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Build a “pager net eavesdropper” for a couple of bucks


In this latest adafruit tutorial, Limor shows you how to create a “pager scanner” that allows you to feed incoming pager network data to a Windows computer over a serial port. It looks super easy to do and fun to see what you can still find on these data networks.

Also check out her earlier video on Reverse engineering a pager

HOW TO – Make a cheap “pager scanner”

14 thoughts on “Build a “pager net eavesdropper” for a couple of bucks

  1. ehrichweiss says:

    People still use pagers!?!? We are talking about “beepers”..the little things that would beep and tell us when someone wanted us to call them, right?

    I was under the impression that all the pager networks had shut down a year or so ago since cell phones were “better”.

  2. Chris says:

    really? and yet no one finds this hypocritical to the cell phone jammer project?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid what you’ve created and disseminated may be illegal in most locales. Among other sources, here is a link:,M1

    Also from the link,, we see this quote: “Federal law prohibits anyone from intercepting messages sent to display pagers (numeric and alphanumeric) and to tone-and-voice pagers. Tone-only pagers are exempt from this provision. (Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 USC 2510)

    Law enforcement must obtain a court order in order intercept your display or tone-and-voice pager. But under the USA PATRIOT Act, enacted in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the standards for obtaining court ordered warrants have been loosened.

    In California, a judge can authorize the interception of an electronic digital pager by law enforcement in investigations involving certain specified offenses. (California Penal Code 629.50)”

    So, think before you emulate this project. Modern privacy laws (though we of the technical community might not like them) still exist, have teeth, and may BITE you.

  4. Wilson! says:

    Firstly, that is pretty cool! I’m sure whoever engineered those things never foresaw the issues with a device that’s always “sniffing” the network, and unencrypted.

    And even if it is somehow illegal to do so, how a) would anyone know, and b) would it be prosecutable? It’s RF spectrum, unencrypted. She did the modern equivalent of building a crystal radio – she’s just taking what’s flying around everyone’s head, and displayed it.

  5. Garrett says:

    They would know because she videotaped herself doing it, and some of the pager data that was captured. Pretty easy to verify if a Dr. Bozeman treated an adult male with a gunshot wound to the chest recently, for example.

    The laws on intercepting private communications, even unencrypted, have a lot of precedent. I like the concept of the hack but can’t help thinking that orders might experience some delays pretty soon.

    This is an almost identical situation, some guys from a news network were caught snooping pager data in 1997 using modified pagers and a computer. It says they could have faced five years in prison and $250,000 in fines each if convicted, I haven’t found out if they did get convicted.

  6. blah says:

    It’s not illegal to tweak your own pagers. Ham radio operators have been doing it for years. You can move 150 MHz pagers down into the 146 MHz region and move 929-930 MHz pagers down into the 902-928 MHz ham band. There is even software to send your own pages or some TNCs will do POCSAG paging. You can also use the IF of the pager’s receiver for your own pager project.

  7. Bob says:

    Garrett – That story is from -1997- and those people were selling “tips” from the pager network for profit. Big difference between a how-to teaching electronics video and what someone did over 10 years ago to make money.

    Identical? Not even close.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
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