Introduction to Hardware Protocols

As you begin diving into hardware hacking and reading printed circuit boards (PCB) you will likely come across several common protocols.  This article isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list of content, but rather a quick guide to identifying which protocols are commonly used, what they require, and what common tools will let you interface with them.  I’ll be covering the following protocols in this article:

  • RS-232
  • USB
  • I2C
  • SPI
  • JTAG
  • UART

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Multi-OS Boot Build

One of the most frustrating things to do is shuffle various USB drives trying to remember which one you were using last (for persistent OS boots), or which one has the working version of “X” operating system/which installer.  This article covers how to take an external USB drive (whether a large thumb drive or an actual external hard drive) and turn it into a whizbang multi-OS booting device.

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PenTest Aliases and Setup

I like to setup a few things when I’m building an image for a pentest.  They’re helpers that keep me honest, because without them I’d likely forget something or miss some detail, and by establishing consistent patterns I reduce that risk.  To start with, I make a consistent directory structure.  For the sake of this article, let’s call it:


Next up, I generate some subfolders which are critical to my process:
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Protocol Deep Dive: ARP


The Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) allows for conversion from a network layer address to a hardware layer address (e.g. from the IP address to the MAC address).  It is defined by RFC 826, and is a layer 2 protocol in the OSI model.  For simplicity, this article will refer to IP address resolutions in examples.


    • Two systems that each know their own IP address and MAC address
    • A usable network layer path between the two systems
    • The sending system must know the IP address of the destination system

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