GSM Sniffing on a Budget with Multi-RTL

If you want to eavesdrop on GSM phone conversations or data, it pays to have deep pockets, because you’re going to need to listen to a wide frequency range. Or, you can just use two cheap RTL-SDR units and some clever syncing software. [Piotr Krysik] presented his work on budget GSM hacking at Camp++ in August 2016, and the video of the presentation just came online now (embedded below). The punchline is a method of listening to both the uplink and downlink channels for a pittance.

[Piotr] knows his GSM phone tech, studying it by day and hacking on a GnuRadio GSM decoder by night. His presentation bears this out, and is a great overview of GSM hacking from 2007 to the present. The impetus for Multi-RTL comes out of this work as well. Although it was possible to hack into a cheap phone or use a single RTL-SDR to receive GSM signals, eavesdropping on both the uplink and downlink channels was still out of reach, because it required more bandwidth than the cheap RTL-SDR had. More like the bandwidth of two cheap RTL-SDR modules.

Getting two RTL-SDR modules to operate in phase is as easy as desoldering a crystal from one and slaving it to the other. Aligning the two absolutely in time required a very sweet hack. It turns out that the absolute timing is retained after a frequency switch, so both RTL-SDRs switch to the same channel, lock together on a single signal, and then switch back off, one to the uplink frequency and the other to the downlink. Multi-RTL is a GnuRadio source that takes care of this for you. Bam! Hundreds or thousands of dollar’s worth of gear replaced by commodity hardware you can buy anywhere for less than a fancy dinner. That’s a great hack, and a great presentation.
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“Strong enough to lift a person, yet gentle enough to embrace a child.”

Tentacles have inspired fear and respect in humans long before anime came into the scene. Sailors shivered in their timbers at the thought of the great Kraken, or that octopus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It’s no surprise to know that humans have been trying to harness this fear and respect in technological form since the mid-20th century at least.

The fascinating world of tentacle robots has come a long way. It used to be that every breakthrough in tentaclebot technology had to be justified with either a military or misogynistic application, as demonstrated in this remarkable MIT project from 1968.

Thankfully our society has moved on since those misguided times, and while there is still the ever-present military-industrial complex to push for tentacled combat-omatons, forward-thinking people on the domestic front like [festo] demonstrate that at least some of us want to use tentacle robots for peace, love and food handling.

Catch the video after the break.


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