Reverse engineering a CSL Dualcom GPRS part 14 – interpreting disassembly

A few posts ago, we managed to disassemble the firmware from the CSL Dualcom site.

The entire listing is available here as a zip. There is a lot of blank space in the file which needs to be trimmed down, but for reference this file will be left as-is.

I have also put the code on github. It’s not ideal as you can’t use the web interface to show the code/diffs, but it is a good way of recording history as mistakes will be made.

The process of turning diassembly into something useful isn’t easy. I find the most useful things are to find very commonly called subroutines first, and work out what they do. If they aren’t obvious, skip them.

The raw listing doesn’t show us the frequency with which subroutines are called. Python, to the rescue again. We trim out the fluff from the file. 0x1000-0x2000 is the string table, which the disassmebler doesn’t know about and tries to turn into code. The processor has a mirrored address structure so everything in the range 0x00000. Everything above 0x1FFFF isn’t the code – it’s special function registers and a mirror area.

Now we run the code through a small script:

And we end up with CSV of the frequency of calls:

0xE1B2 looks like a good place to start.

First thing to be aware of is that disassembly is not an exact science. Sometimes you will see an address CALLed but you can’t find it. This probably means that the disassembly is misaligned in that area – look a couple of adresses above and below. This is not the case here.

We can see immediately above 0xE1B2 there is a POP and RETB, the end of a subroutine.

To work out what a sub does, it helps to know what parameters are passed to it and how. If we look through for all the CALLs to 0xE1B2, we get an idea of what is going on:

B is always set to a value over quite a wide range. It’s probably a number or a ASCII character.

A is set to either 0, 1, 2 or 3. This is likely some kind of option or enumeration.

Going back to the subroutine, we can see how this could work:

So we are branching to other addresses based on the parameter in A.

There’s one thing to note about this function. There is no immediate RET instruction there. These have to be dealt with in the code that is branched to.

Let’s look at 0xE101.

It’s pretty long and complex. But there is one really key piece of info in there – the special function register SSR02L. Looking to the 78K0R data sheet, this is “Serial status register 02”. It’s pretty likely this function concerns serial. It has a return at the end as well.

If we look 0xE16C, this has reference to SSR12L. Another serial port.

It’s quite likely that this function concerns either reading or writing to the various serial ports on the board. I’ve not looked at it in enough depth to know exactly what it is doing, so we’ll do the following:

What have I done here?

  • Called the sub :sub_Serial_UnknownA_e1b3. The : denotes that this is the actual sub. It is something to do with serial – the first unknown sub to do with serial. I have put the address on the end just to keep track of where it is.
  • Search and replace on !!0E1B2H with this new name. “sub_Serial_UnknownA_e1b3” now shows instead of the raw address – when I see it called I know it is something to do with serial.
  • Put some brief notes above the sub so I know what it is doing.
  • Indented branches so function is a little clearer

I’m now going to do similar for the other high-frequency subs. Again, I am building up a broad picture, not going into extreme depth at this stage.

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