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If you want to dabble for _cheap_ with SDR, the RTL-SDR [1] is a < $10 USB receiver that works from 24 to 1766 MHz.

It allows to listen to FM radio, decode most 433MHz devices (weather stations), car keys signals, and even NOAA weather satellites [2] with a DIY antenna [3].

[1] https://osmocom.org/projects/sdr/wiki/rtl-sdr

[2] http://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-tutorial-receiving-noaa-weath...

[3] http://tinhatranch.com/how-to-build-a-qfh-quadrifilar-helix-...

You can also track your neighbors' energy usage by decoding their smart meter transmissions (around here, they transmit about every minute). https://github.com/bemasher/rtlamr

I can read about 40 smart meters from inside my home using the antenna that comes with it.

Is there an easy way to confirm which one's yours? Serial number visible from the exterior of the meter e.g.?

yes, the serial number is printed on the outside of every meter (so you can use a telescope to read your neighbor's meter serial number)

For what it's worth, you can get very good reception from NOAA satellites using a much simpler antenna: http://www.rtl-sdr.com/simple-noaameteor-weather-satellite-a...

Said from experience of having built something more complicated and having it perform worse than two pieces of copper tubing stuck in a piece of scrap plastic.

I've been dabbling with RF, but I don't quite understanding the appeal of downloading NOAA sat images. It is simply 'hello world' for receiving sat downlinks?

For me it's a "hello world" for experimenting with building VHF antennas. It's nice, because they are on a schedule that you can plan around and more interesting than listening to the local dispatch systems.

As an aviation enthusiast, I've got a Raspberry Pi in my attic hooked up to two RTL-SDR radios, each connected to homemade antennas mounted on my roof (one VHF to listen to airband transmissions and the other receiving ADS-B[1]). No signal processing required--both are pretty easily achieved by just cobbling together existing open source packages. Also have a GPS receiver on the roof so that Raspberry Pi is also a stratum-1 NTP time server[2]. But that one's not using an SDR. Fun hobby.

EDIT: Added links I found helpful, for the curious:

1: http://www.rtl-sdr.com/adsb-aircraft-radar-with-rtl-sdr/

2: http://www.satsignal.eu/ntp/Raspberry-Pi-NTP.html

Can you suggest something that could be used to read or reprogram wireless access cards, such as the HID Proxcard II? I want to clone my apartment's key fob into a bracelet I can wear when I go jogging.

Clarification for the audience: "RFID" has very little to do with radio or SDR. Communications are done with a coil in the "near field", which also powers the tag.

If you have an Android phone, grab a NFC reader app - this should at least tell you if the card is able to be cloned.

Not all RFID cards are created the same. Most RFID cards that are some kind of "smart" (i.e. contactless bank cards, subway tickets) conform to ISO/IEC 14443 standard that mandates the use of ~13.5MHz carrier to communicate between the reader and the card. This is "the NFC" as your phone understands it.

Proximity cards used for door access usually have the 125kHz carrier compatible with the EM-Marin EM4100. No cell phones I know of have an antenna for this frequency range; therefore, no phone can read, clone or emulate an EM-Marin proximity card.

Since the HID Proxcard II is a "value priced 125 kHz proximity card", you cannot use a phone to read it.

Assuming you could read signals to/from a key-fob/HID-card, isn't there some encryption involved that would prevent merely repeating the signal to "clone" a key-fob?

You can't clone it as many do challenge response but you can relay it - check out NFCgate for example.

This would allow you to say, hold one device to the reader and one against someone's pocket to open a door.

Or to share an NFC transit pass between multiple people over the internet.

Search for "distance bound protocol" if you want to read about current crypto research to prevent relaying.

There are some interesting attempts at these protocols but most of them rely on multiple powered devices, not induction powered smartcards which inherently adds delay and not necessarily predictable delay.

No one has a proven system for doing this in today's smartcards to my knowledge. Though there is some research which promises this may be possible in the future.

Even those proximity car locks do a horrible job of distance bounding - many of them do it off RF level which means an attacker merely needs an amplifier to steal your car - and that offers an almost optimal situation for the application. So I think we'll probably see it there before smart cards. Maybe the timers necessary make this cost prohibitive though. I'm not in a position to say one way or the other.

Nope, an EM4100-compatible card (or a key fob) is just a 64-bit ROM with radio interface. You can read its value and replay it to a reader; the latter won't be able to tell the difference between the original card and your spoofed one.

Better (and more expensive) RFID tags may have an encrypted communication protocol.


I heard of dvbt USB that could be used as sdr interface. I just wonder if the dvbt support under Linux is OK.

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