Cracking GSM with RTL-SDR for Thirty Dollars


Theoretically, GSM has been broken since 2003, but the limitations of hardware at the time meant cell phone calls and texts were secure from the prying ears of digital eavesdroppers and all but the most secret government agencies. Since then, the costs of hardware have gone down, two terabytes of rainbow tables have been published, and all the techniques and knowledge required to listen in on cell phone calls have been available. The only thing missing was the hardware. Now, with a super low-cost USB TV tuner come software defined radio, [domi] has put together a tutorial for cracking GSM with thirty dollars in hardware.

Previous endeavours to listen in and decrypt GSM signals used fairly expensive software defined radios – USRP systems that cost a few thousand dollars a piece. Since the advent of RTL-SDR, the price of software defined radios has come down to about $30 on eBay, giving anyone with a Paypal account the ability to listen in on GSM calls and sniff text messages.

The process of cracking GSM first involves getting the TMSI – Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identifier – a unique ID for each phone in a certain cell. This is done by sending a silent SMS that will send back and acknowledgement an SMS has been received on the victim’s phone, but won’t give the victim any indication of   receiving a message.

From there, the attacker listens to the GSM signals in the cell, receiving bursts attached to a TMSI, and cracking the encrypted stream using 1.6 TB of rainbow tables.

[domi] put up a four-part tutorial series (part 1 above; part 2, part 3, and part 4) that goes over the theory and the actual procedure of cracking text messages and voice calls with a simple USB TV tuner. There are a few limitations; the attacker must be in the same cell as the victim, and it looks like real-time voice decoding isn’t yet possible. Cracking GSM for $30, though, that’s good enough for us.

Running Custom Code on Cheap One-time Password Tokens

One-time passwords (OTP) are often used in America but not so much in Europe. For our unfamiliar readers, OTP tokens like the one shown above generate passwords that are only valid for one login session or transaction, making them invulnerable to replay attacks. [Dmitry] disassembled one eToken (Aladin PASS) he had lying around and managed to reprogram it for his own needs.

Obviously, these kind of devices don’t come with their schematics and layout files so [Dmitry] had to do some reverse engineering. He discovered six holes in a 3×2 arrangement on the PCB so he figured that they must be used to reprogram the device. However, [Dmitry] also had to find which microcontroller was present on the board as its only marking were “HA4450″ with a Microchip logo. By cross-referencing the number of pins, package and peripherals on Microchip parametric search tool he deduced it was a PIC16F913. From there, it was just a matter of time until he could display what he wanted on the LCD.

We love seeing tiny consumer hardware hacked like this. Most recently we’ve been enthralled by the Trandscend Wi-Fi SD card hacking which was also one of [Dmitry's] hacks.

Reverse Engineering a D-Link Backdoor

Here’s one true hack (Google cache link) for our dear Hackaday readers. On a Saturday night, as [Craig] didn’t have anything else to do, he decided to download the firmware of an old D-Link DIR-100 router (because who wouldn’t?). His goal was to see what interesting things he could find in it. He fired up binwalk to extract the SquashFS file system, then opened the router webserver on the multi-processor disassembler/debugger IDA. [Craig] discovered that the webserver is actually a modified version of thttpd, providing the administrative interface for the router. As you can see in the picture above, it seems Alphanetworks (a spin-off of D-Link) performed the modifications.

Luckily for [Craig], the guys at Alphanetworks were kind enough to prepend many of their custom function names with the string “alpha”. Looking at the disassembly of the http identification functions revealed that a backdoor is implemented on the firmware. If one malicious user has the string “xmlset_roodkcableoj28840ybtide” as his browser user agent, no authentication is required to gain access to the router. One of the comments on the reddit thread points out that reading that string backwords results in: “edit by (04882) joel backdoor”.

JTAGulator Finds Debug Interfaces


[Joe Grand] has come up with a tool which we think will be useful to anyone trying to hack a physical device: The JTAGulator. We touched on the JTAGulator briefly during our DEF CON coverage, but it really deserves a more in-depth feature. The JTAGulator is a way to discover On Chip Debug (OCD) interfaces on unfamiliar hardware.

Open any cell phone, router, or just about any moderately complex device today, and you’ll find test points. Quite often at least a few of these test points are the common JTAG / IEEE 1149.1 interface.

JTAG interfaces have 5 basic pins: TDI (Test Data In), TDO (Test Data Out), TCK (Test Clock), and TMS (Test Mode Select), /TRST (Test Reset) (optional).

If you’re looking at a PCB with many test points, which ones are the JTAG pins? Also which test points are which signals? Sometimes the PCB manufacturer will give clues on the silk screen. Other times you’re on your own. [Joe] designed the JTAGulator to help find these pins.

[Read more...]

An Open Source Hardware Modchip

OSHW XenoGC Clone

Many Hackaday readers might remember the days of buying modchips from somewhat questionable sources. These little devices connect to a gaming system to circumvent security measures, allowing you to run homebrew games (and pirated games, but lets not focus on that). [Guillermo] built an open source hardware Gamecube modchip based on the XenoGC.

The XenoGC was a popular modchip back in the Gamecube days, and its source was released in a forum post. A Wiki page explains how to build a clone of the device based on an ATtiny2313.  Most modchips were closed source, but this project lets you look at how they work. You can browse the XenoGC source on Google Code to learn more about the exploit itself. You’ll find the AVR code, which manipulates the DVD drive over a serial interface, in the XenoAT folder.

[Guillermo]’s hardware is available from OSHPark, so you can easily order boards. He’s also hosted the design files on Github. With one in hand, you can start building homebrew for the Gamecube, which can probably be picked up for around $25 nowadays.

Modified E-ZPass detects reads far from toll booths


Def Con speaker [pukingmonkey] has spent quite a bit of time studying methods government and law enforcement use to track private citizens’ vehicles on the roads. One of the major tracking methods is E-ZPass, an electronic toll collection system used in several states around the country. [pukingmonkey] cracked open his E-ZPass tag to find a relatively basic circuit. In his DEF CON presentation (PDF), he notes you shouldn’t do this to your own tag, as tags are legally not the property of the user.

The tag uses a 3.6 volt long life battery to operate. When idle, the tag only draws 8 microamps. During reads, current draw jumps to 0.3 mA. Armed with this information, it was relatively simple to add a current detecting circuit that outputs a pulse on tag reads. Pulses are then fed into a toy cow, which lights up and “Moos” on each read.

[Read more...]

Cloning an infrared disarming remote of a $8 home security system


[Sylvio] decided to buy one of the cheap alarm systems you can find on the internet to have a look at its insides. The kit he bought was composed of one main motion sensor and two remote controls to arm/disarm it.

Communication between the remotes and the sensor is done by using infrared, requiring a direct line of sight for a signal to be received. Modern alarm systems typically use RF remotes with a typical frequency of 434MHz or 868MHz.  In his write-up, [Sylvio] first tries to replicate the IR signal with one of his ‘learning remote controls’ without success and then proceed to reverse engineering the remote circuit shown in the above picture. Hackaday readers may figure out just by looking at it that it is a simple astable multivibrator (read ‘oscillator’). Its main frequency is 38.5kHz, which is typical for IR applications. Therefore, if one of your neighbours had this ‘security system’ one could just disarm it with any of the same remotes…

[Sylvio] then explains different ways to replicate the simple IR signal, first with an Arduino then with a frequency generator and finally using the USB Infrared Toy from Dangerous Prototypes. We agree with his conclusion: “you get what you pay for”.