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HamRadioNow: Adventures of a Hacker turned Ham; Intro to DMR from the Hamvention

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by K4AAQ, Jul 9, 2015.

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  1. K4AAQ

    K4AAQ Ham Member QRZ Page


    Episodes 210:
    Introduction to DMR
    Episodes 211: Adventures of a Hacker turned Ham

    Episode 210: Introduction to DMR. This is John Burningham W2XAB's forum at the Hamvention. John explains the in's and out's of DMR, Digital Mobile Radio (often referred to as MotoTRBO). DMR is a commercial radio system that's been making serious inroads in VHF/UHF Amateur Radio digital voice. If you're curious about it, this forum will take you to the point where you can get a radio and jump in.

    Episode 211: Adventures of a Hacker turned Ham. I'll put this one in the video window below. It's the program from the TAPR/AMSAT Banquet on Friday at the the Hamvention. The Hacker turned Ham is Michael Ossmann AD0NR, inventor of the HackRF SDR board. As he tells his story, he weaves in the question (and answer) where is the next generation of hams coming from? AMSAT President Steve Bible N7HPR introduces Michael, and leads off with an interesting survey of the assembled audience.

    Before Michael begins, (and after I make my pitch for participation in the KICKSTARTER to fund making video of the ARRL/TAPR DCC in October), we hear from Thani Ali al-Malki, a guest from the Qatar Satellite Company with the exciting news that their next satellite, Es'HailSAT-2, will carry a ham radio transponder in geosynchronous orbit. It's a project of the Qatar Amater Radio Society and AMSAT DL (Germany). This satellite's footprint will be the Middle-East, Europe, Africa and the western side of Asia, but (alas for us in North America), no coverage in the Western Hemisphere except a bit of far-eastern South America). But AMSAT's foot is in the door of geosynchronous satellites, and the pitch to others to host ham radio will be easier.

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  2. W6RZ

    W6RZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Awesome presentation by Michael Ossmann, AD0NR! Everyone (both operators and experimenters) should watch it.
  3. KM9R

    KM9R Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am kinda riding the fence if this is a good thing or not. Experimentation for the advancement of radio or even "just" amateur radio is a good thing but exploiting sdr technology so I can hack blue tooth end users or other users of the rf spectrum I do not know if that would be a positive for our community. One sugar coats with words of sharing and making the world a better place but does that mean making someone share something against their will or making the world a better place for whom ? Just because I can not afford copy righted software does not mean it is ok to defeat the safeguards that protect that software so I can be the popular kid on the block and let them have a stolen version of it. Yes experimentation is good but what is the purpose for the experimentation. So I can exploit the safeguards of bluetooth or so I can advance communicating legally with ham gear. I prefer the latter. Others can do the former w/o a ham license.

    Finally seeking compensation for exploiting vulnerabilities of others used to labeled as extortion. Food for thought.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2015
  4. N1FOY

    N1FOY Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Let’s not shoot the messenger or the reporting of information.

    We watched carefully the young man in the video discuss the SDR device to which he says he was part of creating and marketing. The first eyebrow raised was near the end of his presentation when he discussed the Hacker community thoughts on licensing by stating most Hackers use “Plausible Deniability” and will never be licensed; thereby claiming they were unaware of regulations. The young man further stated that most Hackers have a shared creed of “question authority”.

    Ok so let’s examine what the HackRF One and the new HackRF Blue devices are, some of their capabilities, and some of the nefarious purposes we found all over the internet hacker forums and blogs that these devices have been bragged about being used for. Understanding, these are not the only devices of their type out there. Just the ones advertised in the video.

    The device is an SDR (Software Defined Radio) receiver and transmitter. There are accessory add-on amplifiers and different antennas available. There are also quite a few software applications for various things. The first thing that caught our eye was the disclaimer:
    “HackRF One is test equipment for RF systems. It has not been tested for compliance with regulations governing transmission of radio signals. You are responsible for using your HackRF One legally.” Ok, we have been warned. You only sell the ‘crowbar’; what we do with it is on us.

    The specs say that the device has a range from 1 MHz to 6 GHz operating frequency. What the device actually does according to the tips and tricks web sites, blogs, and numerous ‘getting started’ tutorial sites is it utilizes software to receive radio signals displayed on a waterfall, then add-on applications record these signals, and then the recorded signals can be manipulated or simply replayed back through the transmitter exactly as received. So what, you say?

    Dozens and dozens of examples were found with an easy search where persons are posting gleefully in the spirit of ‘EXPERIMENTATION ’, that they have opened their neighbor’s garage doors, or activated / disabled their neighbor’s wireless security system, or copied and defeated the neighbor’s keychain vehicle entry system and started their car, or hijacked their friend’s remote control vehicle, drone, or R/C model airplane. One of some humor was continuously ringing the neighbor’s wireless doorbell at inappropriate times, or causing the neighbor’s security gates to open and close over and over. An enterprising ‘experimenter’ was testing a video loop to transmit to his friend’s wireless security cameras to make the front door look secure when it was in all actuality a pre-recorded video transmitted back to the camera and shown on the monitor and recorder as an empty porch. One site suggested a good test was to intercept signals emanating from one’s own cell phone. Another site poster bragged about receiving cordless phone signals and stated he could actually access information. Have you ever entered your Credit Card or SSN into an automated phone system? Another was working on a way to read smart meters; but was complaining about needing help with some coding. You can use your own imagination.

    Understanding the ether to be a very rich RF “target environment”; how many more uses can you think of? How about traffic control devises; all lights Green in all directions, or hospital telemetry; everyone on this floor is A-Okay, or passenger train switching systems, or wireless weather stations for bridge safety, or aircraft and marine systems. Better watch out for that overhead remote control crane. How about municipal water supply systems or flood control devices? How about large infrastructure systems like pipeline controls, public safety systems, or environmental monitoring systems? The list is endless. Some of the hacker posters were utilizing these devices with amplifiers at distances exceeding 1 KM.

    Other than “experimentation”, or reception and decoding of Amateur Radio signals in the amateur bands, can you think of a use that would be considered acceptable by a reasonable person? Ok, how about a licensed and controlled lab environment for the purpose of testing sensitive systems, security, or other RF devices for commercial or governmental use?

    We get the experimentation thing. We understand that SDR has a place in the future of Amateur Radio. The person in the video states it is his belief that the next generation of amateur operators will be ‘Hackers’. However, using these types of devices to conduct some of the activities discovered and mentioned above is not only unethical; it could be interpreted as criminal.
  5. K4AAQ

    K4AAQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    The two comments above are among the most well written, thoughtful and non-inflamitory responses I've seen on and mostly above my pay grade to comment on. I'll point Micheal to them. Maybe he'll drop in.

    I can say to N1FOY that attempting to make the tools unavailable usually doesn't work. The FCC tried to prevent cell phone eavesdropping by making it illegal to listen, and to include those frequencies in receivers (though they never tried to confiscate the millions of receivers in the field already). What worked was the cell companies going digital, with encryption schemes and technology that seems to work. They're probably not unbreakable now, but any cell phone monitoring is out of the realm of the typical scanner buff.

    One of those 'just below the RADAR' debates in ham radio is how easy it is to 'mod' our radios to transmit outside the ham bands (and most of mine are). Once in a while we hear a story of someone who got caught because they couldn't resist the temptation to bait a police department. Now most of the Chinese radios coming in doesn't even require the 'remove a diode' fig leaf.

    Some of what hackers do is point out the security flaws in the systems we rely on. Sometimes, of course, they exploit them instead. When I figured out that the HackRF board was pretty much an 'an mode on any frequency' tool, my eyebrows raised, and I expected that it would see some pushback.

    73, Gary KN4AQ
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2015
  6. KF7RHB

    KF7RHB Ham Member QRZ Page

    "Advance Radio"

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times, yes.

    As a youngish ham? I wonder sometimes why the light of experimentation seems to have died from amateur radio. Both hackers and hams come from the same tree, but the latter is much more conservative. The culture of ham radio is a double edged blade. On the one hand, preserving the older culture of radio, from morse code to jargon like 73 and wavelengths, has value in the same way that sewing one's own clothes or quilting have value. Ham radio has become less a science or art than a craft. And I love crafts! It is human and wholesome to roll one's own, to do human routing of communications traffic and handshaking ("operating"). But although I'll admit to mostly being an operator, it is the experimentation which gets me, the learning of science and technology, the potential that I might be part of citizen science. Both the magic and science of radio deserve a better balance.

    And there's the rub: DIY, makers, and hackers will inherit the ham earth. But the edge of experimentation in ham culture has dulled.

    Ossman outlined a few reasons for that. I think the jargon issue is indeed worth looking at. Ham radio has this well-preserved culture, which at least in the USA is, shall we say, a bit insular.

    The greying of hams has something to do with that, and reinforces the dynamic, if not causes it. Ossman alludes to that big gulf between hacker and ham culture: questioning authority. And I will be the one to say it, this is a generational GULF. Perhaps it is the very nature of USA licensure which self selects for a rather prim and "white hat" ethic. But I do find, as one who works with seniors, that those older than 60 are more prone to authoritarianism, to less willingness to colour outside of lines. That attitude is everywhere in USA ham culture, if honoured more in the breach. And it is NOT conducive to experimentation, discovery, learning, and other virtues of youth and youth-at-heart. There is nothing controversial about discussing, say, infosec exploits even in a white hat context for hack culture. All curiosity requires a grey hat ethos at heart. After all, just because one has, say, a MARS-modded rig does not mean one WILL be running riot on mil bands! Hams need to get real about this and the social good of such norms. Regardless, open source culture is the future, if we want a future.

    There is another aspect to the generational gulf: MONEY. Older people today have cash, come from generations when there was actually a robust middle class, and in ham radio have the willingness to shell out ungodly sums for toys. For those of us in younger age brackets, I can assure you it is a different economic world than 1960. There are VERY FEW affordable radio tech options out there, and the second hand radio market is insanely expensive in comparison with other such markets. For the truly geeky who can roll their own hardware and software, this is less of a gulf. But if you want younger "operators" to get into radio? We need less Midas-rich options and now. Say what you want about Baofeng, etc., but they are the only ones out there serving younger hams' needs. SDR could help this issue for HF work. But the underlying issue remains. Younger people simply have much less money and time to devote to this stuff, in general, than was once the case. For cheaper options to democratize and youthen ham radio "operators", the hackers need more play with the photons, and more encouragement to do so.

    Ham radio has venerable traditions. Those can be fun. But the makers and hackers are the future. Ham Radio as a service should take a much more open and inquisitive position toward novel deployments of spectrum. In this respect, FCC regulations are beyond antiquated at this point, and need serious overhaul. Ham radio as a fraternity of old white guys, the writing is on the wall there. Why not imagine ham radio as a platform which people can access to gain tools: spectrum, training/tutelage, participate in scientific endeavours, while taking or leaving the more traditional fun. In fact, one of the best things about ham radio is that in preserving older tech and tech culture, especially in now neglected analog modes, these tools might inspire novel hybrid technologies and cross-fertilizations we can't even imagine yet. But kids will need to be here to see ham radio as a resource in this way. And the pioneers are always the maker/hacker types. They deserve a bigger welcome for this, if nothing else.
  7. M0ODV

    M0ODV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nothing new..Eavesdropping on various frequencies using a cheap SDR and software/framework is always evolving and installation and set-up made easier for the wannabe James bond.spy on your neighbours.etc.
    For example...Your shopping list is only a $15 RTL2832-R820T TV-DAB USB dongle which gives you 24-1700mhz and freeware ...I use DSD+ 1.074 download to listen to D-STAR,NXDN,DMR,MotoTRBO,P25, Phase 1,X2-TDMA and ProVoice....

    RTL-SDR software can be used to unencrypted GSM packet information and analyze cellular phone GSM signals using Linux based tools Airprobe and wireshark..the primary GSM band is 900 MHz, in the USA it starts from 850 MHz.At the end of the day the NSA-INR do DIY.

    RTL2832 sdr & HDSDR & DSD+ 1.07 screen shot at-
    RTL2832 sdr & HDSDR & a $40 HF up-converter RX 30khz -1700mhz 20mtrs-

    Sigmira and Sorcerer is a Software Defined Radio (SDR) application program that runs on Windows. It operates with with- RFSpace SDR-IQ™, RFSpace SDR-14™, RTL-SDR.It also demodulates various military, utility, and "ham" radio signals.decodes HFDL, PSK31, RTTY, FSK, SITOR-B, CW, NFM, JSM, and STANAG 4285

    Dream software for receiving Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) radio broadcasts on shortwave.

    The goal of this is to show you that anyone with twenty bucks and some curiosity can learn a great deal about your computers,radio and other equipment without ever leaving a trace...
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2015
  8. W0ZF

    W0ZF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just a comment cost of radio gear...I have a very different perspective. Amateur radio gear is wildly less expensive now than it was 30 years ago. In those days, you could buy a decent new 100W HF rig (TS-120S) for around $600, or a decent used one (FT-101) for around $350. Same is true today - a new IC-718 is around $600, and you can often find a solid rig like the FT-890 for around $350. However, wages today are much higher, so the gear is actually much cheaper in today's dollars. I see a lot of high school kids carrying iPhones that cost more than a decent entry level HF rig.

    Sure, there are 'Midas-rich' options available for those who want or can afford them, but it's not necessary to have the top of the line equipment to put out a great signal and work the world.

    With respect to the 'generational gulf' of money - keep in mind that many (nearly all) of us started with very little in our younger years, and started with older used gear that we could scrounge up in the flea markets. I don't know why it would be any different today, except that one can buy much better used gear now for a fraction of what it cost 'back in the day'.

    A used 6 channel crystal controlled Standard handheld cost me more than $50 in 1983...on a part time income of $3.70/hr. Compare that to the cost of a brand new dual-band Baofeng HT today, even for someone at minimum wage. I can afford nice new gear today, but it's not due to some 'generational gulf' - it's due to 30 years of work.

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