Tagged: security

SDR Videos from DEFCON 29

Recently some videos from this years (mostly virtual) DEFCON 29 conference have been uploaded to YouTube. Defcon is a major yearly conference all about information security, and some of the talks deal with wireless and SDR topics. Some interesting talks that we've found from the main Defcon and Villages are posted below.

You can view all the talks directly as well as the many others via the main stage DEFCON YouTube channel, the ICS Village Channel, RF Village Channel and the Aerospace Village. There are also several talks from the Ham Radio Village recorded on Twitch. Did we miss any interesting talks? Please let us know in the comments.

Smart Meters: I'm Hacking Infrastructure and So Should You (Hash Salehi)

Why Smart Meters? This is a question Hash is often asked. There's no bitcoin or credit card numbers hiding inside, so he must want to steal power, right? Openly analyzing the technology running our critical infrastructure and publishing the findings is something Hash is passionate about. In the wake of the great Texas freeze of 2021, we can no longer "hope" those in power will make decisions that are in the people's best interest. This talk will present research on the Landis+Gyr GridStream series of smart meters used by Oncor, the largest energy provider in Texas.

Cyber attacks on Industrial Control Systems (ICS) differ in scope and impact based on a number of factors, including the adversary's intent, sophistication and capabilities, and familiarity with ICS and automated indutrial processes. In order to understand, identify and address the specific points that can prevent or stop an attack, a systematic model known as "Cyber Kill Chain" is detailed, a term that comes from the military environment and registered by the Lockheed Martin company. While most are familiar with terms and theoretical diagrams of how security should be implemented, in this talk we want to present live how an attack chain occurs from scratch to compromise industrial devices, the full kill chain, based in our experiences. The goal is to land these threats into the real world without the need to carry out these attacks with a nation-state budget.

Smart Meters: I'm Hacking Infrastructure and So Should You (Hash Salehi)

DEF CON 29 - Paz Hameiri - TEMPEST Radio Station

TEMPEST is a cyber security term that refers to the use of electromagnetic energy emissions generated by electronic devices to leak data out of a target device. The attacks may be passive (where the attacker receives the emissions and recovers the data) or active (where the attacker uses dedicated malware to target and emit specific data).

In this talk I present a new side channel attack that uses GPU memory transfers to emit electromagnetic waves which are then received and processed by the attacker. Software developed for this work encodes audio on one computer and transmits it to the reception equipment positioned fifty feet away. The signals are received and processed and the audio is decoded and played. The maximum bit rate achieved was 33kbit/s and more than 99% of the packets were received.

Frequency selection not only enables maximization of signal quality over distance, but also enables the attacker to receive signals from a specific computer when several computers in the area are active. The software developed demonstrates audio packets transfers, but other types of digital data may be transmitted using the same technique.

[Slides Link] [Whitepaper]

DEF CON 29 - Paz Hameiri - TEMPEST Radio Station

DEF CON 29 RF Village - cemaxecuter - RF Propagation and Visualization with DragonOS

"Today's presentation will start with a brief history of DragonOS, where it started and where it's at today. After a short introduction, I'll dive into the subject of visualizing RF propagation with DragonOS. I'll be showing a fresh OS install and the necessary steps to generate a rough estimate of a transmitter based on SRTM-3 elevation data, as well as a new feature enabling visualization/calculations of the path between transmitter and receiver .

Topics and hands on (pre-recorded) demonstrations will include the following,

  • SPLAT! is an RF Signal Propagation, Loss, And Terrain analysis tool for the electromagnetic spectrum between 20 MHz and 20 GHz.
  • Signal Server Multi-threaded RF coverage calculator
  • Dr. Bill Walker's role
  • Signal Server and DragonOS integration
  • DF-Aggregator Developer / Modifications for visualization

I’ll conclude talking about future improvements to RF propagation and visualization tools."

DEF CON 29 RF Village - cemaxecuter - RF Propagation and Visualization with DragonOS

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BSides Talk: Hacking RF Breaking what we can’t see

Over on YouTube the BSides Halifax channel has uploaded a recent talk given by Security Engineer Grant Colgan titled "Hacking RF Breaking what we can't see". In the talk Grant first shows the various bits of wireless devices that he tests, as well as the receiver equipment that he uses which includes a HackRF and RTL-SDR dongles. He goes on to show various live demos.

An often overlooked aspect of security is what happens when information is moving magically from one device to another with no wires. We know this as (usually) Wifi or Bluetooth and any attacks are usually based on these technologies. However when you widen the scope to RF wireless communication, A lot more tools become available. In this talk I will be talking about the attack and doing live demos.

Hacking RF Breaking what we can't see - Grant Colgan (BSides Halifax 2021)

The KiwiSDR Backdoor Situation

Since it's announcement in early 2016 we've posted many times about the KiwiSDR, a 14-bit wideband RX only HF software defined radio created by John Seamons (ZL/KF6VO). The KiwiSDR has up to 32 MHz of bandwidth, so it can receive the entire 10 kHz - 30 MHz VLF/LF/MW/HF spectrum all at once.

Compared to most other SDRs the KiwiSDR is a little different as it is designed to be used as a public web based SDR, meaning that KiwiSDR owners can optionally share their KiwiSDR online with anyone who wants to connect to it. The public functionality allows for some interesting distributed applications, such as TDoA direction finding, which allows users to pinpoint the location of unknown HF transmissions such as numbers stations.

In order to implement this online capability, the KiwiSDR runs custom open source software on a Beaglebone single board computer which connects to your home network. Recently there has been vocal concern about a security flaw in the software which could allow hackers to access the KiwiSDR. The flaw stems from the fact that the KiwiSDR has 'backdoor' remote admin access that allows the KiwiSDR creator to log in to the device and troubleshoot or make configuration changes if required. This backdoor has been public knowledge in the KiwiSDR forums since 2017, although not advertised and explicit consent to have it active and used was not required.

The intent of the backdoor is of course not malicious, instead rather intended as an easy way to help the creator help customers with configuration problems. However, as KiwiSDR owner Mark Jessop notes, the KiwiSDR operates in HTTP only, sending the admin master password in the clear. And as KiwiSDR owner and security researcher @xssfox demonstrates, the admin page gives full root console access to the Beaglebone. These flaws could allow a malicious party to take over the Beaglebone, install any software and perhaps work their way onto other networked devices. Another tweet from xssfox implies that the password hashes are crackable, allowing the main admin password to be easily revealed.

Creator John Seamons has already released a patch to disable the admin access, and as of the time of this article 540 out of 600 public KiwiSDRs have already been auto-updated. Owners of KiwiSDR clones should seek out updates from the cloner.

It is clear that the KiwiSDR is a passion project from John who has dedicated much of his time and energy to consistently improving the technical RF engineering side of the device and software. However we live in an age where malicious hacking of devices is becoming more common, so anyone releasing products and software that network with the internet should be reminded that they have a responsibility to also dedicate time to ensuring security.

John has reached out to us in advance and noted that he currently cannot yet comment publicly on this topic due to legal advice.

The KiwiSDR
The KiwiSDR

Demonstrating How Speakers Can Become an Unintentional RF Transmitter

Over on YouTube channel Privacy & Tech Tips has uploaded a video showing how he used an RTL-SDR to pick up RF emissions coming from some speakers that were unintentionally acting as wireless microphones. He goes on to show how you can clean up the noisy received audio in Audacity using the noise reduction filter.

I show how electromagnetic emissions from personal devices many times turn our devices into (potential) remote listening + transmitting devices when active (as demonstrated). I discovered my speakers unintentionally transmitting audio (speaker acting as microphone) to a few different frequencies via GQRX recording (computer/Pinetab microphones completely disabled).

There are a few frequencies you can tune into to listen in remotely. This includes listening in to conversations in the room as the speaker also acts as a microphone when playing sound (***tested only on my own devices***).

When the speaker volume is turned down, the signal goes down and the broadcast goes away. When the speaker volume is down, it no longer functions as a remote microphone + transmitter.

We use Audacity to clean up the audio. GQRX is used to record the signals which are filtered on the Pinetab with internal RTL-SDR. Audio processing/noise reduction done running Parrot Linux using Audacity.

We touch on the fact all electronic devices give off their very own unique electromagnetic emissions which can act as device signatures (strength depends on shielding).

Sometimes speaker wire not properly shielded (as is found in most PC's) can act as a radio transmitter antenna without user knowledge. Here I discovered a few frequencies broadcasting the audio live (.25 second delay for SDR modulation).

PC Speakers Acting As Microphone (Remote RF) Demo: GQRX/Pinetab

Steve Mould Hacks Into his Car with a HackRF

Over on YouTube popular science content creator Steve Mould has uploaded a video showing how he was able to open his own car using a HackRF software defined radio. In the video Steve first uses the Universal Radio Hacker software to perform a simple replay attack by using his HackRF (and also an RTL-SDR V3) to record the car's keyfob signal away from the car and replay it near the car.

Steve goes on to note that most cars use rolling code security, so a simple replay attack like the above is impractical in most situations. Instead he notes how a more advanced technique called "rolljam" can be used, which we have posted about a few times in the past. Later in the video Steve interviews Samy Kamkar who was the security researcher who first popularized the rolljam technique at Defcon 2015. 

I Hacked Into My Own Car

RF Fingerprinting ADS-B Signals for Security

At this years ICNP 2020 IEEE conference a paper titled "Real-World ADS-B signal recognition based on Radio Frequency Fingerprinting" (pdf file) was presented by researchers from Harbin Engineering University in China. The idea presented in the paper is to use RF "fingerprinting" techniques to uniquely identify and confirm that the ADS-B signal originates from the correct aircraft source.

RF fingerprinting works on the premise that every transmitter has small manufacturing variances that result in slightly different signals be transmitted, resulting in a unique "fingerprint" that can be traced to a particular transmitter. The idea here is to use these fingerprints to ensure that a known aircraft is indeed transmitting an ADS-B signal and the signal is not being transmitted from a fake spoofer. ADS-B is completely unencrypted and not authenticated, so spoofing of ADS-B signals may be a real security threat.

In the teams research they use an RTL-SDR to collect ADS-B signals from five different aircraft. They then use that data to create "Contour Stellar Images" and train a deep learning neural network which after training accurately identifies which aircraft a signal comes from.

Aircraft ADS-B Fingerprinting

In previous posts we've seen the idea of fingerprinting used by Disney research and others to identify electronic devices, to authenticate RF IoT devices and to identify handheld transmitters via CTCSS fingerprints.

Unlocking a Car with an RTL-SDR and Yardstick One

Over on his YouTube channel Kalle Hallden has uploaded a video demonstrating how to perform a replay and "rolljam" attack on a wireless car key with an RTL-SDR and Yardstick One. His first experiment is a simple replay attack which involves recording the unlock signal from the car key with the Yardstick One in a place far away from the car so that it is not received, then replaying it close by.

This works well, but Kalle then explains rolling code security and how this would easily thwart any replay attack in the real world. However, he then goes on to explain and demonstrate the "rolljam" technique, which is one known way to get around rolling code security. The demonstrations are obviously not full tutorials, but are just high level overviews of how wireless security can be defeated.

DEFCON 2020 Aerospace Village SDR Talks

A few weeks ago we posted about the recently uploaded talks listed on the Defcon YouTube channel. However, there is a second YouTube channel dedicated to talks presented as part of the Defcon Aerospace Village which was also held virtually. A number of these talks involve software defined radios and RTL-SDRs and so may be of interest to readers. We have listed a few interesting talks below, but the full list can be found on their YouTube channel.