Thursday, May 09, 2013

Giving Away HackRF

The HackRF project has been open source from the very beginning. Even before we started the project, Jared Boone and I wanted to have an open source hardware platform for Software Defined Radio (SDR). Our early prototype designs were published in our repository along with every step of our hardware and software development, and we used open source development tools including KiCad and GCC.

We felt that the world needed an open source hardware design for SDR. GNU Radio had been around for several years, leading a thriving community of open source software development for SDR, but no general purpose SDR hardware designs were available under an open source license. Both Jared and I had started our own businesses devoted to open source hardware development because we felt strongly that open source is simply the right thing to do, and we thought that an SDR peripheral would be an important contribution we could make to the open source hardware and SDR communities.

More than a year later, I am sitting in my lab testing the first sample Jawbreakers from the factory while hundreds more are being assembled and tested. Jawbreaker is the HackRF beta design, and I'm getting ready to ship beta units to as many people as possible. It is a USB-powered SDR peripheral that can transmit or receive virtually any radio signal from 30 MHz to 6 GHz, a range of operating frequencies even wider than our original, ambitious goal.

More than 500 Jawbreakers are being produced right now, and I plan to give nearly all of them away. It is incredibly exciting to be giving people actual hardware in addition to giving away the design! As far as I know, this is the largest beta give-away of any open source hardware project to date. We are thankful for the support of the DARPA Cyber Fast Track program that enabled us not only to develop HackRF in the first place but to produce and distribute so many beta units.

If you would like to participate in the beta program and receive your own Jawbreaker, you can register today. It's free! I distributed beta invitation codes to the attendees of ToorCon 14 and the 2012 GNU Radio Conference last fall. Each of those codes may be used now to register for a spot at the top of the beta list. There are more Jawbreakers than codes, so you can also get on the waiting list for additional units even if you do not have a code. I don't know how many codes will be redeemed, but there is a good chance it will be less than 100%. In order to be fair to the people on the waiting list and to avoid having a large pile of unused Jawbreakers, I established a deadline for the use of invitation codes. The deadline (20 May 2013) is approaching rapidly; if you have any friends who were at ToorCon 14 or the 2012 GNU Radio Conference, this would be a good time to remind them to use their codes!

Benjamin Vernoux, one of the HackRF developers, sent me an enclosure he designed for Jawbreaker, and it fits very nicely. It is based on the Sick of Beige case design from our friends at Dangerous Prototypes. I will not be shipping enclosures with the beta units, but you can download the design and either order one for yourself or make one on your own laser cutter. Don't have a laser cutter? Maybe it's time to make some new friends at your local hackerspace!

Monday, May 06, 2013

Introducing Daisho

At TROOPERS13, Dominic Spill and I presented Introducing Daisho, Monitoring Multiple Technologies at the Physical Layer (video, slides). It was the first public presentation about Daisho, a new project to build an open source hardware platform for in-line monitoring of several different wired communication media at the lowest possible layer. The project targets high speed communication technologies (Gigabit Ethernet, SuperSpeed USB 3.0, and HDMI in particular) for which limited tools exist today.

A basic principle of Project Daisho is that we want to monitor communication media at the physical layer or as close to the physical layer as we are able to achieve. Since any monitoring platform is capable of reconstructing activity at the monitored layer or higher, we think that security applications will be best served by monitoring at the lowest possible layer.

The platform is designed to be used as a pair of circuit boards that work together. (If you look up "daisho" you'll find that it is a word for a pair of swords; our Daisho is a pair of boards.) The mainboard consists primarily of an FPGA and a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port for connecting to a host computer. The front-end module has a pair of transceivers and connectors for a particular target communication medium. Each target technology will have its own front-end module. Data arriving at one connector on the front-end module are passed to the FPGA on the mainboard and then exit the other connector on the front-end module. This man-in-the-middle architecture allows us to perform in-line monitoring and should also permit future active applications including injection or modification of transmissions on the target medium.

Dominic and I are joined on this project by Marshall Hecht, Jared Boone, Mike Kershaw, and Benjamin Vernoux. It is a big project, and we are thankful to have support from DARPA's Cyber Fast Track program.

The project is entirely open source hardware and software, and it has many potential applications beyond monitoring of communication systems. We're especially excited to be producing the world's first open source USB 3.0 device core for implementation of SuperSpeed USB with a transceiver IC and FPGA. (The USB 2.0 functions are already working!)