Microwave News, Interphone & Mike Repacholi

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best sum up the state of play regarding mobile phones, Dect, Wifi & human health at the close of 2009.

The start of this year saw studies that showed that exposure to EMFs can wreck your sleep. You can test this theory for yourself by plugging in your WiFi router & Dect Phone’s Main Base right next to your bed. About 10% of you should should suffer sleep deprivation, or perhaps just really weird dreams.

Next up, unplug your WiFi router and Dect base at night. Did you notice a difference? Are you sleeping better? is one of your kids now sleeping better? If you live near a Mobile/Tetra mast you might not be so lucky. Of course, a really close neighbour’s WiFi & Dect can cause Electrosmog in your home too. It could be a wheat intolerance or any one of a hundred different things that are suddenly making you feel s**t. But it really could be a source of pulsed EMF too.

Back to the original heading. Microwave News reports that the battle goes on. Mike Repacholi has taken wages from the Cellphones-cause-no-harm lobby for some years, and everyone out there knows that. Dozens of other scientists do also every day. It doesn’t matter one bit, the truth will eventually out. At worst i’ll just have been wrong, and have spent my time writing about something that I find interesting!

For years scientists struggled against entrenched money interests to bring down BIG-Tobacco. Some would say they still haven’t. But most people now agree that smoking tobacco will shorten your life. For many years the Power companies insisted that living under power lines didn’t give you Leukemia. Most people now believe they do…

My argument is not that cellphones give you cancer. My argument is that daily exposure to excessive EMFs (mostly from Dect cordless phones & WiFi routers) will leave you fuzzy minded and ruin your mood. Ultimately sending you to your GP asking for Antidepressants – which might make you feel better in the short-term , but won’t fix the cause of your low serotonin long-term. Also, you could end up at your GP asking them to medicate your kids with Ritalin or some other lovely concoction. Turn off all your EMF crap and get them outside in the fresh air! Now!

I even see the proliferation of EMF emitting gadgets as the possible cause for the obesity epidemic. Not that EMF’s contain any calories, obviously they don’t. But if being in a situatiuon that leads you to feel not quite yourself and mildly uncomfortable, could lead you to comfort eat without really understanding why. All experiments that need to be done by truly independent scientists at some point in the near future. In the mean time just turn off all your Wireless gadgets… For your childrens sake.

Peace & Love. Roll On 2010.

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The $100 Netbook has arrived.

It’s only just two years ago now since Asus grabbed the PC market by the balls with the launch of the Asus Eee 701.

This was the first complete mini-laptop for under £200. It ran Linux and gave you everything you needed for 90% of your PC work. The only downsides were the fiddly keyboard and the 7″ 800×480 display. New versions quickly followed, and the second Eee featured a more usable 10″ 1024×600 display. Microsoft saw the huge numbers of these Netbooks being sold and realised that if they didn’t supply a cheap OEM netbook version of Windows XP, and bloody quickly, then Linux would take over the world!

I’ve still got my original 701 Eee, and a 901, and also an Acer Aspire One, and also a Advent 4211 / MSI Wind. They are all great machines. I only bought so many because I spotted a niche in the market for a custom build of Ubuntu for each of them. The standard Linux that came with most of them wasn’t very flexible, or at least didn’t seem flexible to someone only used to a Windows PC. I made a build of Ubuntu that was built on the un-swoppy EXT2 format, came with ability to play YouTube & iPlayer video content, working WiFi drivers etc, 3G broadband USB support, and a VOIP client that people wanted to use. I’m still selling these today (on Kingston 8GB USB sticks for £29), mainly to people who don’t have the spare time or inclination to figure everything out for themselves. (see spystore-uk on eBay).

Anyway, I’ve digressed. While looking on eBay last night I spotted a new Netbook running Windows for £75 including UPS shipping to the UK. At first I think this must be a scam, but there are lots of them, and the vendors have good feedback. Of course I ordered one immediately, now I just have to wait for it to show up.

The $100 netbook really is the next step on from that original Eee 701. It’s less powerful in terms of processor power, memory & storage – but the price point is a truly compelling feature.

Right now these $100 netbooks are keeping the cost down by using 7″ 800×480 displays and a low power 300MHz ARM processor. The downside is that the lack of an x86 style Intel processor means you won’t be running Windows XP or an Intel compatible build of Ubuntu anytime soon.

On the horizon though is a promised firmware upgrade to Google’s Android operating system, which should give users the Flash/Firefox combination they need to use iPlayer & YouTube – for now they ship with Windows CE.

New versions of the ARM processor promise extra grunt quite soon. So the next couple of iterations of this device really will shake everything up – sorry Intel.

Think of it this way – right now you have Apple iPhones with similar processing power and smaller screens for £500; you have proprietry eBook readers (Kindle, Sony, etc) with mono display for £150+. Yes these devices are beautifully designed, have very appealing interfaces, and will continue to sell by the bucket load. But it will be the $100 netbook that causes a quantum shift towards the always-connected world of cloud computing – with WiFI & 3G everywhere – where everything sits on a server (an example of this being the Promptu voice-recognition software for the iPhone that uploads a voice file to a server, which the server converts to text, and sends back to the phone – because the iPhone doesn’t have the raw processing power for speech to text, but the server does).

Reading what others have said about the $100 netbooks out there right now, it’s not yet possible to boot an alternative OS from a USB stick or SD card. These machines are pre-programmed at the factory with the OS on-board, and the Bios doesn’t supply an alternative boot menu right now. The manufacturers talk about them being able to run Android (linux) sometime soon via a Flash upgrade, so in the near future it should be possible to ‘jailbreak’ (sorry) them to run another OS – although that mechanism doesn’t seem to be known just yet.

So what can you reasonably expect from a $100 laptop? Don’t expect to be watching HD video content anytime soon. Better to splurge out on a £200 Intel Atom based netbook if you want; your kids to look grateful on Christmas day, a real hard drive, Windows XP (and therefore any real Windows applications), lots of Youtube content, iPlayer, etc. But for basic website surfing & email a $100 PC that comes with WiFi is hard to beat!

The last thing I can remember being so revolutionary was when the Sinclair ZX81 launched, and if you wanted the cheapest version you had to solder that together yourself!

UPDATE 6/2/10 : $100 netbook packed up last week. MORAL: you get what you pay for!

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Video Feeds From Unmanned US Predator Drones Intercepted Using $26 Software

The Register reports that Iraqi insurgents have had their laptops searched and that the video feeds from unmanned US Predator drone aircraft have been found on them.

The drones provide video reconnaissance to remote viewers/pilots, and are good for showing enemy troop movements, etc.

However, if Johnny Terrorist can intercept your supposedly private video feed with a laptop, card & dish and a $26 piece of software called SkyGrabber, then they probably know more than you.

SkyGrabber is normally used for snatching satellite internet traffic out of the air. Say you live in the Highlands of Scotland and can’t get regular wired or wireless internet, you can get satellite internet – at a price.

The files you download over satellite internet can be seen & recorded by anyone with the right equipment – so that’s POP3 email accounts, FTP uploads to your server, music files you download, videos you download.

Anyone running SkyGrabber can get all the movies and music you download for free. Presumably the drone planes were sending their data over a standard network IP link, with simple encryption at best – this technology is now ten years old.

You can get software to do a similar thing for Linux. Spotting sporadic satellite feeds is almost a complete self-contained hobby for a certain type of geek. There’s certainly lots of interesting stuff out there.

I remember reading about one guy who’d seen unedited live satellite feeds from Paris the night Lady Diana died. Very often an ad-hoc satellite feed will contain off-the-record comments from reporters on the ground, and the studio will then edit the whole thing down into the report you eventually see on TV. These satellite hunters get to see the whole shebang.

Interesting video here

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GSM Won’t be the same again.

After the 27th of December GSM won’t be the same again.

26C3 hacker conference 27th-30th December (C3 stands for Chaos Computer Club of Germany).

In December 2007 we saw Bluetooth hacked at 24C3.
In December 2008 we saw Dect hacked at 25C3.
This years it’s GSM’s turn.

Here are the interesting GSM talks to look out for. I’m sure they’ll appear on Youtube after the event.

27th Dec 21:45 – Chris Paget & Karsten Nohl

“The worlds most popular radio system has over 3 billion handsets in 212 countries and not even strong encryption. Perhaps due to cold-war era laws, GSM’s security hasn’t received the scrutiny it deserves given its popularity. This bothered us enough to take a look; the results were surprising.

From the total lack of network to handset authentication, to the “Of course I’ll give you my IMSI” message, to the iPhone that really wanted to talk to us. It all came as a surprise – stunning to see what $1500 of USRP can do. Add a weak cipher trivially breakable after a few months of distributed table generation and you get the most widely deployed privacy threat on the planet.

Cloning, spoofing, man-in-the-middle, decrypting, sniffing, crashing, DoS’ing, or just plain having fun. If you can work a BitTorrent client and a standard GNU build process then you can do it all, too. Prepare to change the way you look at your cell phone, forever.”

29th Dec 16:00 – Dieter Spaar

Playing with the GSM RF Interface

Doing tricks with a mobile phone

This talk will show what can be done by taking control of the GSM RF part of a mobile phone, for example performing a DoS attack to the GSM network or using the phone as a sniffing device.

If the RF hardware of a mobile phone can be controlled, lots of things are possible, for example:

* Sending continuous Channel Request which can lead to a huge load for a GSM cell and could be considered as a DoS attack to the GSM network.
* Use a mobile phone as a cheap GSM receiver for sniffing the air traffic somehow similar to what can be done with the USRP.

29th Dec 17:15 – Harald Welte

Using OpenBSC for fuzzing of GSM handsets

With the recent availability of more Free Software for GSM protocols such as OpenBSC, GSM protocol hacking is no longer off-limits. Everyone can play with the lower levels of GSM communications.

It’s time to bring the decades of TCP/IP security research into the GSM world, sending packets incompatible with the state machine, sending wrong length fields and actually go all the way to fuzz the various layers of the GSM protocol stack.

The GSM protocol stack is a communications protocol stack like any other. There are many layers of protocols, headers, TLV’s, length fields that can “accidentially” be longer or shorter than the actual content. There are timers and state machines. Wrong messages can trigger invalid state transitions.

This protocol stack inside the telephone is implemented in C language on the baseband processor on a real-time operating system without any memory protection.

There are only very few commercial GSM protocol stack implementations, which are licensed by the baseband chipset companies. Thus, vulnerabilities discovered in one phone will likely exist in many other phones, even of completely different handset manufacturers.

Does that sound like the preamble to a security nightmare? It might well be! Those protocol stacks never have received the scrutiny of thousands of hackers and attack tools like the TCP/IP protocol suite on the Internet.

It’s about time we change that.

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