Software-Defined Radio remotely using a Linux wall wart

Here’s a interesting idea; if the hardware seen above is dropped at a location, you can monitor radio signals remotely via the Internet. [MS3FGX] has been toying with the idea for a little while now. He wanted to use a DVB dongle with a portable Linux solution to offer Software-Defined Radio (SDR) capability without the need to actually be there.

The white box is a PWN Plug, a branded version of the SheevaPlug. The black dongle that plugs into it is a DVB tuner dongle. It’s meant to receive television signals over the radio, but recently the hardware has been used as a simple way to implement SDR. Combine the two (along with the antenna), stir in a network connection, and you’ve got a remote listening post. What can you listen to? Just about anything that’s within the dongle’s bandwidth range. [MS3FGX] mentions walkie-talkie traffic and pager signals, to name just two.

He even wrote an installation script that gets you up and running in no time.


  1. dattaway2 says:

    Can’t wait until the undocumented features of wifi cards get hacked and can receive out of bounds. Atheros cards currently have about 1GHz of range by changing a few numbers in the kernel source code, but it would be nice to have more…

  2. iraqigeek says:

    Wonder if it can be done using a TP-Link WR703N for a very low cost, very mobile SDR solution

  3. HardwareBum says:

    I followed the link from digifail to the pwnplug. That looks like an interesting device but the cheapest price is $195. Am I missing something?

    the SDR stuff is interesting though….

    • Hirudinea says:

      Yea it is a bit expensive for what it is, maybe replace the ShivaPlug for a $50 craigslist laptop, nice setup though.

    • MS3FGX says:

      I already had the Pwn Plug from other work I was doing, I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone go out and buy one of them unless you actually had a use for the pentest setup they have going.

      You can just as easily get the SheevaPlug it’s based on, which go for ~$100.

      The hardware is a good choice for this kind of thing, it draws a maximum of 7 watts and has no moving parts.

  4. regulatre says:

    This is great! Wish it wasn’t so hard to learn gnuradio, Python, and everything that comes with writing SDR software.

  5. electroalek says:

    I know a better (cheaper) way to do this. Just plug a small radio receiver into PC’s audio IN jack and stream that on ustream.

  6. regulatre says:

    @electroalek that’s grossly oversimplified. Read up on SDR.

  7. tarvoke says:

    there’s no reason this couldn’t be done with one of the various new android/ARM dongles as well – I just picked up mk802 for USD73 shipped. when I get the free time I’d be happy to try, although I’m guessing someone will beat me to it…

  8. tarvoke says:

    (oh, and that was for the 1gb ram version. 512mb is a few bucks less than that. also? raspberry pi, if you can actually get your hands on one.)

  9. txwikinger says:

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

  10. muriani says:

    I’ve done this with a Pandaboard and ghpsdr3-alex, using QTradio and aHPSDR on my phone/tablet to connect (mostly because I had issues running anything pyWxwidget based on the board, segfaults ahoy!).
    I didn’t realize that gnuradio could hit rtl_tcp though, I’d been trying to use the local interface blocks from osmocom. Might try using gqrx on another machine, and only the panda as a receiver.
    It would drop the CPU usage on the pandaboard a lot, as the dspserver compiled with armhf+neon keeps both cores at ~75% when in use.
    Using a sheevaplug for this is pretty brilliant. Keeps it out of the way, and plenty of power to run the rtlsdr stick.
    I have also noticed missing IQ frames, good to hear I’m not alone, and now I know why and how to fix it.

    Thanks, MS3FGX! Excellent write-up, hope to hear about more of your developments in this.

  11. Rick says:

    404 me all to hell. It worked the second time. (BIG Oopz!) **it happens.

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