Andrew Huang (hacker)

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Andrew Huang
Andrew Huang
Born1975 (age 43–44)
Other namesbunnie
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
OccupationHacker, author, researcher
Known forChumby, Hacking the Xbox, Novena

Andrew "bunnie" Huang (born 1975) is an American researcher and hacker,[1] who holds a Ph.D in electrical engineering from MIT and is the author of the freely available 2003 book Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering. As of 2012 he resides in Singapore.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Huang attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992, earning a Ph.D in electrical engineering in 2002.[3] He stated that he had "flipped a coin" to determine whether to pursue biology or electronics.[4] Huang is also a member of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.

The nickname "bunnie" is short for "vorpalbunnie", a reference to the creature in both Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Moria, that he used as a BBS screen name.[5]


Huang was the hardware lead at Chumby; his responsibilities included the design and production of Chumby devices, as well as the strategic planning and ecosystem development of the broader Chumby hardware platform.

He has completed several major projects, ranging from hacking the Xbox, to designing the world's first fully integrated photonic-silicon chips running at 10 Gbit/s with Luxtera, Inc., to building some of the first prototype hardware for silicon nanowire device research with Caltech. Huang has also participated in the design of wireless transceivers for use in 802.11b and Bluetooth networks with Mobilian, graphics chips at Silicon Graphics, digital cinema codecs at Qualcomm, and autonomous robotic submarines during the 1999 competition held by the AUVSI that the MIT team won. He is also responsible for the "un-design" of many security systems, with an appetite for the challenge of digesting silicon-based hardware security.[3]

Huang was scheduled to appear as an expert witness in the trial United States v. Crippen to determine whether or not modding an Xbox violates sections of the DMCA.[6] The case was dropped suddenly on the third day of trial before the jury sat by the US federal authorities who had initiated the action.[7] The case was dismissed before Huang was called to give testimony.

He also created the open hardware Safecast Geiger Counter Reference Design, as a volunteer effort in response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and ensuing meltdown of Fukushima Daiichi.[8][9] A project in collaboration with Jie Qi of the MIT Media Lab is Circuit Stickers, a peel-and-stick circuit system for crafting electronics.[10] Huang was interviewed on Dave Jones' The Amp Hour in episode #84, where he talked about his electronics work in China and reverse engineering.[11]

Huang is a member of the advisory board for Crowd Supply, the crowdfunding platform that he used for Novena and The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen.[12]

Reverse engineering[edit]

Huang has a long and noted history with the reverse engineering and hacking of consumer products. His 2003 publication Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering was one of the first published works regarding the reverse engineering of a high end consumer product. He faced significant legal pressure from Microsoft to not reveal the details of his exploits, and the book itself reveals that he had received a letter from MIT, where he was at the time a student, informing him of their disavowal of any association with his project. Additionally, his publisher John Wiley & Sons had rescinded their intent to publish the book.[13]

microSD cards: genuine & questionable

In part because of this response by MIT to his work, when the Institute was again put at the forefront of controversy in their handling of the criminal prosecution brought against Aaron Swartz, and his subsequent suicide, Huang released the book for free through No Starch Press, remarking that "Without the right to tinker and explore, we risk becoming enslaved by technology; and the more we exercise the right to hack, the harder it will be to take that right away".[14][15]

In 2005, Huang worked with a team from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to develop code that interprets printer steganography markings.[16]

Huang created the NeTV in 2011, which was the first known public use of the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) "master key". The device uses the master key to implement a video overlay on existing HDCP-protected links, in a fashion which purportedly does not violate the DMCA.[17] Both the hardware and firmware for the NeTV are openly available under the CC-BY-SA license.[18]

He has also used reverse engineering techniques to reveal why certain MicroSD cards are poor in quality.[19][20] In 2013, he presented results in collaboration with fellow Singapore developer Sean "xobs" Cross revealing methods to load arbitrary code into microSD cards via backdoors built into the embedded controller.[21][22]

On 21 July 2016, Huang and Edward Snowden, in a talk at MIT Media Lab's Forbidden Research event, published research for a smartphone case, the so-called "Introspection Engine", that would monitor signals received and sent by that phone to provide an alert to the user if their phone is transmitting or receiving information when it shouldn't be (for example, when it's turned off or in airplane mode), a feature described by Snowden to be useful for journalists or activists operating under hostile governments that would otherwise track their activities through their phones.[23][24][25][26][27]


The open-source hardware laptop motherboard, Novena.

In 2013, Huang announced that he, again in collaboration with Cross, was at work developing a laptop called the Novena. The laptop is the first of its kind, in that the hardware and software are entirely open and only include components where the manufacturing companies do not require non-disclosure agreements to obtain the documentation necessary for design.[28] In addition to the normal laptop components, the Novena motherboard also includes an FPGA, dual Ethernet ports, a three-axis accelerometer, and easily augmentable hardware.[29] On May 7, 2014 the Novena's crowdfunding campaign reached its goal of $250,000 and went on to raise a total of $722,880 without taking subsequent pre-orders into account.


Huang is a contributing writer for MAKE magazine, as well as being a member of their technical advisory board. He has also written for Gizmodo and IEEE Spectrum.

He has also written extensively about manufacturing in China.[30][31] In March 2016, Huang successfully completed the crowdfunding campaign for his book The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen, a manual written to enable the English-speaking electronics community to be able to navigate China's Huaqiangbei marketplace in Shenzhen,[32] widely regarded as one of the world's premier electronics marketplaces and production hubs.[33] He also appeared in Wired's 2016 documentary Inside Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of hardware.[34]

DMCA Lawsuit[edit]

In July 2016, Huang became a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that challenges the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In the complaint, the EFF argue on behalf of Huang (and his company AlphaMax LLC.) that the "anti-circumvention" and "anti-trafficking" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act threaten free speech.[35][1]


In 2007, Huang received the Lewis Winner award for Best paper at ISSCC 2006 (A 10Gbit/s photonic modulator and WDM MUX/DEMUX integrated with electronics in 0.13 um SOI CMOS, Solid-State Circuits Conference, 2006. ISSCC 2006. Digest of Technical Papers. IEEE International)[36]

In September 2012, Huang received the 2012 EFF Pioneer Award for his work in hardware hacking, open source and activism.[37]



  • Huang, Andrew (1999). An Implementation of Guarded Pointers with Tight Bounds on Segment Size (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Huang, Andrew (May 26, 2002). "Keeping Secrets in Hardware: the Microsoft XBoxTM Case Study" (PDF). AI Memo 2002-008. Retrieved April 19, 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Huang, Andrew (2002). ADAM: A Decentralized Parallel Computer Architecture Featuring Fast Thread and Data Migration and a Uniform Hardware Abstraction (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Huang, Andrew; et al. (2006). A 10Gb/s photonic modulator and WDM MUX/DEMUX integrated with electronics in 0.13/spl mu/m SOI CMOS. 2006 IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference - Digest of Technical Papers. doi:10.1109/ISSCC.2006.1696133. ISBN 978-1-4244-0079-9. ISSN 0193-6530.
  • Huang, Andrew (March 31, 2015). "The Death of Moore's Law Will Spur Innovation". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved April 5, 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)



  1. ^ a b Thomson, Iain; Apple (September 30, 2016). "Crypto guru Matt Green asks courts for DMCA force field so he can safely write a textbook". The Register. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  2. ^ Lesnet, Ian (August 23, 2012). "Workshop Video #36: Beers in Bunnie's Workshop". Dangerous Prototypes. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Torrone, Phillip (April 30, 2012). "MAKE's Exclusive Interview with Andrew (bunnie) Huang - The End of Chumby, New Adventures | Make". Make. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  4. ^ "An interview with Andrew Huang". The Blueprint. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  5. ^ "Interviews: Andrew "bunnie" Huang Answers Your Questions - Slashdot". Slashdot. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Kravets, David (October 21, 2010). "Threat Level Privacy, Crime and Security Online Previous post Next post Prosecutors Seek to Block Xbox Hacking Pioneer From Trial". Wired. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  7. ^ Kravets, David (December 2, 2010). "Prosecutors Dismiss Xbox-Modding Case Mid-Trial". Wired. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  8. ^ Doctorow, Cory (March 15, 2012). "Bunnie Huang's open Geiger counter: design notes and reference". Boing Boing.
  9. ^ Sythe, Dan (September 27, 2012). "Inside the Heart and Soul of a new Geiger counter". Geiger Counter Bulletin.
  10. ^ Chibitronics. "Circuit Stickers". Crowd Supply.
  11. ^ "The Amp Hour #84 - An Interview with Bunnie Huang - Bunnie's Bibelot Bonification". The Amp Hour. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  12. ^ "Launch". Crowd Supply. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  13. ^ Ziccardi, Giovanni (2012). Resistance, Liberation Technology and Human Rights in the Digital Age (PDF). Springer Science+Business Media. p. 110.
  14. ^ "Xbox hacker "bunnie" Huang makes book free in Aaron Swartz tribute". SlashGear. March 11, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  15. ^ Huang, Andrew (March 2013). "An open letter from bunnie, author of Hacking the Xbox". No Starch Press. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  16. ^ "DocuColor Tracking Dot Decoding Guide". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  17. ^ Goodin, Dan (September 16, 2011). "How gizmo maker's hack outflanked copyright trolls". The Register. Retrieved September 17, 2011.
  18. ^ Source code links at
  19. ^ Doctorow, Cory (February 16, 2010). "Sleuthing uncovers the mystery of Kingston MicroSD cards' crappy QA". Boing Boing. Retrieved May 1, 2011.
  20. ^ Huang, Andrew. "On MicroSD Problems". bunnie's blog.
  21. ^ bunnie and xobs (December 29, 2013). "The Exploration and Exploitation of an SD Memory Card". 30c3. Archived from the original on July 10, 2014.
  22. ^ Huang, Andrew. "On Hacking MicroSD Cards". bunnie's blog.
  23. ^ Snowden, Edward; Huang, Andrew (bunnie) (July 21, 2016). "Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance". PubPub. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  24. ^ Lee, Micah (July 21, 2016). "Edward Snowden's New Research Aims to Keep Smartphones From Betraying Their Owners". The Intercept. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  25. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Snowden Designs a Device to Warn if Your iPhone's Radios Are Snitching". Wired. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  26. ^ Mott, Nathaniel (July 21, 2016). "Edward Snowden designs phone case to show when data is being monitored". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  27. ^ Palazzo, Chiara. "Edward Snowden co-designs an iPhone case that alerts user to surveillance activity". The Telegraph. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  28. ^ Bunnie Huang (January 8, 2014). "Building an Open Source Laptop". Makezine. Archived from the original on March 16, 2014.
  29. ^ bunnie (March 14, 2014). "Novena Main Page".
  30. ^ Doctorow, Cory (July 13, 2007). "Bunnie Huang's blog-series on Chinese manufacturing". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
  31. ^ Huang, Andrew 'bunnie'. "Why It's Often Easier To Innovate In China Than In The United States". Gizmodo. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  32. ^ "Bunnie Huang's "Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen"". Boing Boing. February 4, 2016. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  33. ^ Arthur, Charles (June 13, 2014). "Huaqiangbei: the mega market with every smartphone part – in pictures". the Guardian. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
  34. ^ Reynolds, Matthew. "Inside Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of hardware". Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  35. ^ "EFF Lawsuit Takes on DMCA Section 1201: Research and Technology Restrictions Violate the First Amendment". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  36. ^ "ISSCC 2007 / Session 1 / Plenary Awards". IEEE. February 12, 2007.
  37. ^ "Hardware Hacker, Anti-ACTA Activist, and Groundbreaking Anonymity Group Win EFF Pioneer Awards" (Press release). EFF. September 27, 2012.

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