. If my cameras, sirens, and lights don't deter a criminal, then I have no choice but to assume the lives within my house are threatened.

I take it gun policies are different in South Africa.

Rubber bullets and bean bags are considered "less-than-lethal" not "non-lethal". They can still kill people who have existing injuries or can be the inception of an event that causes death (perp gets knocked backward and he falls, hitting his head on a sharp rock)

Agree: 1
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

I totally agree with you. Even with a non-lethal weapon you cannot be sure that your actions will not cause death. There were many accidents in the past when even a semi-strong hit on the head was lethal in a fight because the victim had a medical condition before.

Killing someone with a non-lethal weapon is still a murder. I assume that is why they emphasize that only use this device if your life is in danger.

Agree
Disagree
Informative: 1
Unhelpful
Funny

I spoke to the company owner. The unit works over Cat5e cable, but uses a proprietary protocol, so it can't be routed. The unit comes with 30 meters of cable and they recommend that you do not extend that because it would be more difficult to convince the authorities that you were being threatened. Now, this is SA law, not US law. Also, the problem here is that the robber might sue. 

Agree: 1
Disagree
Informative: 2
Unhelpful
Funny

I am not sure I would be able to restrain myself from lighting up some car thief in my driveway with this.  If that makes me a bad person then so be it.

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 1

I am not sure I would be able to restrain myself from lighting up some car thief in my driveway with this.

Example #8,257 of why gun laws are so stringent in NYC...

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful: 4
Funny

UD#8  This is a technically advanced slingshot.  Not exactly the same as a real gun.  You know the easiest way to not get shot?  Don't break the law.

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

You know the easiest way to not get shot? Don't break the law.

Or be black.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful: 9
Funny

UD#5 If you wish to have an actual gun control debate (clearly not the right forum, but ok) reveal who you are and I will engage.  Otherwise, don't waste the digital ink. Also, your infographic says exactly nothing.

Agree: 4
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

...reveal who you are and I will engage. 

Ok, it’s a deal.

Why don’t you start off by backing up this statement with some facts:

You know the easiest way to not get shot? Don't break the law.

Do you think that most people who get shot are breaking the law?

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful: 2
Funny

 No, I believe most people who get shot are the victims of a crime.  Let me ask you a question.  Why did you choose to bring race into the discussion?

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

No, I believe most people who get shot are the victims of a crime.

So then how does not breaking law help most people not get shot?

Why did you choose to bring race into the discussion?

I’m willing to concede it was a knee-jerk reaction, based on what I imagined were overtones of extra-judicial/vigilante actions in your statements

I am not sure I would be able to restrain myself from lighting up some car thief in my driveway with this.

If that makes me a bad person then so be it.

You know the easiest way to not get shot? Don't break the law.

which gives the impression that you feel that corporal punishment is justified for anyone breaking the law.  

Normally I would have given you the benefit of the doubt, but you had indicated yourself (“If that makes me a bad person then so be it.”) that such actions might cast aspersions as to your character, and furthermore that this was unconcerning to you.

But I’m willing to see it as just harmless bombast, if that’s how it was intended.

 

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

I will say that the idea of "shooting someone in the left cheek or right cheek" as approximately stated by the company executive in the original story made me chuckle and the thought of someone getting a black and blue rear end while attempting to steal from me was funny.  I did not escalate the conversation to actual guns, that was an undisclosed commenter.  Harmless bombast is fair.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

If they can integrate it with Ring motions so I can pop the neighbors dog every time it sharts in my yard, I'm in.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Attorney Kirschenbaum states:

You are permitted to use lethal force if someone enters your home. There would be no need to establish that the perpetrator had a lethal weapon or that you were in imminent danger. 

This statement may have been taken out of context. (All together now...) I'm not an attorney (thank you), but I doubt Attorney Kirschenbaum is asserting this applies throughout the U.S. Some US States have the Castle Doctrine, but even then you have to fear for your life to use lethal force (and prove it after the fact). Some states don't have the Castle Doctrine, and in a couple of states you actually have a Duty to Retreat. It's a patchwork of laws and what's even worse, a patchwork of enforcement. 

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Hello, Skip. I wanted to thank you for your feedback and concern re: Ken's quotes in the story. I did double check the quotes and can assure you that I did not take his words out of any context. I also contacted Ken to ask him to clarify. Here is his response:

Castle doctrine is stand your ground in the house.  Some states do require that you have reasonable basis to fear for your life, even in your home.  I don't think that's a very high bar when you are confronted in your home in the middle of the night.  You can't trap people, even intruders, lure them into the house and then kill them.  I am sure that different circumstances can have different consequences. Google castle doctrine and you'll get more info than you want. All I know is if someone comes into my house, day or night, I'll do whatever is necessary to protect my family.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

This is one of those times where the old adage of "better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" would pay off. I'm not an advocate of shooting anyone at almost any time, but in my home, at night, and you break in, you are not willing to live another day.

Agree: 3
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny: 1

Being an ex South African now living overseas I can fully understand the need for a defense system like the boom slang. Most properties have 6-8ft walls, then have electric fencing on top, and that does not deter criminals, Policing is pretty much non existent especially for remote farmers who have been targeted and attacks have been very brutal.  and the police even if called could take days to respond.

So if a criminal breaches my 8 ft wall his intent is clear, i would empty the magazine on any guy threatening my family's life. this is a much less lethal solution compared to another that was reported of a farmer having a double fence with lions patrolling.

In Africa sometimes extreme solutions are required in extreme situations that the western world would never experience.

Agree: 6
Disagree
Informative: 3
Unhelpful
Funny: 2

I saw this article in LinkedIn and I am not a member of IPVM, but was really interested to see how IPVM would report on this system knowing that it is a system that was developed in South Africa for South African environments. So I asked a friend that is a member to login so that I could read the article and perhaps give some insight as to the current situation in South Africa and way these types of systems are designed.

I the same as #10 being a ex South African now living overseas.

I have first hand experience in the brutal invasion of property and the intention behind it I have lost Friends and family that has had their children placed in bath of boiling water while their mom was tied down and made to watch how they are burned. Wife being raped in front of their husbands before they got shot in the head for no reason. women get burnt with hot irons while they are raped and after all that they get gutted and killed in front of the kids... A short but very true and accurate description of what it going on in South Africa. Most homes are surrounded with 6 to 8 foot fencing and on top of that they have electric fencing. Windows are covered with solid iron bars to try and slow down intruders.

Intruders don't arrive with a knife and a flash lite... they come armed with AK47 and range of hand guns, Cell phone Jamming systems so that they can't call for help or the police.

Now South Africa as most other countries have laws in place that addresses society in a normal and moral way and that have put in place laws that governs  its people based on a western civilized environment.

Unfortunately the police are as corrupt as they can come, Hence the Boomslang system was developed out of desperation and necessity to try and stop or at least try and slow the invasion down so that the owner of the property can call for help of a two-way radio or other means to its neighbors or closest farm that could be 30 miles away for assistance.

For most in South Africa it about survival and most of the invasion is not to just steal your car or the kids bike it has a must more serious intent.

However I must say that I am happy to see that IPVM has looked at it in the sense of will it work in the US or other western world countries. I think that it will be a very hard system to implement in most countries in its current form and will most probable be over the top and have some serious legal challenges.

I for one think that their is more to the boomslang system and possible configuration options that just shoots a rubber bullet working of gas. HIK Cameras or not. When you place my Family at risk I will do anything to protect them or subject my children to such trauma

I commend the designers of the boomslang system for their innovative approach to try and find ways to slow down or perhaps deter possible home invasions. 

 

Agree
Disagree
Informative: 2
Unhelpful
Funny

#11, thanks for the feedback, very informative and my condolences for your losses.

Btw, members can give invites for a free month to colleagues by going here. Just enter their name and email and we will send them a link to immediately access IPVM for a month, no payment and no card required.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

The guys in the link below have been doing this for years.  It seems like they have quit updating the website and all of the kits so sold out so not sure if they are still active.

 

 

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Dan, did you forget to include the link? It says the link below, but I don't see anything.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Tried to include the link in my original post but it would not let me.

RealSentryGun

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Yuck...Hikvision camera attachment.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny
Read this IPVM report for free.

This article is part of IPVM's 7,092 reports and 940 tests and is only available to members. To get a one-time preview of our work, enter your work email to access the full article.

Already a member? Login here | Join now
Loading Related Reports