Tagged: hackrf

Testing the Mayhem Firmware on a HackRF Portapack

The Portapack is an add on for the popular HackRF SDR which allows the HackRF to be used portably without a PC. Recently the cost of this hardware duo has come down to below US$150 due to low cost Chinese clones now being available on the market. Generally the clones are of good quality too.

Once you have the hardware it is possible to install third party custom firmware such as "Mayhem" on the Portapack which enables many features such as the ability to receive and transmit various different types of RF protocols. Back in 2018 we did a review of Mayhems predecessor which was known as the "Havok" firmware. More recently Tech Minds did a video overview of Mayhem.

Now over on his blog A. Petazzoni has started a new blog series which aims to introduce the basics of the Mayhem firmware, including installation and some hands on testing with RF spoofing, denial-of-service (DoS) and replay attacks. Currently only his first post is out, and in the post he show how to install Mayhem onto the Portapack, then goes on to briefly overview some applications such as RF replay attacks, replicating wireless remote controls, receiving and transmitting POCSAG, receiving and transmitting ADS-B, and creating a jammer.

Obviously a lot of what you can do with a Portapack and the Mayhem firmware is extremely illegal and very dangerous, so please do be careful with what you transmit especially if you are new to RF hobby.

[Also seen on Hackaday]

HackRF Portapack transmitting a spoofed pager message.

Searching For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) with a HackRF

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is an ongoing project that aims to detect radio signals originating from intelligent species somewhere in the universe. Recently Alberto Caballero, a SETI researcher has been proposing a distributed search (project pdf document) with amateur and/or professional radio telescopes. The idea is that multiple stations around the world would monitor a single star for a period of time in order to collect data 24/7. To participate the requirements are a dish 2.1 meters or larger, a motorized mount, and a feed, LNA and radio system able to receive 1 - 4.5 GHz.

An example of a SETI station can be found at SETI Net. Here the owner has a 3M dish on a rotor connected to a HackRF. An LNA and band pass filter are also used at the feed end. SDR Console or SDR# is used to monitor a specific frequency, and the audio is sent into a special automatic SETI analysis program as well as spectrum analysis software. If an interesting signal is detected the software notifies the user, then further analysis can be undertaken.

If you have a suitable radio telescope available and want to participate, you can contact the SETI project via their contact form.

SETI Net Block Diagram

TechMinds: Extending the Range of Transmit Capable SDRs with Amplifier

Over on his YouTube channel TechMinds has uploaded a new video showing how to use RF amplifiers to extend the transmit range of transmit capable SDRs like the LimeSDR, HackRF and PlutoSDR. Whilst they are transmit capable, most low cost SDRs like those mentioned above can only transmit at very low power levels typically much less than 30 mW. In the video TechMinds tests a wideband SPF5189Z and filtered 2.4 - 2.5 GHZ CN0417 based amplifier, and shows the output power obtained using an inline power meter.

He also notes that these wideband amplifier will also amplify harmonics so filtering is recommended. At the same time we note that you should only transmit if you are licenced to do so (for example with a ham radio licence), especially if you are amplifying the output.

Extend SDR Transmit Range - LimeSDR - HackRF - Adalm Pluto Amplifier

Alpha Version of SDR++ Released

SDR++ is an open source general purpose cross platform SDR program that Alexandre Rouma (@WhatsTheGeekYT) has been working on for the past few months. Recently he released his first Windows Alpha version to the public which is available from the GitHub release page. The SDR++ GUI is inspired by SDR#, however, SDR++ as you might guess is programmed in C++ instead of C#.

In order to use SDR++ on Windows you will first need to have installed PothosSDR for the SoapySDR and volk support. To do this you can follow the instructions here. Thanks to the SoapySDR support it is able to run with most SDRs including the RTL-SDR.

To start the program, select your SDR from the source menu, change the sample rate (which is set to the minimum value by default), then click the play button. We tested it with both an RTL-SDR and HackRF, and both units worked just fine, although at lower sample rates the waterfall was a bit choppy. We do note that the software is very much in the alpha phase with only a few features implemented, and most menu items do not work yet. But the main features including WFM, FM, AM, SSB, CW demodulation as well as the spectrum and waterfall are all functional. Unfortunately there do seem to be a few stability issues as we experienced frequent crashes on our PC.

We'll be watching this software with interest to see how it progresses.

Current Features

  • Uses SoapySDR for wide hardware support
  • Hardware accelerated graphics (OpenGL + ImGui)
  • SIMD accelerated DSP (parts of the DSP are still missing)
  • Cross-platform
  • Full waterfall update when possible. Makes browsing signals easier and more pleasant

Coming soon

  • Multi-VFO
  • Plugins
  • Digital demodulators and decoders
  • Quick replay (replay last n seconds, cool if you missed a short signal)

Small things to add

  • Switchable bandwidth for demodulators
  • Switchable audio output device and sample rate
  • Recording
  • Light theme (I know you weirdos exist lol)
  • Waterfall color scheme editor
  • Switchable fft size
  • Bias-T enable/disable
  • other small customisation options
  • Save waterfall and demod settings between sessions
  • "Hide sidebar" option
  • Input filter bandwidth option

Known issues (please check before reporting)

  • Random crashes (yikes)
  • Gains aren't stepped
  • The default gains might contain a bogus value before being adjusted
  • Clicks in the audio
  • In some cases, it takes a long time to select a device (RTL-SDR in particular)
  • Min and Max buttons can get unachievable values (eg. min > max or min = max);
The SDR++ Interface
The SDR++ Interface

RadioSlate: A Tablet with Built in LimeSDR or HackRF

A new project called "RadioSlate" has recently been announced by Yian IT, a Chinese IoT company. RadioSlate will be an SDR-enabled tablet designed to be used with a HackRF or LimeSDR software defined radio that will be mounted internally behind the screen under some metal shielding. The tablet uses a 1024 x 600 touchscreen and runs an Intel M3 8100Y 1.1 to 3.4 GHz dual core CPU with 8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and it supports both Linux and Windows. Batteries will not be included, but it supports batteries in the standard 18650 form factor which can be purchased anywhere.

The project is due to be crowdfunded on CrowdSupply in the near future, and you can currently sign up to receive updates and be notified when the project launches. They write:

RadioSlate is a sturdy aluminum tablet with an industry-favorite software-defined radio (SDR) board—your choice of HackRF or LimeSDR—tucked away behind its touchscreen. Whether you’re a Ham radio operator, a network engineer, a mobile base station designer, a security auditor, or some other variety of SDR enthusiast, RadioSlate lets you do your thing, even if that thing requires you to go outside and walk around, get unusually close to transmitters and receivers, keep one hand free for other tasks, or manage all of the above without drawing undue attention to yourself.

Explore the spectrum, while on the go, without having to drag along your laptop, an SDR board, and cables.

The RadioSlate: An SDR-enabled Tablet
The RadioSlate: An SDR-enabled Tablet

Tech Minds: Eavesdropping on Video Monitors with TempestSDR

Over on his latest video Tech Minds' explores the use of TempestSDR to eavesdrop on video monitors with his Airspy Mini. TempestSDR is a program that we've posted about several times in the past. With an RTL-SDR or other compatible SDR like a HackRF it allows you to reconstruct an image from a computer monitor or TV just from the radio waves unintentionally emitted by the screen or cable. SDRs with larger bandwidths like the HackRF or Airspy are better at reconstructing the image as they can collect more information.

In his video Tech Minds shows how to download and setup one of the newer branches of TempestSDR which unlike older versions doesn't require much installation work. Using an Airspy Mini he shows that he is able to view what is on his screen via the emitted RF waves.

Eavesdropping Video Monitors With TempestSDR RTL-SDR

Tech Minds: Testing the Mayhem Firmware on the HackRF Portapack

In a video uploaded to YouTube last week, Tech Minds explored the HackRF Portapack, which is an add on for the HackRF SDR that allows the HackRF to be used portably without a PC. In that video he demonstrated it running the stock firmware.

In his latest video Tech Minds explores the Mayhem firmware, which is firmware developed by a third party in order to add significantly more features. The Mayhem firmware is a fork of the Havok firmware which is no longer maintained. If you're interested, back in 2018 we did our own review of the Havok firmware.

In the video Tech Minds first explains how to install the Mayhem firmware which also requires you to add an external SD card into your portapack. He goes on to demonstrate the various RX decoders available including ADS-B, ACARS, AIS, AFSK, BTLE, FM/AM/SSB audio, analog TV, ERT meters, POCSAG, Radiosonde and TPMS. Next he shows the various transmittable signals available including, ADS-B, APRS, BHT, GPS Sim, Jammer, Key Fob, LGE, Mic, Morse, Burger Pagers, OOK, POCSAG, RDS, Sounds, SSTV, TEDI/LCR and TouchTune.

MAYHEM Firmware for the HackRF Portapack Installation / Overview

Tech Minds: A First Look at the HackRF Portapack

The Portapack is an add on for the HackRF SDR that allows the HackRF to be used portably without a PC. If you're interested, in the past we reviewed the Portapack with the Havok firmware, which enables many TX features such as POCSAG transmissions as well as various other RX modes.

In a recent video Tech Minds reviews a Portapack clone, which is essentially exactly the same as the original Portapack. In the video he shows how to connect the Portapack to the HackRF, how download the Firmware and flash it to the HackRF. He then goes on to show some of the Portapack RX features in action. In this review he uses the official Portapack firmware, but notes that he will test the third party Havok and Mayhem firmware which have many more features in a future video.

Portapack H1 For HackRF - Ultimate RF Hacker Tool