Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reverse Engineering Cheap Chinese Radio Firmware TyTera MD-380 (Shmoocon 2016 via Hackaday)

Cool Stuff:

For those who are interested in the intersection of microcontrollers, hacking, and radio, an interesting deep dive into the firmware of one of the Chinese DMR/mototrbo ($140) radios, the Tytera MD380.

Unlike the cheap analog Chinese radios (Wouxun, Baofeng) which can only be programmed once, this radio supports a firmware upgrade.  The bit that is interesting for people who aren't deep into digital electronics is that this hack produced a version of the firmware that turns the MD380 into the first (hardware) DMR scanner.  N2NOV has been pointing out the gap, that no scanners cover DMR for a while now.

Note: this exploration/hack is at the experimental stage, so I wouldn't consider this ready/usable/applicable to anyone but those that want to experiment and are willing to risk bricking their radio or worse.

I couldn't resist, so I ordered a Tytera MD-380 this morning. More details to come.  So now my To Do list includes, learning about DMR/MotoTRBO, programming NYC area DMR amateur radio repeaters, and finding/joining communities that are covering alternative firmware development for the MD-380.

Out of the box, this radio is supposed to allow field programming (aka front panel programming) of DMR talkgroups.

Travis GoodSpeed's github repo, has a package of command-line Python tools for the MD380. Looks like enough for reading and writing the radio on Linux and Mac OS.  Also there is the beginnings of a CHiRP driver for the MD380. It doesn't read/write the radio but can be used for maintaining the analog channels and banks.

Also, hack-a-day, has had some good radio articles lately that aren't that deep into digital electronics for a wider audience.

You might recognize the name Travis Goodspeed from other projects like the GoodFET, an open source JTAG adapter inspired by Dangerous Prototype's Bus Pirate.


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