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Example Internal Analysis


We've just been handed an old Netgear WGR614 Router and asked to profile the device for some potential reverse engineering. The approach will be to:

  1. Perform external analysis, capturing what we can without popping the case.
  2. Perform internal analysis, capturing what we can on whats under the case.
  3. Identify device components and locate datasheets.

External Analysis

The first observable bit of information about this router is the label on the bottom of the case:

Case Bottom Label

To summarize the contents:

  • Make: Netgear
  • Model: 54 Mbps Wireless Router WGR614 v6
  • Power: 12VDC / 1.0A (barrel connector)
  • Default Access:
  • user name: admin
  • password: password
  • Serial: 16625A761C805
  • MAC: 00146C3B625E
  • Netgear Spec: 272-10232-05
  • EZE: ADT094LPD0118
  • FCC ID: PY305100002
  • IC ID: 4054A-05100002

Other Misc Notes:

  • Has "Restore Factory Settings" button. _Is this firmware restore or only config restore?
  • 4 LAN ports, 1 WAN port.

Discovered Certification Resources

FCC / IC Findings

  • SoC based on Broadcom BCM5352
  • Wifi based on Broadcom BCM2050
  • 802.11g wireless, WPA-PSK, WEP
  • Firewall / NAT
  • 10/100 Mbps Ethernet w/ Auto-negotiation
  • Flash memory and upgradable
  • Logging
  • DHCP, PPPoE, DNS Proxy (Caching?)
  • Power: 12VDC / 1A / 22W max
  • UPnP
  • Other stuff!
  • BCM5352 Product Brief

Internal Analysis

Once again, just doing external analysis nets us an amazing amount of information and we haven't even opened the device yet. But enough of that, time to crack this bad boy open. Where are the screws?

Bottom of netgear router case

First I push against the label to see if there are any hidden screw holes under the sticker. In the middle there is what you might think is a shallow hole, but this is just a impression left by the injection molding process of the case. Lets pick at those feet and see if there are screws under them.

Screw found under the feet of the case

There are 4 screws (one for each foot). Once they come out, the case comes right apart (i.e. no need for prying cantilever snaps). In fact, the case holds the board in place, so once the case is in two pieces, the internal PCB slides right out. Here is a snapshot of the board from the top and bottom:

Top of the PCB

Bottom of the PCB

Catalog Parts

With what I see, I immediately start writing down part numbers to start to make sense of the device.

Outside EMI Shield:

In EMI Shield:

  • Broadcom BCM2050KML - 2.4 GHz Radio Single Chip System on a Chip
  • SiGe 2525L 5273R
    • ?? Single Crystal Semiconductor Silicon-Germanium (SiGe) ??

Observation: Ground Point with Screws

The simplest way to find ground traces is to start with screws. If we look at the following screw, by itself it isn't obvious that the screw has any connectivity the ground plane.

screw hole screw

But if we flip the board over we see the rear metal casing is held to the board by the same metal screw. What happens if we remove the screws?

screw hole assembled

As you can see, the screw has led us to a ground through its conductive connection to the metal casing and then to the exposed pad beneath the case's mount point.

screw hole pad

Observation: Ground Points With crosses

It is common to connect ground pins with cross connections to ensure strong conductivity. These appear at small crosses over the pin.

crossed through hole via

Observation: Not All Thick Traces Are Ground

Its never safe to assume that a large or thick trace is ground. Case in point, in the following image, you can see the silk screen labeling a large trace on the board as the 3.3v plane. Note: The image above is the bottom of C114 and C115 pictured below.

image of large trace that is 3.3v

Observation: Ground Points with EMI Shielding

Because of the EMI shielding's need for a strong ground plane connection, we can immediately deduce that the ground plane is where the EMI shield frame is soldered to the board:

screw at ground

Observation: Header Pin With Ground

Its nice to find a common ground on a header because then we can use jumper cables or clips instead of having to solder wires to the board. In the following image, each side of a mirror of the other in regards to the pin outs. The top inner pins are the ground because we can see the via beneath that header pin is connected to ground with a "cross" looking connection.

header top bottom mirror

Observation: Built-in Internal Antenna

The following is an image of the circuit that connects the radio to the external antenna as well as an internal antenna that is manufactured into the board. While this internal antenna likely has a lower distance and lower quality filtering characteristics, it is there.

antenna built into the board

Observation: More Convenient Probe Points

The following image shows that in one small area we can find probe points for ground in the screw, the crossed through hole via, and possible in the small exposed hole between the two.

screw cross and point