Hacking Vasco translator through binary SMS

Recently I was asked to configure internet browser on a thing called Vasco Translator Premium 7″. The device looks exactly like many of the low-end Android tablets from China. And it happens to be one. The problem is that is was locked to used the only allowed application which is the translator. It has some minor functions like camera and it seems that was a mistake of its authors. They used default Android app as Camera and Gallery applications (and forgot to lock send message button in the latter 🙂 ).

At first I have to highlight the fact, this is not the full unlock or root of the device, but the fact of ease of the process allows me to suppose that rooting the thing should not be too difficult, too. Our goal here is to open up the web browser. Because as it seems the software below the shitty overlay is ordinary Android with all the apps on its place. And how useful might be the tablet without internet browser?


The tool we will use to do the trick is good ol’ WAP Push protocol. For some reason in newer Android devices this dinosaur has been revived and supported out of the box. The goal is to send such message to our locked device, and since the gallery app mentioned above allows to escape to Messaging app, read it on it. This is probably the hardest part of the process. And possibly may require to buy some additional hardware (if you have access to any service, you know is sending WAP Push, you can use it and skip this part).

And that hardware is a GSM modem. It is highly possible that you already have one that can be used. The thing we will need is the possibility to send SMS through AT commands. Many Android phones allows that, at least if they are rooted, probably LTE/3G modems can do that too (not checked that personally). Ok, since the procedure to get access to AT interface is completely different for any device you can get, I have to leave you alone with getting used to that. After some time, you will probably end up in minicom or some similar program and parameters like 115200/8N1 or 9600/8N1. In my case (Android with Qualcomm processor) it is /dev/smd11 and params are 115200/8N1. Now you could type AT to check if the device you found is really an AT modem (should respond with OK) and AT+SCA? to check your SMS center address. You should be able to recognize it or Google it to check if it really belongs to your mobile operator.

Crafting SMS

Now, since we have all the tools, we can start crafting SMS. I will omit many details here since just general description of PDU format would take whole article and complete one is more than 100 pages long. The only part you need to know about is destination address. This will be the phone number of your device. Trailer of the message is WAP Push payload, which to be described will need another 100 or so pages, so skip it. As a remark, there is some program called wbxml2xml/xml2wbxml that allows to read/write the message. In our case, we want to enforce the device to visit Google.com, so this will be the address of WAP bookmark.

Ok, so on the picture above, thing we are interested in are [dest_addr] and [dest_len]. The first encodes telephone number “+37201234567” (note lack of ‘+’ sign), the second its length (as number of digits, 0x0b == 11). The number of your device should be placed here and you could move on to next section.

Or you can try customizing the payload. The important thing here is marked as [WBXML] and can be crafted with program mentioned before. After changing this, adjustment of [ud_len] value to number of bytes in payload (those after the length) is required.

Sending SMS

Since we already have modem, we need to type AT command to initiate message sending. But before that, we need to ensure that we are in binary mode. Type AT+CMGF? and, if value is other than zero, AT+CMGF=0. Now start sending with:


Where 55 is length of payload in bytes, but without SMSC header (one byte at the beginning). Modem should respond with > prompt, where SMS could be typed.


And after that press CTRL-Z (^Z) in your terminal. This should send SUB (substitute) to modem. It is important not to use any characters in between, like spaces and ENTER. After about a second, you should see that sending was successful and no error was returned.

Receiving and opening

Now, if you have your translator turned on, you should hear that new message was received, but nothing appeared on screen. That is ok. The rest of the procedure is shown on video below:


After another few minutes of playing with the device I found another method of opening the browser and it is way faster than what was described below. But the first one was much more entertaining for me and is showing one of the many places where serious bugs could be found – forgotten technologies, still being implemented, possibly used, but with lack of knowledge about details in general public.

You can see the other method on video below, and possibly it is the one you want to use.

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