Hardware

Hardware

We’re often asked what hardware works well with Kismet; here’s a list of some useful starting points with links to Amazon. These links help the Kismet project a little if you use them to order, but by all means order from where ever works best for you!

References

  1. The Scientist & Engineers Guide to Digital Signal Processing

    Interested in getting into how the SDR capture code works? The Scientist and Engineers Guide to Digital Signal Processing is a very approachable introduction and reference.

Wi-Fi cards

  1. Mediatek MT7612U

    This is a relatively new 802.11AC chipset which has increasingly good Linux support built into the kernel. You need Linux 4.19.7 or later, and Linux 5.0 preferred for this to work. This chipset works very well on Intel and Raspberry Pi 4, and can work on a Raspberry Pi 3 with an up-to-date kernel and proper module flags (echo "options mt76_usb disable_usb_sg=1" > /etc/modprobe.d/mt76_usb.conf)

    There are several flavors of this card, including:

    • The Alfa AWUS036ACM has dual antenna jacks and works well.
    • The SparkLAN module has U.Fl antenna jacks and works well for building an enclosed system where space is at a premium, but the cost is significantly higher.
  2. RTL8812

    In general we’d suggest avoiding this card due to continual driver and chipset issues. Many distributions do not support this chipset out of the box, there are no in-kernel drivers, and getting a working version of the drivers can prove difficult. There are many, many, many flavors of this card, all with subtly different form factors, frequency capabilities, and antenna options.

    • The basic 1x1 dual-band model. This is very cheap, but can see dual bands, and accepts an antenna.
    • The dual-band version has dual-band capability, but the antennas are not removable. This is a very very cheap card with moderate capability, but don’t expect to be able to use it for more advanced things.

GPS

An important factor to keep in mind is that USB GPS devices are traditional GPS: They have GPS receivers only. In contrast to “GPS” implementations on cell phones, they require a much strong signal and typically will not work indoors, because the smartphone GPS system uses a combination of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular data to provide a synthetic location. Pure GPS usually needs an open view of the sky and may take several minutes to get the initial lock.

Some GPS devices we’ve had luck with include:

  • The Transsystem GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BeiDou device is unfortunately pricey, but has been one of the better performing receivers available.
  • The VK-112 is an extremely cheap option, but lacks a repositionable antenna.
  • The Stratux uBlox is another reasonably cheap option with a stronger antenna.
  • The Neo-7M uBlox device coupled with an active antenna may be an acceptable option for some situations where portability isn’t as great a concern.

Other Radios and SDR

  1. RTLSDR

    Most of the SDR capture sources in Kismet use the RTLSDR radios - they’re cheap, low power, and easy to get running. Like Wi-Fi, a SDR radio can only tune to one range of frequencies at a time: Often it makes sense to get multiple radios, one for each SDR-based protocol you want to monitor.

    • The RTLSDR Kit with the radio, several antennas, and mounts, is a good place to start.
    • The stand-along RTLSDR blog radio comes with BIAS-T power injection (for running external amps and filters).
    • The nooelec version of the RTLSDR is low profile for fitting multiple radios into adjacent USB ports. The basic model lacks bias-t power injection, however.
    • The nooelec smartee has continual bias-t power injection and a similar physical profile allowing multiple radios to be used on adjacent ports.
  2. CC2540 BTLE

    The CC2540 BTLE card is a super cheap BTLE capture card (for advertisements only). While it lacks an external antenna jack, it can be modified, and the cost makes up for a lot.

  3. CC2531 Zigbee

    Similar to the CC2540, the CC2531 is an ultra cheap zigbee/802.15.4 capture card. It lacks an external antenna and is 2.4GHz only, but the cost makes up for it.

1090/ADSB

Coupled with a RTL-SDR, antennas specific for ADSB can help increase your range for plane spotting using the new Kismet ADSB capture source. Remember though - you’re unlikely to get more range than your line of sight, so often it’s easier to see more distant planes at a higher altitude. Some good tools include:

  • The FlightAware 1090MHz antenna from the FlightAware team.
  • An N to SMA cable is needed to connect the antenna to the RTL-SDR. Notice you need a standard SMA cable not a RP-SMA for most SDRs! Generally you want to keep this as short as possible.
  • Optionally, a 1090MHz Filter/Amplifier. If you have a busy RF environment, are near a large FM broadcast antenna, or are otherwise getting weak signals, a combination filter and amplifier can dramatically increase your coverage. You’ll need a bias-tee capable sdr to power the amplifier!

Servers / SBCs

Most people will run Kismet on a laptop; if you’re looking for some embedded solutions, however, it runs better on some hardware than others:

  1. Intel Compute Stick CS125

    The CS125 is a tiny Intel Atom quad-core processor with 2 gig of RAM. It’s got on-board Intel 802.11AC and Bluetooth, can run Linux, and with a modern kernel (5.0 or higher) the onboard 802.11AC works excellently. We use these as distributed sensors and portable systems; With 2GB of ram you’re likely good for about 60,000 devices per session before RAM becomes a problem. They’re also fantastic as distributed fixed sensors w/ rolling logs. You can also use USB Wi-Fi cards, RTLSDR, and so on with them.

  2. Intel Compute Stick CS325

    The CS325 is the updated version of the 125; it’s got a M3 processor instead of an Atom, 4GB of RAM, and USB-C. This is much more suited for a portable Kismet system connected to a Windows laptop, or as a replacement for a full mobile system in a vehicle, due to its cost. Like the 125 you can use SDR and USB Wi-Fi cards as well as the internals.

  3. Intel NUC

    The Intel NUC is an excellent device for serious capture, but it’s not the best for portability or if your budget is tight. Don’t forget RAM and a SSD. For aggregating multiple remote captures or busy environments, a strong server with lots of RAM is a must!

  4. Raspberry Pi 4

    The Raspberry Pi 4 is a significant upgrade from the model 3; the model with 4 gig of RAM is quite competent for running Kismet in many moderate to busy environments, and a must for running the Mediatek 802.11AC USB cards.