Tagged: mobile

Trump Tweets about Pushed Buffalo Protestor Scanning to Jam Police Radios with an RTL-SDR and Android Phone

In political news 75 year old Buffalo protestor Martin Gugino has been generating controversy due to a video of him being pushed to the ground by a police officer, then subsequently lying motionless while bleeding from the head and being ignored by other officers.

Recently US president Donald Trump tweeted about a video news report by "One America News" (OAN) indicating that Gugino may have been trying to scan police with a "capture scanner". Whilst talking about the capture scanner they show an image of an RTL-SDR dongle and Android phone running the SDR Touch software. OAN go on to say that these capture scanners are designed to "skim microphones" in order to capture police communications, and are a tool commonly used by Antifa. Credit to @hackerfantastic for initially tweeting about the RTL-SDR being featured in the video.

Trump's tweet reads "Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment @OANN
I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?".

We're not entirely sure where this theory from OAN came from as there is no need to get so close in order to listen to police radio communications, since if unencrypted, they can be listened to from anywhere in the city. It's also unclear as to what microphones police would be using, and how these could be "skimmed" with an RTL-SDR. As for blacking out the equipment, an RTL-SDR cannot transmit so it would be impossible to use to jam the radios. An illegal jammer could be used after scanning, but police frequencies are already well known anyway, and there would be no need to scan for them so close even if low power comm links were used.

The video also shows that he appears to be filming police badge numbers with his phone before he was pushed, so it is unlikely that he was using an RTL-SDR and running SDR Touch at the same time as the camera app. No cables, antenna or dongle can be seen in the video either.

In the past we have seen a Slovenian researcher almost jailed for performing University research with an RTL-SDR, and a UN expert arrested for possessing an RTL-SDR in Tunisia. So this is a timely reminder to be careful as police and media do not always understand what an SDR is.

EDIT: Please note that this is not a political post or blog. We only post it to highlight the severe lack of understanding that can surround SDR and our technical hobbies. Comments inciting violence against protestors or anyone are NOT OK, and will be removed. Please keep discussions technical and civil in nature.

OAN indicates that Martin Gugino may have used an RTL-SDR on police
OAN indicates that Martin Gugino may have used an RTL-SDR "capture scanner" on police

New Apple iOS (iPhone/iPad) RTL-SDR rtl_tcp Client App in Beta Testing

Over on our forums poster hotpaw2 has released news about his new RTL-SDR app for iOS (iPhones/iPads). If we're not mistaken, this will be the first app that enables RTL-SDR usage on iOS. However, as iOS devices don't allow RTL-SDRs (or any arbitrary USB device) to connect directly to devices, you still need to use a Raspberry Pi or other network connected computing device as an rtl_tcp server. So the RTL-SDR does not plug directly into the iOS device. Currently he is looking for beta testers to help test a pre-release of the software. Hotpaw2 writes:

Hi. A first version of my iOS SDR app is nearing completion. So I'm interested finding a few users who would like to beta test a pre-release of the app, and provide some feedback. The beta test requirements are having a 64-bit iOS device (iPhone or iPad) running iOS 11.2.x or newer, having Apple's TestFlight app installed, having a Mac, PC, Raspberry Pi (or other Linux box) that already has rtl_tcp installed and ready to run. (And an RTL-SDR obviously.) The rtl_tcp server must be on a fast WiFi network reachable by your iOS device. Note that iOS TestFlight app distributions do have an expiration date.

iOS does not recognize arbitrary USB devices such as an RTL-SDR. This is even true when using Apple's Lightning Camera Connection kit to provide an iPhone with a wired USB port. So an adapter must be used. I use a headless Raspberry Pi 3 running rtl_tcp as the USB adapter to provide raw IQ samples from the RTL-SDR to the iOS app. A Raspberry Pi Zero W would also work. I then connect to the server either over WiFi, or via wired ethernet. 

This iOS SDR app is fairly simple. I've been experimenting with developing low-level DSP code in Swift. So this SDR app was written from scratch in the Swift programming language. Because the app is targeted for the iOS App store, it uses none of the existing SDR C++ code base. 

The app currently demodulates AM, N-FM, and mono W-FM. It also displays a spectrum and rudimentary waterfall, and allows one to swipe-to-tune. There are not a lot of controls, as screen real-estate on an iPhone is quite limited. But I can walk around the house and, from my iPhone, monitor if my RTL-SDR or AirSpy HF+ are picking up any interesting signals.

Contact info for beta testing can be found here: http://www.hotpaw.com/rhn/hotpaw/ 

Source code to librtlsdr and rtl_tcp can be found in many repositories on github, but zero support for finding or installing such, and/or setting up your Raspberry Pi, will be provided by me.

Screenshot of the RTL-SDR iOS app
Screenshot of the RTL-SDR iOS app

 

A Portable SDR Transceiver with LimeSDR Mini, Android Phone and QRadioLink

QRadioLink is a Linux and Android compatible radio app that can run on smartphones. It can be used to receive and transmit digital radio signals with a compatible SDR such as an RTL-SDR (RX only), or a LimeSDR Mini (TX and RX). The following video by Adrian M shows QRadioLink running on an Android phone with a LimeSDR Mini connected to it. An external battery pack is also connected to maintain power levels over a longer time.

In the video Adrian shows how this combination can be used as a fully portable radio transceiver. The video first shows him receiving broadcast FM, digital amateur radio voice (Codec2 & Opus is supported), narrowband FM and SSB signals. Later in the video he transmits a digital voice signal using the microphone on his Android phone. He notes that an external amplifier would still be needed if you wanted more transmission power.

Portable SDR transceiver: LimeSDR-mini, mobile phone and QRadioLink

 

Video showing SMS Texts and Voice Calls being sniffed with an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user Osama SH has uploaded a video briefly showing the steps needed to use an RTL-SDR dongle to sniff some SMS text messages and voice calls made from his own phone. This can be done if some encryption data is known about the phone sending the messages, so it cannot be used to listen in on any phone – just ones you have access to. In the video he uses Airprobe and Wireshark to initially sniff the data, and find the information needed to decode the text message. Once through the process he is able to recover the SMS message and some voice audio files.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtV6pi-c9bk

Sniffing and Analyzing GSM Signals with GR-GSM

Over a year ago we wrote a tutorial on how to analyze GSM cellular phone signals using a RTL-SDR, a Linux computer with GNU Radio, Wireshark and a GSM decoder called Airprobe. With this combination it is possible to easily decode GSM system messages. Setting up Airprobe is can be difficult as it is unmaintained and incompatible with the new version of GNU Radio without patches.

Now a new software package called gr-gsm has been released on GitHub which seems to be a newer and improved version of Airprobe. The gr-gsm software is also much easier to install, uses the newer GNU Radio 3.7 and seems to decode the system data with much less trouble than Airprobe did. We will soon update our tutorial to use gr-gsm, but the instructions on the GitHub are already quite good. The author of gr-gsm also appears to be actively adding new features to the software as well. The video below shows gr-gsm in action.

Sniffing GSM data with gr-gsm and cheap RTL-SDR receivers

SDR Touch Updated to Version 2.0

SDR Touch, the popular Android based software defined radio software for the RTL-SDR has been updated to version 2.0. This new version is a complete rewrite with many optimizations listed below.

  • 100% rewritten from scratch
  • Improved reception sensitivity and quality
  • Optimized engine
  • GUI overhaul (Landscape mode, more flexible)
  • 16 bit audio
  • FIR filtering

The author also writes that the rewrite allows for new features coming out in the future such as adjustable bandwidth, FFT size, plugins and a separate GUI for in-car use. SDR Touch is available from the Android Play store.

SDR Touch Android GUI for RTL-SDR
SDR Touch Android GUI for RTL-SDR

XiOne – A RTL2832U based Portable Software Defined Radio: Indigogo Funding Campaign

A new funding campaign for an RTL2832U based software defined radio has gone up on Indiegogo. The new SDR is called the XiOne and is intended to be the first SDR that is easy to use with smartphones and open to the maker community.

With its 100 kHz to 1.7 GHz receiving range, the XiOne has a similar tuning range to the standard RTL-SDR dongles when an upconverter or the direct sampling mod is used. What makes the XiOne different is that it will have a built in MIPS processor, an internal rechargeable battery for portability and it will connect directly through WiFi to a smart device. They are also developing SDR GUI software for mobile devices including decoders for things like ADS-B, AIS and NOAA Satellites.

The IndieGoGo backer price for a XiOne is $179 USD, but if you act fast there are 100 units available at the promotional price of $139 USD. At the moment they have a working prototype with completed firmware, portable Java based SDR GUI, iPhone demodulation software, a MacOS ADS-B receiver, an iPad AIS receiver and an iPad spectrum analyzer. The fundraiser is to help them begin serial production.

There is a Reddit thread discussing the project here.

XiOne Prototype Internals
XiOne Prototype Internals
XiOne Casing
XiOne Casing

Analyzing TD-LTE with the RTL-SDR

TD-LTE is a mobile phone standard acronym for Time Division Long Term Evolution. It is one of two variants of LTE technology, with the other being FD-LTE (Frequency Division LTE).

Over in China where TD-LTE is commonly used, Jiao Xianjun discovered that the current LTE-Cell-Scanner Linux program did not support TD-LTE, so he made a fork which does support TD-LTE. LTE-Cell-Scanner is a program which can decode LTE cell tower data which contains information like the cell ID, transmit frequency and transmit strength. With his modified LTE-Cell-Scanner, some MATLAB scripts he wrote and an RTL-SDR, Jiao was able to decode the cell information from 10 TD-LTE signals and 2 FD-LTE signals. He has uploaded a video showing this too.

TD-LTE, LTE FDD, scanning/demodulation results in Beijing, China