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Need Gear Will Hack: Where to Find Cheap Stuff to Break

I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting items to tinker with. Finding the right materials can be a challenge, especially on a budget. Luckily, with a little bit of creativity and research there are plenty of places to find affordable items. These are just a few of my tips on where and how to find cheap gear!

University Salvage

University salvage & surplus stores are great places to find discarded items from labs and research facilities. These items often include electronics, lab equipment, books, and supplies making them perfect for projects. Check your local university or college to see if they have a storefront! 

Check out the iconic MIT SwapFest – one of the more historic examples. 

Other examples include...

Oregon State, Purdue University, & University of Washington

Thrift Stores & Flea Markets

Thrift stores are outstanding places to find used items for projects too. These stores typically offer a wide range of items, from antique electronics to modern hardware, at pennies on the dollar. Look for items that are still in good condition but may not be of use anymore. An old DVR can be taken apart, and its HDDs salvaged.

Make sure to check national chains as well as local storefronts. LGR Thrifts focuses on thrifting for retro computer hardware and software – wood paneling galore.  

Flea markets are equally excellent places to find items, as they often offer a variety of unexpected items at a fair price. Forgotten objects perfect for creating something new. From radios to car parts flea markets can offer a trove. These markets also provide an opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals. Check for local and national flea markets...Sell It Here, Trader Bucks, and Swap-O-Rama being a few examples.

Auctions, Surplus, & Liquidation

Online auction sites like eBay, ShopGoodwill, GovDeals, TSA confiscation & state surplus, along with wholesale liquidations can be a another resource for finding cheap gear in large quantities. These sites have a wide variety but be sure to check the items condition and factor in shipping before making a bid! These sites are best used when you know that you definitely need a large quantity of one specific type of item. Example being a handful of GSM/LTE hotspots for use in a simulated forensics exercise or a bunch of padlocks for a village. Tip: Check the following sites for ideas when browsing devices...WikiDevi, TechInfoDepot, FCC ID Search, &

Garage & Yard Sales

Garage & Yard sales are another great place to find bargains. Often with a wide variety of items for sale. You never know what you might find at a garage sale, so it's worth taking the time to look around and see what catches your eye. Unfortunately, there's no great way to see what sales are in your area other than driving around and scoping them out. Maybe use it as an excuse to go wardriving!

Friends/Family, the "Table of Free Stuff", & the Junk Drawer

Don't forget about your friends and family! They may have items that they no longer need, so don't be afraid to ask around, and see if anyone has anything they'd be willing to part with. Many dorms, apartment complexes, and workplaces may have a "Table of Free Stuff" where people leave items they no longer need. Much like the "Table of Free Stuff" we all have a junk drawer or two in our homes. Take a look through yours and see if there's anything that can be repurposed.

FB Marketplace & Craigslist

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are great resources filled with people selling all kinds of items. Be sure to read the descriptions carefully and ask the seller any questions you might have before making a purchase. Keep in mind that the best deals tend to go fast, so be sure to check these sites frequently and act quickly when you find something that you're interested in! Facebook Marketplace seems to have rapidly replaced Craigslist in both usefulness and diversity of items. Stay safe out there meeting up with anyone!

FSA/HSA Stores

Many healthcare providers offer flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) that can be used to purchase medical equipment. Look for items like blood pressure & glucose monitors and other medical devices that can be used in your next project. Recent updates to the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic act mandating that medical devices meet certain cybersecurity requirements has made it more difficult to find vulnerable devices - great for patients; bad for hackers. Keep in mind that most devices no longer process data locally but instead offload it elsewhere. 

Checkout this awesome BSidesDayton 2022 talk from Jeremy Hong on HSA Eligible Hardware Hacking!

Reddit Markets & Woot

Reddit attracts a large number of tech-knowledgeable users and who may be looking to upgrade their own equipment. This can create a market of individuals willing to sell their unwanted gear at a lower price than it would cost to buy new. Some may even be willing to work out a trade! Additionally, these subreddits can offer a level of anonymity. It is always important to approach any online marketplace with caution and to verify the legitimacy of any seller before making a purchase. Checkout this list of markets - Apple, Hardware, AV, MechKeyboards, etc. Recommend using PayPal G&S; If it seems like a scam it's probably a scam.

Recommend checking out Woot for cheap daily deals and flash sales on electronics, computers, and mobile devices. They offer a wide range of products, from electronics to household items, at discounted prices. What overstock Amazon couldn't sell Woot will and at a discounted price. Great resource for picking up WiGLE phones. 

DevKits (Amazon Sidewalk)

Many companies offer development kits that include hardware and software! These kits can be a great resource for finding new and exciting items. The Amazon Sidewalk Dev Kit can create devices that can communicate on Amazon's low-bandwidth, long range network of smart home devices. The kit includes a module that can be added to devices to enable them to communicate

Scrap Yard, Recycling Center, Pick-a-Part

If you're looking for materials scrap yards and recycling centers can be a great resource. These places are a treasure trove of used items, including a variety of metals, electronics, and other materials that can be hacked and/or repurposed. Some recycling centers even have areas where you can take apart old electronics to salvage the parts. Be sure to check out these places for a goldmine of affordable items.

Pawn Shops

Pawn shops are another great place to find cheap stuff to hack because they often have a wide variety of items. Many of these items are sold for a fraction of their original cost, making them perfect. Additionally, pawn shops are a good source for items that may be harder to find elsewhere. With a little bit of social engineering negotiation, you can often get an even better deal on the items. So if you're on a budget, don't overlook your local pawn shop.

Never know you may find a Garrett Magnetometer Hand Wand....checkout dnsprincess's physical security talk from GrrCON!

AliExpress & International Shops

AliExpress, AliBaba, DHgate, and other international marketplaces offer a wide range of products, including high-quality components, tools, and equipment. From circuit boards and sensors to power supplies and programmable chips, you can find everything you need. Shipping times may vary and delivery isn't always guaranteed. Checkout some of the following creators making awesome content around treasures they've found on some of these sites! 


There are many places to find affordable items that can be hacked, modified, or repurposed and with a little bit of creativity and ingenuity, you can turn these items into something new and useful, all while saving a lot of money. So get out there and start hunting for your next hacking project!