CREATING YOUR OWN OPEN GARAGE - The Car Hacker's Handbook: A Guide for the Penetration Tester - Craig Smith

The Car Hacker's Handbook: A Guide for the Penetration Tester - Craig Smith (2016)



Open Garages is a collaboration of like-minded individuals interested in hacking automotive systems, whether through performance tuning, artistic modding, or security research. There are Open Garages groups across the United States and United Kingdom, and anyone can start or join one. You can, of course, hack cars in your own garage, but it’s way more fun and productive to hack multiple projects with friends. To learn more, visit for details on groups in your area, join the mailing list to receive the latest announcements, and follow Open Garages on Twitter @OpenGarages.

Filling Out the Character Sheet

If there isn’t an Open Garages group in your area, you can start one! I’ll walk you through how to build your own group, and then you can submit the Open Garages Character Sheet on the following page to


The character sheet has a few different sections. The square in the upper left is where you should sketch out your idea for a garage. You can sketch anything you want: a layout for a garage, notes, a logo, and so on. You can either come up with a name for your space now or wait until you have a few more members to decide. If you’re planning to host your meetings out of an existing hackerspace, you may want to just use that space’s name or some variation of it.

When to Meet

Pick a set date to meet. Most groups meet about once a month, but you can make your meetings as frequent as you like. The timing of your meetings may depend on the type of space you have available and whether you’re sharing it with anyone else.

Check the box(es) next to Public Days for the day(s) you want to be open to the public. Under the checkboxes, enter your Open and Close times. If you want your event to meet less often than weekly, pick which week of the month you’ll meet. For instance, if you want to meet on the first Saturday of every month from 6 to 9 PM, your sheet would look like Figure C-1.


Figure C-1: Scheduling meetings on the first Saturday of each month

Affiliations and Private Memberships

If you’re working with another group or hackerspace, include it on the Space Affiliation line. Then decide whether you want to offer private membership. Your Open Garages group must be open to the public at least one day of the month, but you can offer private memberships with additional perks, like access to the space for extended hours or access to special equipment. Private membership fees can help pay for space rental, tools, insurance, and various other costs as they come up.

If you’re affiliated with a hackerspace, this section can be filled in with their membership cost information. Sometimes it’s easier to find a local hackerspace and host Open Garages meetings from their location. If you choose to go that route, be sure to support whatever rules and requirements that hackerspace has, and try to promote their space with your announcements. Be sure to list the cost of membership and how often payment is due, which is typically monthly or yearly.

Defining Your Meeting Space

Under the garage illustration in the upper-left corner of the sheet are some basic questions about your space. You don’t need to have immediate access to a vehicle workshop to start an Open Garages group, but you should have a place to meet to discuss projects and collaborate, whether that’s your home garage, a hackerspace, a mechanics shop, or even a coffee shop.

Here’s how to answer the questions on the character sheet:

Bays The number of vehicle spaces available, if any. If you’re holding your meeting in a two-car home garage, you’d enter 2 here. If you’re meeting in a coffee shop or a similar space, put a 0.

Meeting Space Holds Try to determine how many people can fit in your space. If you’re meeting in a coffee shop, note how many people you think can feasibly meet at one time. If your space has an office area, figure out how many it seats. If your space is a garage or a parking lot, you can put N/A. You can also note disability accessibility here.

Restrooms It’s a good idea to make beverages available during Open Garages meetings, so you’ll want access to a restroom. Here, you can enter Yes or No or something like behind the shed.

Internet Speed If your space is a coffee shop with Wi-Fi access you can just put Wi-Fi, though if you know what your Internet speed is, it’s useful to note it here. If you’re in a garage or somewhere without Internet access, you can write tether or N/A.

Parking Note here where members can park and whether there are special rules for parking in that area. You should also note whether these rules vary depending on the time of day or whether someone is a private member.

Contact Information

The box to the right of the space description is where you should note all of your contact information for people who want to collaborate and organize with you. Most of this should be self-explanatory. The Signup Site section is required only if you take private membership or if people need to RSVP; otherwise, leave this blank or put N/A. The Website section is where you should list the main website for your group. If you don’t have a site, just use You can list your IRC room or Twitter account if you have one. List anything else under Other.

The black box marked Vehicle Specialty is where you can add information about a particular vehicle focus of your group, like BMW or motorcycles. You could also use this space to limit the type of research to be performed in the space if, for example, you’re interested in researching only performance tuning.

Initial Managing Officers

To kick off an Open Garages group, you need some people to take leadership responsibility to ensure it begins as smoothly as possible. The first person on this list should be you, of course! If you can get a few other friends to pitch in right off the bat, that’s great. If not, you can run your group by yourself until more members join.

The primary responsibility of the managing officers is to ensure that the space is opened on time and securely closed at the end. If you plan to launch a full-blown nonprofit organization, this list would probably consist of your board members.

Here’s the information you need to provide on your managing officers:

Name/Handle Your name or handle. Whichever you choose to list, it should match your contact information. For example, if you list a phone number with your handle name, be prepared to answer the phone that way.

Contact Info You’re in charge, and people will need to contact you, so please list your email address or phone number. If you send your sheet to, the information won’t be published or show up on any website. The contact information is for your use in your space.

Role You can list whatever you like as your role, whether that’s owner, accountant, mechanic, hacker, burner, and so on.

Specialty If you have a specialty, like if you’re an Audi mechanic or a reverse engineer, include it here.


Here’s where you should list any equipment available to you or that you plan to have available at the space. See Appendix A for recommendations on hardware and software that will be a help in your Open Garages group. Some tools to list are 3D printers, MIG welders, lifts, rollers, scan tools, and so on. There’s no need to list small things, like screwdrivers and butt connectors.

If certain tools are expensive or require training before they can be used, you might use the Membership Level space to denote that the user must be a paid member to access these tools. You can also use the Skill Ranking space to state the level of skill or training needed in order to operate a particular tool.