Nexmon Software Defined Radio
This projects demonstrates our discovery that turns Broadcom's 802.11ac Wi-Fi chips into software-defined radios that transmit arbitrary signals in the Wi-Fi bands. In this example, we patch the Wi-Fi firmware of BCM4339 devices installed in Nexus 5 smartphones and BCM43455c0 devices installed in Raspberry Pi B3+ computers. The Raspberry Pi B3 will never be supported as it only contains an 802.11n PHY. The firmware patch activates three ioctls:
NEX_WRITE_TEMPLATE_RAM(426) writes arbitrary data into Template RAM that stores the raw IQ samples that we may transmit. The ioctl's payload contains (1) an int32 value indicating the offset where data should be written in Template RAM in bytes, (2) an int32 value indicating the length of the data that should be written and (3) the IQ samples as array of IQ values, where I (inphase components) and Q (quadrature components) are stored as int16 numbers.
NEX_SDR_START_TRANSMISSION(427) that triggers the transmission of IQ samples. The ioctl's payload contains (1) an int32 value indicating the number of samples to transmit, (2) an int32 value indicating the offset where the signal starts in Template RAM, (3) an int32 value indicating a chanspec (channel number, bandwidth, band, ...), (4) an int32 value indicating the power index (lower value means higher output power), and (5) an int32 value indicating whether to loop over the IQ samples or transmit them only once.
NEX_SDR_STOP_TRANSMISSION(428) stops a transmission started using
Transmitting an Example Signal
payload_generation contains the MATLAB script
generate_frame.m that generates
a Wi-Fi beacon frame with SSID
MyCovertChannel. The generated IQ samples are written to a bash
script that calls
nexutil from the nexmon.org project to load the samples into the Wi-Fi
chip's Template RAM by using ioctls. You can either generate your own signals or use the
myframe.sh file for transmitting the generated Wi-Fi frame. To this end, follow the
Getting Started instructions below to install our patched Wi-Fi firmware on a Nexus 5 smartphone.
Then, you need to copy
myframe.sh to a directory that allows execution (such as
To load the samples and start a single transmission, simply executute the bash script and
observe the results by listening with a Wi-Fi sniffer on channel 1. A suitable Wireshark filter
wlan.addr == 82:7b:be:f0:96:e0. Of course, you are not limited to transmitting handcrafted
Wi-Fi signals, you can transmit whatever you like in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Nevertheless, you
have to obey your local laws for transmitting signals, that might prohibit you to transmit any
signal at all.
Extract from our License
Any use of the Software which results in an academic publication or other publication which includes a bibliography must include citations to the nexmon project a) and the paper cited under b) or the thesis cited under c):
a) "Matthias Schulz, Daniel Wegemer and Matthias Hollick. Nexmon: The C-based Firmware Patching Framework. https://nexmon.org"
b) "Matthias Schulz, Jakob Link, Francesco Gringoli, and Matthias Hollick. Shadow Wi-Fi: Teaching Smartphones to Transmit Raw Signals and to Extract Channel State Information to Implement Practical Covert Channels over Wi-Fi. Accepted to appear in Proceedings of the 16th ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys 2018), June 2018."
c) "Matthias Schulz. Teaching Your Wireless Card New Tricks: Smartphone Performance and Security Enhancements through Wi-Fi Firmware Modifications. Dr.-Ing. thesis, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, February 2018."
To compile the source code, you are required to first clone the original nexmon repository that contains our C-based patching framework for Wi-Fi firmwares. Than you clone this repository as one of the sub-projects in the corresponding patches sub-directory. This allows you to build and compile all the firmware patches required to repeat our experiments. The following steps will get you started on Xubuntu 16.04 LTS:
- Install some dependencies:
sudo apt-get install git gawk qpdf adb
- Only necessary for x86_64 systems, install i386 libs:
sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386 sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install libc6:i386 libncurses5:i386 libstdc++6:i386
- Clone the nexmon base repository:
git clone https://github.com/seemoo-lab/nexmon.git.
- Download and extract Android NDK r11c (use exactly this version!).
- Export the NDK_ROOT environment variable pointing to the location where you extracted the ndk so that it can be found by our build environment.
- Navigate to the previously cloned nexmon directory and execute
source setup_env.shto set a couple of environment variables.
maketo extract ucode, templateram and flashpatches from the original firmwares.
- Navigate to utilities and run
maketo build all utilities such as nexmon.
- Attach your rooted Nexus 5 smartphone running stock firmware version 6.0.1 (M4B30Z, Dec 2016).
make installto install all the built utilities on your phone.
- Navigate to patches/bcm4339/6_37_34_43/ and clone this repository:
git clone https://github.com/seemoo-lab/mobisys2018_nexmon_software_defined_radio.git
- Enter the created subdirectory mobisys2018_nexmon_software_defined_radio and run
make install-firmwareto compile our firmware patch and install it on the attached Nexus 5 smartphone or run
make install-rpi3plusto compile our firmware patch and install it on a Raspberry Pi B3+.
- Matthias Schulz, Daniel Wegemer and Matthias Hollick. Nexmon: The C-based Firmware Patching Framework. https://nexmon.org
- Matthias Schulz, Jakob Link, Francesco Gringoli, and Matthias Hollick. Shadow Wi-Fi: Teaching Smartphones to Transmit Raw Signals and to Extract Channel State Information to Implement Practical Covert Channels over Wi-Fi. Accepted to appear in Proceedings of the 16th ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services, MobiSys 2018, June 2018.
- Matthias Schulz. Teaching Your Wireless Card New Tricks: Smartphone Performance and Security Enhancements through Wi-Fi Firmware Modifications. Dr.-Ing. thesis, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany, February 2018.