For a course at college, I wanted to reproduce the attack on GSM shown in this video by Karsten Nohl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hjn-BP8nro.

From what I understand he used an USRP radio to record the data. Those devices all cost starting at 1000$. I was wondering what the requirements for a radio receiver are to do that hack and whether you can do it with a device costing 200$ or less. Wikipedia lists a bunch of software-defined radios and has a couple of devices in an affordable price range for a college student: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_software-defined_radios

Obviously it should be able to run GNU Radio software and have a connection to the laptop with high enough bandwidth for transmitting all of the recorded data in real time, since the cheaper devices probably don't have an HDD/SSD (I assume USB 2.0 would be sufficient enough, but in the video posted above Karsten Nohl does not say, how many MB/s he recorded).

Now am I missing some other functions and requirements? What about the radio reception strength?

  • gnuradio list a variety of forums and so-on that are probably a better source for this information. I also recommend you check out raspberry pi or maybe arduino sites as those folks love to build stuff of exactly this sort. Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 19:39
  • Karstens devices are low powered and used only as a proof of concept. The main point being other less scrupulous actors will definitely use higher powered equipment.
    – m.kin
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 1:58
  • Related answer using pytacle and Kraken here -- security.stackexchange.com/a/94901/140
    – atdre
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


A great link/thread, with nice informations to start. USRP's are indeed quite expensive and RTL-SDR could be really cheap, but not always reliable.
I use the HackRF-One(30MHz–6GHz, half-duplex though), and it costs 344€.

  • GSM interception requires two-way communication, so an RTL-SDR is out of the question. Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 10:44

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