• Effective immediately we will be deleting, without notice, any negative threads or posts that deal with the use of encryption and streaming of scanner audio.

    We've noticed a huge increase in rants and negative posts that revolve around agencies going to encryption due to the broadcasting of scanner audio on the internet. It's now worn out and continues to be the same recycled rants. These rants hijack the threads and derail the conversation. They no longer have a place anywhere on this forum other than in the designated threads in the Rants forum in the Tavern.

    If you violate these guidelines your post will be deleted without notice and an infraction will be issued. We are not against discussion of this issue. You just need to do it in the right place. For example:
    https://forums.radioreference.com/rants/224104-official-thread-live-audio-feeds-scanners-wait-encryption.html

City PD - Digital Upgrade Madness ??

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mjgravina

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Ok, here is the deal.

The City PD has recently upgraded their radio system to Digital.
I am about to buy a Digital Scanner (whichever one I see recommended in these forums) in order to be able to follow the news (BTW, I am a press photographer).

Word out though, is that even with a Digital Scanner that one frequency cannot be listened to, due to an Encryption Key, that Scrambles all comms. Now I have never heard of this, and before spending $500 on a scanner, I wanted to check with you folks.

- Are there WEP like encryption codes for Digital Radio Frequencies?
- Are these usually confidential?

Knowing what my PD is up to is key to my job. Unfortunately what they do not realize, is that they are cutting off the few guys who can be there to make them look good. Well, that is unless they are up to no good.

Anyhow, any thoughts on this digital stuff?
 

mjgravina

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Bah, never mind. I just read other threads through Search, and realized that this is a growing phenomenon.

I partly understand a policing agency's desires to keep the public at large from listening to sensitive and tactical information. I have seen -like a few other members of this forum- the extra advantages a guy can have while using a scanner.

Once more, listening to my local frequencies (County, EMS & Fire, and two local PDs) at least 6hs a day, it is clear why. The protocol is not always used properly. A crisis situation ensues, and all tactical assignments are still given via Channel One (perimeter, responding units, additional RP info, etc) which is the general comms channel. They could simply jump then to the Channel Two, or even one of the TAC channels, which I think SHOULD be encrypted.

But for us Press, being completely blind to the things happening in our city, really sucks the big one. Not because we might miss some Cover Story, but because in principle, the public at large has the right to see what crimes are being commited in their neighborhoods. For a long time, press and media used to do that (before the Ted Turner area, and the annoying 'Breaking News Kitty on a Well - Watch Live' stage of decay the industry seems to have fallen into).

As a LEO, I would not want anyone listening whether I am approaching side 2 or 3 entrance of a 579 where the RP has already confirmed there is a gun in the home.

As a press member, I think is important to be there -to get there- later on, to show that police does defuse and serve its community, by publishing reports of their actions. (or even then, the lack of their respective service).

As a person, I think it's fun to EAVES DROP on the police. I still think that if my Tax money pays these people, at least the dispatcher channel should be decrypted no matter what.

Anyhow, I guess I answered my own question.
 

KMA367

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There's a common misunderstanding about "digital" and "encryption," which are entirely different things, though they can be used together.

Digital modulation can use half or less of the bandwidth (space between frequencies) as analog, and especially in large cities there's a huge demand for more radio frequencies, with all the new technologies coming down the pike. Digital isn't encryption, but you do need a "vocoder" to turn the signal back to analog so you can hear it. There's the extra cost of digital-capable scanners.

With digital, they can squeeze twice as many frequencies within a specific segment. LAPD, for example, went to digital in 2001, and as soon as they did they instantly had twice as many frequencies available as the day before. Where previously almost every dispatcher's frequency had two divisions (50-60 cars or more), they now have only one division per dispatcher; plus every division has its own tactical frequency. Previously their car-to-car stuff had to be done on the dispatch channel or a shared citywide tac frequency.

The FCC has mandated that users in the VHF and UHF bands migrate to the closer spacing by certain dates (2013 and 2018, are the final cut-offs, IIRC), and "APCO P25" is the flavor of digital that public safety agencies generally are choosing, so they'll remain able to talk to one another.

Encryption, as you might imagine, has been cussed and discussed far and wide on every scanner group known, and it's used and handled differently everywhere. Some places encrypt everything (Orange County law enforcement, for example), but most (like LAPD) encrypt only sensitive stuff, as you allude to. I can't name them off-hand, but I've heard of some all-encrypted agencies who provide - sell? - encryption-capable receivers to the media.

I'll answer it on your Manteca post, but no, no matter how close you are, a scanner won't unscramble an encrypted transmission. They use high-tech, changeable keys, and are essentially impossible to un-encrypt.
 

linuxwrangler

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A lot of old analog encryption was fairly easy to bypass. As to digital, if done competently, I have to paraphrase the end of one of the large histories of cryptography I have read (don't recall which one): "The battle between code-makers and code-breakers is over...the code-makers have won."

And while I support as much government transparency as is practical and enjoy listening to the local Fire/PD, I hear plenty of things that probably should not be broadcast in the clear.

"Engine XX respond to [address] for a:
...27-year old female having a miscarriage...
...32-year old male having a drug overdose...
...56-year old female who slit her wrists...
etc."

You could listen to most of the medical dispatches in my area and determine who the call was for. Someone is gonna get smacked for violating HIPPA laws if they aren't careful. Berkeley, by contrast, only says "respond for a medical"

On the PD side you hear gate-access codes, name/dob/SSN (can you say ID theft?) and all sorts of other secure information over the air.

Eventually I expect encryption to become so become so cheap, standardized and interoperable that clear-transmissions go the way of the dodo.
 

scannerboy02

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hmarnell said:
I've heard of some all-encrypted agencies who provide - sell? - encryption-capable receivers to the media.

mjgravina if you call Rex he more than likley will hook you up. You may need to buy the radio but he should be able to get it programed for you. If not let me know and maybe we can "press" him to do it ;-)
 
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mdulrich

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linuxwrangler said:
You could listen to most of the medical dispatches in my area and determine who the call was for. Someone is gonna get smacked for violating HIPPA laws if they aren't careful.
I guess as long as the discussion continues on if you can listen to encryption, the misconception will continue that EMS dispatching is a HIPPA law violation. :roll: First it is HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Second, EMS dispatch over the radio is not a violation.

Mike
 

linuxwrangler

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mdulrich said:
I guess as long as the discussion continues on if you can listen to encryption, the misconception will continue that EMS dispatching is a HIPPA law violation. :roll: First it is HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Second, EMS dispatch over the radio is not a violation.
Mike
Maybe so, maybe not. I'm not a lawyer and even if I were, I wouldn't dig through that stuff just for fun. But while the title seems to speak more to insurance, a huge part of the act has to do with protection of medical data and it is pretty broad. The simplified flowchart the government provides to determine if you are a "covered entity" includes providing care (check), supplies (check), transport (check)....

Digging further, Is the data stored or transmitted electronically (check).

Perhaps I overlooked it, but I didn't see a branch of the flowchart that said, EMS: exempt.

There are some exemptions for point-to-point communications like phone calls where you are not transferring data that had been electronically stored (open to interpretations only a lawyer could love) but even there you have to ask, was the data in a CAD system prior to dispatch? Was it encrypted in transit to the rip-n-run? Is the rip-n-run secured against unauthorized access? Are run-sheets shredded? Are the on-board computers on the apparatus secured? They are certainly electronic storage and transmission. Specially exempted, I don't know.

(Note: I'm not talking what would be *sensible* - I'm talking about how the feds might interpret things which is entirely different. And my experience with the feds is this: every employee of an opinion research company where I worked had to undergo background checks: 30-page questionnaire, credit-check, criminal-check, fingerprinting, federal investigators interviewing references, annual training sessions, alarm-system/access-control systems logging and audits, the works. Why? Because we got a small job doing surveys as a sub-contractor for a government contractor and on one of them, someone who voluntarily contacted us to express an opinion *might* say something like "I'm Bob Smith - call me if you have any more questions." With rigidity like that, who knows how strictly they might interpret rules on health information privacy.)

If I were heading the operation and were faced with a choice of playing it safe and honoring the spirit of privacy laws by switching to a simple "respond for a medical" like Berkeley does vs. spending cash on legal fees to see if I could get away with broadcasting ages, conditions and such, I know which way I would lean.

But I'm not. And as someone who enjoys listening to the scanner, I like it the way it is.
 

scannerboy02

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linuxwrangler said:
Are the on-board computers on the apparatus secured?

I may be giving away one of my stringer tricks with this but I always look at the MDT's that I can see from the street when I am not able to get info from anyone on a scene call. I would never go to air with the info but it lets me know what's going on and who's involved.
 

radioprescott

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Actually the HIPAA statute means a "covered entity" cannot release any personally identifiable information to a person not authorized by the person, by any means. Giving an address, age, sex and medical condition on the radio actually does not violate the statute, because the person cannot be personally identified based on that information alone. You would have to have some knowledge of the situation to put two and two together and actually indentify the patient by name.

Just my two cents (corrected inflation)

John
radioprescott
 
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