Hack a TYT MD-380 radio for DMR scanner

Jailbreak firmware now available for cheap digital walkie-talkie allowing DMR scanning


In the last years, DMR and MOTOTRBO (a.k.a. TRBO a Motorola Solutions branded DMR Radios ) has become a very popular digital voice mode on the UHF and VHF bands and the MD380 radio is the latest cheap DMR walkie-talkie to come out of China.

The question is, is it any good? The longer answer is slightly more complicated, and involves discussing the difference in price between this radio and other more expensive, but higher quality, radios. But i can tell you that a group of hams here recently purchased the Beihaidao DMR radio (also sold under brands like Tytera, KERUIER or Retevis) and have been having excellent results with them.

Every once in a great while, a piece of radio gear catches the attention of a prolific hardware guru and is reverse engineered. A few years ago, it was the RTL-SDR, and since then, software defined radios became the next big thing. Last Shmoocon, Travis Goodspeed presented his reverse engineering of the MD380 digital handheld radio.
The rest HERE! <— clickable link

The list of U.S. government cell monitoring equipment


THE INTERCEPT HAS OBTAINED a secret, internal U.S. government catalogue of dozens of cellphone surveillance devices used by the military and by intelligence agencies. The document, thick with previously undisclosed information, also offers rare insight into the spying capabilities of federal law enforcement and local police inside the United States.

More at the link at top.

What Radio?!?!


A lot of folks ask “What radio should I get?”
Without defining WHY they need a radio, it can be hard to give a good answer.

All Radios3

So lets look at the “why” of radio, and see how we can better narrow down our answers.

Tactical Communications:
When the mutant zombie bikers are approaching your home, and you have a small team, radios can become a force multiplier by coordinating different tactical elements. They allow you to communicate via short distances, beyond what you could do by shouting or hand signals.
Typically tactical communications will be carried out by handheld 2-way UHF.VHF radios. Included are FRS, GMRS, MURS, HAM, CB, ISM, SMR, and business band radios.
As the size and scope of operations increase, it may require the addition of larger base and mobile radios, repeaters, and relays.
We can sum up Tactical communications as communications that need to happen RIGHT NOW.

Not every communication, however, is “tactical” in nature. Some communications can be catogorized as more stragetic and planning in nature. Calling a freind 100 miles away to say “come over to my house when you get a chance”, or “meet me at 10:00pm tomorrow at the old bar” are more planning in nature. The communication does not have to happen right away. Additionally health and welfare messages, such as “Tell mom I am fine”, or “Happy birthday old man” can improve morale and reduce anxity. Finally, logistics fall into the category of strageic coms. “I need 12 cases of MRE’s and 1000 rounds of 5.56mm ammo” is an example.
Typically, Strategic coms are defined by the non-immediate nature, and longer ranges needed.
Using commercial infrastructure, we could use cell phones, land line phones, text messaging, email, and satellite phones.
We find that in times of disaster and crisis, commercial infrastructure may be overwhelmed, or non functioning, so we look to 2-way radio solutions. The most common is High Frequency (HF) ham radio. Typically HF ham uses a base or mobile radio and large (30 feet to 200 feet long) antennas.

About the only way to get long range with handheld radios is to connect to linked repeater systems, that may or may not be functioning, depending on the nature of the emergency.
There are some specialty methods of long range non-HF communications, but they generally require technical proficiency on both ends, and a lot of practice. They include troposcatter, moonbounce, hamsats, meteor scatter, etc. These are all ham techniques that can use smaller directional UHF/VHF antennas or transverters.
There is no solution to the “I want a handheld radio under $100 that I can talk to my cousin 200 miles away and does not need a license, or use commercial infrastructure.”

The final category of “why” we need a radio is for situational awareness. Knowing that the bridge on your planned route out has collapsed can save time and maybe even lives. Knowing where trouble is, and isn’t, what dangers have occured, and what problems others are having can all help in the decision making process.
Often over looked, but still valuable is a portable reciever that can listen to AM/FM radio and broadcast television. Local TV news can help keep informed as to major events, and can also pass on official messages covering anything from where emergency food and water can be picked up, road closures, curfews, evacuation areas, etc.
Satellite radio, Free over the air satellite television, and shortwave radio receivers can listen in to national and international events. That may or may not be relevant at the time but are nice options to have.
A UHF/VHF scanner (sometimes referred to as a police scanner) if properly setup and matching local public safety networks can allow you to hear first responders, and stuff that will never be broadcast on TV or commercial AM/FM radio. You can tell by tone and coordination if law enforcement are in control of riots, or are being out manuvered. You can tell how much disruption is happening based on the volume of calls and responses. Scanners can also listen in on business, railroad, and avaition frequencies, which may or may not help your situational awareness. Also having a scanner that can listen to common tactical 2-way radio frequencies may alert you that another group is operating in your area.

If you are in an area near interstate or arge highways, a CB radio on channel 19 can let you know road conditions. While it isn’t used as much as it used to be, most truckers still listen to channel 19 anc can pass on info regarding traffic, closures, speedtraps, wrecks, checkpoints, etc.

If you are near a large body of water, or ocean, having a handheld marine VHF radio can keep you abreast of what is happening with boats (although many scanners do cover marine frequencies.)


Finally a ham multiband HF radio, (even if you don’t have a licence and transmit) can be useful to listen to other hams in your area, and other areas, passing on information that is not going to be transmitted on official channels. (Most scanners do not cover ham HF frequencies)

In conclusion, there is no “one” radio that does it all. If you and your group are serious, you will have multiple radios to cover all of the different commo requirements.

Hope this helps

Chinese radio performance


QST magazine just published an article where they tested radios at ham conventions to see how well the radios met the compliance specifications set forth by the FCC.

The results: the cheap Chinese radios such as Baofeng, TYT, and Wouxun, all performed miserably, with sometimes half not meeting FCC standards.   But what does that actually mean?

Typically, the radios transmit “spurious emissions” which means they are emitting RF signal on frequencies outside where they are supposed to be transmitting.   That could show up as a wider bandwidth signal, such as a 25kHz signal actually taking up 35kHz or 40kHz, or it could manifest as harmonics and hash on other frequencies.

This has two effects.   First, because the transmitter is emitting on frequencies we are not expecting, we could be interfering  with other legitimate transmissions. (That is why the FCC has limits on spurious emissions in the first place)
Second, those inefficiencies are wasting RF power on signal that reduce the efficiency of our transmission.  If your radio is outputting two watts of power, but has lots of spurious emissions, only 1-1/2 watts may be on your actual frequency.

What does all this mean for the end user?
First, without specifically testing your particular radio, we don’t know if it meets specs or not.   If, however you are using a cheep Chinese radio, the chances approach fifty percent that your radio doesn’t meet spec.
If your radio is out of spec, it will still work.   When you transmit on a frequency, someone on the same frequency, and in range will still be able to hear you, and transmit back to you.   Everything will seem to be working.   You just will not get quite the range on your radio that someone with a more efficient radio will get, given everything else the same.   Does that matter?  It may, or may not.   It would most notable at the fringe of your range.

The other downside is that the spurious emissions may interfere with other radio users.   If you have a large group, adjacent channels may be interfered with by wider than spec bandwidth transmissions.   Depending on the frequencies involved, it may also interfere with other unrelated radio users, (which also increases your chance of being detected.)

Finally, if the interference is frequent or severe enough, it may result in the FCC getting involved, notices, and possibly even forfeiture of equipment. (Very rare, but still exists within the realm of possibility.)

The gun analogy:   A cheap Chinese radio will transmit radio waves just like a cheap, poorly put together rifle can shoot out bullets.   If all you need is to send bullets downrange, regardless of accuracy, then any rifle will do.   Likewise, if all you need to do is transmit some RF, any radio will do.   If you need better than 20MOA accuracy however, you might need a little better quality gun, and if you need better RF performance, you might want a better quality radio.  Sometimes you do get what you pay for, or in some cases, you don’t get what you don’t pay for.



Sparks31 upcoming classes!

Link Here!!!

From the link:

These classes are a combination of the beginner and intermediate courses.

The class will revolve around the basics of low power/qrp/covert operation with low-profile/improvised antennas, and communications monitoring focused for VHF/UHF COMINT.  It is strongly advised that the attendee have at least a general class ham license, as HF operation will be involved. If you don’t have a general license, you can do a COMINT/monitoring track on the Sunday FTX.

Topics to be discussed will include:

  • Considerations for III%er/Grid-Down Communications
  • Equipment Selection
  • Improvised Antennas
  • Low Profile/Covert Operations
  • Basic Cryptographic Systems and Techniques
  • Non-Radio Communications Options
  • IFF (Identification Friend/Foe) and Interoperability System Considerations
  • Basic Improvised Surveillance/Security Systems – Off The Shelf Solutions
  • VHF/UHF Communications Monitoring/COMINT (Communications Intelligence)  Equipment and Systems
  • Basic COMINT and COMINT Analysis

“Tactical” vs “Prepper” radio usage

All Radios3

One of the comments I frequently received when the Signals Handbook, Volume One was released, was that it was to “tactical” and military oriented.   Indeed, it was, because that is the intended audience.   After browsing through many radio and communication threads on various discussion forums, it seems that some folks can’t separate the different ways a radio can be used.   Radios are a valuable tool for “preppers” and other preparedness minded people.   They can be used to monitor the local, and national situation.   They can be used to call for help.   They can be used to notify friends, family, and loved ones of someones status and well being.   In short, they are a great prep tool.   But that is not all they can do.   Radios, and other signal methods can also be used for the protection and security of ones group.   It is this niche application that the signals handbooks are being developed.   Depending on the situation, any small group may face threats from the outside world.   It is this rare, but dangerous condition that the small team can be greatly aided by good COMSEC procedures, proper radio discipline, and a little bit of practice.

For more info on the prepper side of communications, check out Spark31’s “Grid Down Communications”

Link HERE!



Volume 2 Table of Contents

Work on Volume 2 is well under way.

I have the first several chapters done, and the table of contents created to serve as an outline.

As chapters are completed, It may change how I present some of the later material, so the TOC WILL change.

Here is the TOC.. .If you see something you think should be added, let me know.   Keep in mind, SIGINT and Electronic Warefare will be covered in Volume Three.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Security
D) Threat SIGINT Capabilities

Part 1: Administration
I. Define standard operating procedures. (SOP’s)
II. Communication Table of Organization and Equipment
.  A) Category of radios:
.  B) Radio Operation Constraints
III. UHF/VHF Radio Types (and High HF)
.  A) FRS/GMRS portable radios:
.  B) GMRS only portable and mobile radios:
.  C) MURS portable radios:
.  D) Citizens Band (CB) portable radios:
.  E) Citizens Band (CB) Mobile radios:
.  F) ISR and SMR band digital frequency hopping voice radios:
.  G) Business Band analog voice portable and mobile radios:
.  H) Business Band analog voice Chineese import radios:
.  I) Business Band digital voice portable and mobile radios:
.  J) UHF/VHF Ham radio fm analog voice portable and mobile radios:
.  K) UHF/VHF Ham radio SSB mobile radios:
.  L) UHF/VHF Ham radio low usage bands portable and mobile radios:
.  M) UHF/VHF Ham radio digital voice portable and mobile radios:
.  N) UHF/VHF Ham radio digital voice with transverter to low usage bands portable and   .    mobile radios:
.  O) UHF/VHF Ham digital data and packet radio:
.  P) 10m Ham portable and mobile radios:
IV. Range Beyond Handheld
.  A) Relay
.  B) Simplex Repeater
.  C) Duplex Repeater
.  D) Cross Band Repeater
.  E) Multipoint links
.  F) Directional Antennas
V. Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS)
.  A) HF Groundwave
.  B) HF Skywave
.  D) mixed band relays
VI. HF Radio Types
.  A) High Frequency (HF) Ham analog voice radios:
.  B) High Frequency (HF) Ham continous wave (CW) morse code radios:
.  C) High Frequency (HF) Ham digital text mode radios:
.  D) High Frequency (HF) Ham graphic mode radios:
.  E) High Frequency (HF) Ham digital voice radios:
F.  ) High Frequency (HF) Ham digital packet and data radios:
VII. BLOS Less Common Methods
.  A) Microwave relay
.  B) Tropo Scatter
.  C) EME/ Moonbounce
.  D) Meteor Scatter
.  E) HM-mesh/VOIP
.  F) HamSat
.  G) Sat Phone
VIII. Other Means of Communications
.  A) POTS
.  B) Field Phones
.  C) VOIP
.  D) Visual Signals
.  E) Sound Signals
.  IX. Cellular Telephones
XI. OPSEC and COMSEC and Sensitive Materials
XII. Codenames and Codewords
XIII. Generating SOI’s
XIV. Generating OTP’s and Dryad Sheets
XV. Generating Codebooks

Part 2: Mission Planning and Opertaions
I. Spectrum Management
III. Physical Setups
.  A) Organization, Links, and OPORD
.  B) Relay/ Repeater site selection
.  C) CP and CP site selection
.  D) LP/OP and site selection
.  E) Vehicle Setups
IV. Handling Traffic
V. Nets
VI. Supporting Joint Operations

Part 3: Training and Discipline
I. Basics of Training
.  A) Crawl, Walk, Run
.  B) Planning lessons and classroom basics
.  C) Field training basics
II. Classroom exercises
.  A) physically using a radio
.  B) Standard Operating Procedures
III. Field Excercises
.  A) Signals specific drills vs Signals as part of other exercises.
.  B) Using equipment in the field
.  C) Equipment performance testing
.  D) Alternates, contingencies and failover
.  E) After Actions
IV. Recruiting
.  A) Creating a program of continuity and shared responsibilities
.  B) Expanding the signals team, and training its new members

Part 4 Conclusion

Part 5 Appendices