Sniffle - A sniffer for Bluetooth 5 and 4.x LE

Sniffle has a number of useful features, including:

  • Support for BT5/4.2 extended length advertisement and data packets
  • Support for BT5 Channel Selection Algorithms #1 and #2
  • Support for all BT5 PHY modes (regular 1M, 2M, and coded modes)
  • Support for sniffing only advertisements and ignoring connections
  • Support for channel map, connection parameter, and PHY change operations
  • Support for advertisement filtering by MAC address and RSSI
  • Support for BT5 extended advertising (non-periodic)
  • Support for capturing advertisements from a target MAC on all three primary advertising channels using a single sniffer. This makes connection detection nearly 3x more reliable than most other sniffers that only sniff one advertising channel.
  • Easy to extend host-side software written in Python
  • PCAP export compatible with the Ubertooth

Prerequisites for Sniffle

If you don't want to go through the effort of setting up a build environment for the firmware, you can just flash prebuilt firmware binaries using UniFlash/DSLite. Prebuilt firmware binaries are attached to releases on the GitHub releases tab of this project. When using prebuilt firmware, be sure to use the Python code corresponding to the release tag rather than master to avoid compatibility issues with firmware that is behind the master branch.

Note: it should be possible to compile Sniffle to run on CC1352P Launchpad boards with minimal modifications, but I have not yet tried this.

Installing GCC

The arm-none-eabi-gcc provided through various Linux distributions' package manager often lacks some header files or requires some changes to linker configuration. For minimal hassle, I suggest using the ARM GCC linked above. You can just download and extract the prebuilt executables.

Installing the TI SDK

The TI SDK is provided as an executable binary that extracts a bunch of source code once you accept the license agreement. On Linux and Mac, the default installation directory is inside~/ti/. This works fine and my makefiles expect this path, so I suggest just going with the default here. The same applies for the TI SysConfig tool.

Once the SDK has been extracted, you will need to edit one makefile to match your build environment. Within ~/ti/simplelink_cc13x2_26x2_sdk_4_10_00_78 (or wherever the SDK was installed) there is a makefile named imports.mak. The only paths that need to be set here to build Sniffle are for GCC, XDC, and SysConfig. We don't need the CCS compiler. See the diff below as an example, and adapt for wherever you installed things.

diff --git a/imports.mak b/imports.mak
index 5a8fb0cb..e99a03e7 100644
--- a/imports.mak
+++ b/imports.mak
@@ -18,12 +18,12 @@
 # will build using each non-empty *_ARMCOMPILER cgtool.
-XDC_INSTALL_DIR        ?= /home/username/ti/xdctools_3_61_00_16_core
-SYSCONFIG_TOOL         ?= /home/username/ti/ccs1000/ccs/utils/sysconfig_1.4.0/
+XDC_INSTALL_DIR        ?= $(HOME)/ti/xdctools_3_61_00_16_core
+SYSCONFIG_TOOL         ?= $(HOME)/ti/sysconfig_1.4.0/
-CCS_ARMCOMPILER        ?= /home/username/ti/ccs1000/ccs/tools/compiler/ti-cgt-arm_20.2.0.LTS
-GCC_ARMCOMPILER        ?= /home/username/ti/ccs1000/ccs/tools/compiler/gcc-arm-none-eabi-9-2019-q4-major
+CCS_ARMCOMPILER        ?= $(HOME)/ti/ccs1000/ccs/tools/compiler/ti-cgt-arm_20.2.0.LTS
+GCC_ARMCOMPILER        ?= $(HOME)/arm_tools/gcc-arm-none-eabi-9-2019-q4-major
 # The IAR compiler is not supported on Linux

Obtaining DSLite

DSLite is TI's command line programming and debug server tool for XDS110 debuggers. The CC26xx and CC13xx Launchpad boards both include XDS110 debuggers. Unfortunately, TI does not provide a standalone command line DSLite download. The easiest way to obtain DSLite is to install UniFlash from TI. It's available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The DSLite executable will be located deskdb/content/TICloudAgent/linux/ccs_base/DebugServer/bin/DSLite relative to the UniFlash installation directory. On Linux, the default UniFlash installation directory is inside ~/ti/.

You should place the DSLite executable directory within your $PATH.

Building and Installation of Sniffle

Once the GCC, DSLite, and the SDK is installed and operational, building Sniffle should be straight forward. Just navigate to the fw directory and run make. If you didn't install the SDK to the default directory, you may need to edit SIMPLELINK_SDK_INSTALL_DIR in the makefile.

To install Sniffle on a (plugged in) CC26x2 Launchpad using DSLite, run make load within the fw directory. You can also flash the compiled sniffle.out binary using the UniFlash GUI.

If building for or installing on a CC1352R Launchpad instead of a CC26x2R, you must specify PLATFORM=CC1352R1F3, either as an argument to make, or by defining it as an environment variable prior to invoking make. Similarly, specify PLATFORM=CC2652RB1F when building for CC2652RB Launchpad instead of the regular CC26x2R version. Be sure to perform a make clean before building for a different platform.

Sniffer Usage

[[email protected] python_cli]$ ./ --help
usage: [-h] [-s SERPORT] [-c {37,38,39}] [-p] [-r RSSI]
                         [-m MAC] [-a] [-e] [-H] [-l] [-o OUTPUT]

Host-side receiver for Sniffle BLE5 sniffer

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -s SERPORT, --serport SERPORT
                        Sniffer serial port name
  -c {37,38,39}, --advchan {37,38,39}
                        Advertising channel to listen on
  -p, --pause           Pause sniffer after disconnect
  -r RSSI, --rssi RSSI  Filter packets by minimum RSSI
  -m MAC, --mac MAC     Filter packets by advertiser MAC
  -i IRK, --irk IRK     Filter packets by advertiser IRK
  -a, --advonly         Sniff only advertisements, don't follow connections
  -e, --extadv          Capture BT5 extended (auxiliary) advertising
  -H, --hop             Hop primary advertising channels in extended mode
  -l, --longrange       Use long range (coded) PHY for primary advertising
  -o OUTPUT, --output OUTPUT
                        PCAP output file name

The XDS110 debugger on the Launchpad boards creates two serial ports. On Linux, they are typically named ttyACM0 and ttyACM1. The first of the two created serial ports is used to communicate with Sniffle. By default, the Python CLI communicates using /dev/ttyACM0, but you may need to override this with the -s command line option if you are not running on Linux or have additional USB CDC-ACM devices connected.

For the -r (RSSI filter) option, a value of -40 tends to work well if the sniffer is very close to or nearly touching the transmitting device. The RSSI filter is very useful for ignoring irrelevant advertisements in a busy RF environment. The RSSI filter is only active when capturing advertisements, as you always want to capture data channel traffic for a connection being followed. You probably don't want to use an RSSI filter when MAC filtering is active, as you may lose advertisements from the MAC address of interest when the RSSI is too low.

To hop along with advertisements and have reliable connection sniffing, you need to set up a MAC filter with the -m option. You should specify the MAC address of the peripheral device, not the central device. To figure out which MAC address to sniff, you can run the sniffer with RSSI filtering while placing the sniffer near the target. This will show you advertisements from the target device including its MAC address. It should be noted that many BLE devices advertise with a randomized MAC address rather than their "real" fixed MAC written on a label.

For convenience, there is a special mode for the MAC filter by invoking the script with -m top instead of -m with a MAC address. In this mode, the sniffer will lock onto the first advertiser MAC address it sees that passes the RSSI filter. The -m top mode should thus always be used with an RSSI filter to avoid locking onto a spurious MAC address. Once the sniffer locks onto a MAC address, the RSSI filter will be disabled automatically by the sniff receiver script (except when the -e option is used).

Most new BLE devices use Resolvable Private Addresses (RPAs) rather than fixed static or public addresses. While you can set up a MAC filter to a particular RPA, devices periodically change their RPA. RPAs can can be resolved (associated with a particular device) if the Identity Resolving Key (IRK) is known. Sniffle supports automated RPA resolution when the IRK is provided. This avoids the need to keep updating the MAC filter whenever the RPA changes. You can specify an IRK for Sniffle with the -i option; the IRK should be provided in hexadecimal format, with the most significant byte (MSB) first. Specifying an IRK allows Sniffle to channel hop with an advertiser the same way it does with a MAC filter. The IRK based MAC filtering feature (-i) is mutually exclusive with the static MAC filtering feature (-m).

To enable following auxiliary pointers in Bluetooth 5 extended advertising, enable the -e option. To improve performance and reliability in extended advertising capture, this option disables hopping on the primary advertising channels, even when a MAC filter is set up. If you are unsure whether a connection will be established via legacy or extended advertising, you can enable the -H flag in conjunction with -e to perform primary channel hopping with legacy advertisements, and scheduled listening to extended advertisement auxiliary packets. When combining -e and -H, the reliability of connection detection may be reduced compared to hopping on primary (legacy) or secondary (extended) advertising channels alone.

To sniff the long range PHY on primary advertising channels, specify the -l option. Note that no hopping between primary advertising channels is supported in long range mode, since all long range advertising uses the BT5 extended mechanism. Under the extended mechanism, auxiliary pointers on all three primary channels point to the same auxiliary packet, so hopping between primary channels is unnecessary.

If for some reason the sniffer firmware locks up and refuses to capture any traffic even with filters disabled, you should reset the sniffer MCU. On Launchpad boards, the reset button is located beside the micro USB port.

Scanner Usage

[email protected]:~/sniffle/python_cli$ ./ --help
usage: [-h] [-s SERPORT] [-c {37,38,39}] [-r RSSI] [-e] [-l]

Scanner utility for Sniffle BLE5 sniffer

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -s SERPORT, --serport SERPORT
                        Sniffer serial port name
  -c {37,38,39}, --advchan {37,38,39}
                        Advertising channel to listen on
  -r RSSI, --rssi RSSI  Filter packets by minimum RSSI
  -e, --extadv          Capture BT5 extended (auxiliary) advertising
  -l, --longrange       Use long range (coded) PHY for primary advertising

The scanner command line arguments work the same as the sniffer. The purpose of the scanner utility is to passively gather a list of nearby devices advertising, without having the deluge of fast scrolling data you get with the sniffer utility. The hardware/firmware works exactly the same, but the scanner utility will record and report observed MAC addresses only once without spamming the display. Once you're done capturing advertisements, press Ctrl-C to stop scanning and report the results. The scanner will show the last advertisement and scan response from each target. Scan results will be sorted by RSSI in descending order.

Usage Examples of Sniffle

Sniff all advertisements on channel 38, ignore RSSI < -50, stay on advertising channel even when CONNECT_REQs are seen.

./ -c 38 -r -50 -a

Sniff advertisements from MAC 12:34:56:78:9A:BC, stay on advertising channel even when CONNECT_REQs are seen, save advertisements to data1.pcap.

./ -m 12:34:56:78:9A:BC -a -o data1.pcap

Sniff advertisements and connections for the first MAC address seen with RSSI >= -40. The RSSI filter will be disabled automatically once a MAC address has been locked onto. Save captured data to data2.pcap.

./ -m top -r -40 -o data2.pcap

Sniff advertisements and connections from the peripheral with big endian IRK 4E0BEA5355866BE38EF0AC2E3F0EBC22.

./ -i 4E0BEA5355866BE38EF0AC2E3F0EBC22

Sniff BT5 extended advertisements and connections from nearby (RSSI >= -55) devices.

./ -r -55 -e

Sniff legacy and extended advertisements and connections from the device with the specified MAC address. Save captured data to data3.pcap.

./ -eH -m 12:34:56:78:9A:BC -o data3.pcap

Sniff extended advertisements and connections using the long range primary PHY on channel 38.

./ -le -c 38

Passively scan on channel 39 for advertisements with RSSI greater than -50, and enable capture of extended advertising.

./ -c 39 -e -r -50

Obtaining the IRK

If you have a rooted Android phone, you can find IRKs (and LTKs) in the Bluedroid configuration file. On Android 8.1, this is located at /data/misc/bluedroid/bt_config.conf. The LE_LOCAL_KEY_IRK specifies the Android device's own IRK, and the first 16 bytes of LE_KEY_PID for every bonded device in the file indicate the bonded device's IRK. Be aware that keys stored in this file are little endian, so the byte order of keys in this file will need to be reversed. For example, the little endian IRK 22BC0E3F2EACF08EE36B865553EA0B4E needs to be changed to 4E0BEA5355866BE38EF0AC2E3F0EBC22 (big endian) when being passed to Sniffle with the -i option.


May 12, 2020
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