A couple of weeks ago, at the CCC congress in Germany, a couple of guys gave a presentation about attacks on DECT cordless phones. Basically, you can buy a DECT PCMCIA card and create a rogue base station (tunnel the calls through a VOIP gateway while you record them) or intercept unencrypted phone calls.
Indeed, some of the DECT phones use no encryption at all. DECT phones are supposed to use the DECT Standard Cipher (DSC) but some just do not (maybe encryption is optional in the DECT standard?). The presenters have a website at dedected.org which describes some more technical details.
I decided to buy a COM-ON-AIR DECT PCMCIA card on eBay and it arrived today! The people at dedected.org have created Linux drivers for this card and it was pretty easy to get it working on my Ubuntu laptop.
The dedected SVN includes patches for Kismet-newcore (DECT module) and Wireshark, but also include a couple of handy standalone tools. One of these is called dect_cli. With this tool you can scan for DECT base stations, calls and even record calls. I’ve put some sample output of this tool here (the call I am sniffing is my own).
I also went to a hardware store (GAMMA) this evening and bought the cheapest DECT phone (Profoon PDX-500) so I could play around with it. The box says ‘GAP compatible DECT digital’. I do not have a working landline at the moment so I had to try it without one. This phone, as it turns out, does not use encryption. After recording the call, I could hear myself faintly saying ‘hello hello hello’ (not in a very creative mood), albeit with a lot of static. I’ll try to get my hands on some more DECT phones, I’m curious how many of the phones sold in the Netherlands do not use encryption.
I did not get a clear sound with the current tools. According to the dedected wiki this is something they are still working on. You can listen to a bit of music-over-DECT (and a lot of static) I recorded here (raw dump files here). I simply used sox without any options to convert it to .wav, but there is a 'modified decode' on the dedected wiki which should result in somewhat better quality. In my case, using this filter resulted in a lot of silence but the beeps at the end of the file were very clear :-).
Update: I got the opportunity to test this with another DECT phone. Combined with the 'modified decode' I was able to get really good sound quality.
Also, it turns out that encryption is optional in the DECT standard, as this document (pdf) from the DECT Forum describes (on page 11).