Citizen SIGINT, anyone?

KB2GOM

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Most of us, I think, are aware of the rise of "citizen journalism," in which ordinary citizens undertake the (usually) video documenting of some occurrence, event or activity that would be of interest to others. Sometimes it is as simple as making a video recording of a real-time event with a smart phone. Countless examples exist on the internet. Others take the time to put together a more formalized news report or documentary. Here is an example of a citizen doing a thoughtful job of covering the after effects of the collapse of the Edenville dam:

Recently I got curious about the possibility of Citizen SIGINT. An internet search turned up a white paper, entitled "SIGINT for Anyone," published by the Rand Corporation. I recommend reading it. It's a bit dry, but stick with it, because IMHO there is some interesting stuff, although it is light on monitoring the radio spectrum. Just visit here -- Signals Intelligence for Anyone -- and click on the PDF file or click here: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE273/RAND_PE273.pdf Some of the references at the end of the white paper are pretty interesting as well.

For the record, I have absolutely no connection with Rand Corporation, commercial or otherwise.

So, a question: does anyone here have an interest in trying to pursue Citizen SIGINT, either separately or as a coordinated effort?

My interest was piqued by the suggestion that there might be radio frequencies used by outside agitators or coordinators at recent riots, see this -- "Anomalous frequencies" in riot zones? --

That's just one example. There might be interesting projects that could be pursued; certainly there are a lot of people here who have sophisticated monitoring equipment that could be brought to bear.

NOTE WELL: I am not suggesting that anyone here should do anything that is illegal or morally questionable, such as jamming satellites or legitimate signals, etc.

So, what do you think? Citizen SIGINT: Good idea? Possibly fun? Goofy idea? Got a suggestion for a project?
 
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PACNWDude

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With SDR RTL sticks and the proliferation of Chinese radio equipment, SIGINT has become a lot easier, cheaper and prolific. I like it in many ways, although there have been some problems. I still haul out my old Trivec AV-20XX series antennas and monitor satellites though. AIS is great for tracking equipped vessels, and the price of entry there has made the congested waterways safer as pleasure craft now often also carry AIS gear. Great post and link to the Rand corporation document.
 

GlobalNorth

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To what end? Intelligence without a dedicated consumer is just a lot of information and with no consumer, it is a hobby comprised of disparate collectors who have varied expertise and interests. Consumers drive intelligence collection through policy and the collectors then attempt to find and process the products that reveal actionable intelligence.

Discovering a new numbers station or uncovering a satellite's new orbital track is interesting and potentially actionable, but without the one-time cipher pads or cracking the encrypted downlink, it is a minor piece in a larger puzzle that hobbyists are unlikely to be able to exploit.

Futurists once predicted that journalism would undergo a "renaissance" due to the internet blog, but it has never materialized. The internet has a lot of web bloggers, but it didn't become a platform of new and improved journalism. Why? A lot of blogs are simply not worth reading.
 

ScubaJungle

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I am very much into this - its pretty much what I enjoy doing. I have excel sheets for each band with all frequencies that I have seen with relevant info (color codes, NACs, TGIDs, RIDs, tones, etc).
Thanks for sharing, I will take a look at the document.
I would be open to a coordinated effort, though Im not sure what exactly would be the point (not saying that in a arrogant way, I just legitimately dont know other than for the purpose of personal interest). Id be happy to find something that I can put all of this work into though, and make it worthwhile and meaningful!
 

mmckenna

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So, what do you think? Citizen SIGINT: Good idea? Possibly fun? Goofy idea? Got a suggestion for a project?
Certainly could be a fun and interesting part of the radio hobby.

Just as long as it didn't get out of hand. We know hams can get a bit carried away with the "emergency communications" thing, start adding strobe lights to their cars, badges, vests, uniforms, etc. As long as hobby SigInt doesn't go that way, or any sort of electronic vigilanteism, and stayed as a fun hobby, then OK with me.

Why? A lot of blogs are simply not worth reading.
Bingo.
Everyone has an opinion. Many think their opinion is the only right one. Many confuse their opinions with facts. Many have ulterior motives. Far too many think their opinion should be forced violently on others until the accept it without question.

It takes an incredible amount of B.S. filtering to make use of most things on the internet. A lot of the issues we are running into in society related to the media and internet involves people with exceptionally poor B.S. Filters, or a completely missing B.S. filter.
 

a417

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To what end? Intelligence without a dedicated consumer is just a lot of information and with no consumer, it is a hobby comprised of disparate collectors who have varied expertise and interests.
bingo.
 

mmckenna

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I would be open to a coordinated effort, though Im not sure what exactly would be the point (not saying that in a arrogant way, I just legitimately dont know other than for the purpose of personal interest). Id be happy to find something that I can put all of this work into though, and make it worthwhile and meaningful!
Use that data to update this database. That's where a lot of the info comes from.
 

ScubaJungle

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Use that data to update this database. That's where a lot of the info comes from.
Of course, this is an important database of information - and a lot of stuff I do submit. I just added two new whole trunked systems to Hillsborough County, with another one waiting for approval and many TGs (although I don't waste my time with them many times since I can't submit TGs without "proper verification and name"), conventional frequencies, single-frequency DMR, etc. Outside of that, though, if there was something that it could be used for, it would be cool.
 

KB2GOM

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The point? Well, sometimes when you're looking for odd stuff, you find cool stuff.

Perhaps some of your might recall this story from 2018: Long dead Zombie Satellite wakes up 13 years later

Okay, I'll admit it: ever since I was a kid (shortly after the Civil War), I've had a weakness for stories about "finding the hidden thing."

Besides, it might be fun.

It might also be fun to discuss the methodology of looking for unusual stuff on the airwaves.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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Just started reading this and this caught my eye:
"Historically, only government had the financial means and the legal authority to conduct
SIGINT"

By what authority? Unless we are talking wire tapping, there is nothing precluding US citizens from doing this. As far as wiretapping, what authority does the Govt have? Too much, very likely.
 

KB2GOM

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Just started reading this and this caught my eye:
"Historically, only government had the financial means and the legal authority to conduct
SIGINT"

By what authority? Unless we are talking wire tapping, there is nothing precluding US citizens from doing this.
Amen! As far as I know the only frequencies were are not "allowed" to listen to are the cellular frequencies, and that is pretty much moot now because of digital.

I once wrote a piece on the whole cellular/listening debacle, the upshot of which was: "If you are going to tell secrets in a crowded room, it's up to you to keep it to a whisper . . . don't expect everyone else to plug their ears." It still ticks me off!
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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I am in. There was a worldwide amateur network KiwiSDR or similar that performed TDOA and mapping of signals globally. A bunch of numbers stations were located. The system works. I don't know if it is still up. But a similar concept of regional VHF and UHF receivers could perform same thing in the upper bands. Imagine your ham repeater is getting jammed and you can look at at a Google map and identify the general location of the jammer in real time or from stored data.

Hardware required is an SDR station, antennas and a GPS time and frequency reference. Open Software exists.
 

ScubaJungle

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These ideas all sound cool - I would definitely be interested. Im not sure if a dedicated thread, or dedicated Google Group would be preferred, but something should be set up to keep documentation, ideas, and projects in one location. Maybe we can get a sub-forum going, dedicated to this?
 

KB2GOM

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These ideas all sound cool - I would definitely be interested. Im not sure if a dedicated thread, or dedicated Google Group would be preferred, but something should be set up to keep documentation, ideas, and projects in one location. Maybe we can get a sub-forum going, dedicated to this?
Sub-forum sounds good, but I'm the newb around here.
 

spacellamaman

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Most of us, I think, are aware of the rise of "citizen journalism," in which ordinary citizens undertake the (usually) video documenting of some occurrence, event or activity that would be of interest to others. Sometimes it is as simple as making a video recording of a real-time event with a smart phone. Countless examples exist on the internet. Others take the time to put together a more formalized news report or documentary. Here is an example of a citizen doing a thoughtful job of covering the after effects of the collapse of the Edenville dam:

Recently I got curious about the possibility of Citizen SIGINT. An internet search turned up a white paper, entitled "SIGINT for Anyone," published by the Rand Corporation. I recommend reading it. It's a bit dry, but stick with it, because IMHO there is some interesting stuff, although it is light on monitoring the radio spectrum. Just visit here -- Signals Intelligence for Anyone -- and click on the PDF file or click here: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE273/RAND_PE273.pdf Some of the references at the end of the white paper are pretty interesting as well.

For the record, I have absolutely no connection with Rand Corporation, commercial or otherwise.

So, a question: does anyone here have an interest in trying to pursue Citizen SIGINT, either separately or as a coordinated effort?

My interest was piqued by the suggestion that there might be radio frequencies used by outside agitators or coordinators at recent riots, see this -- "Anomalous frequencies" in riot zones? --

That's just one example. There might be interesting projects that could be pursued; certainly there are a lot of people here who have sophisticated monitoring equipment that could be brought to bear.

NOTE WELL: I am not suggesting that anyone here should do anything that is illegal or morally questionable, such as jamming satellites or legitimate signals, etc.

So, what do you think? Citizen SIGINT: Good idea? Possibly fun? Goofy idea? Got a suggestion for a project?
see:
 

KB2GOM

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see:
I rather liked this:

"Multiple test runs showed a wifi adapter merely hooked on the rearview mirror with rubber bands via coax extention to a netbook in the passenger seat, gave me 5-10 seconds warning prior to my radar detector giving me notice. The crazy thing was, occasionally i got Over The Horizon reception at sometimes unbelievable ranges.

It became a rather intensive hobby for a while. "


It also sounds like a good way to get acquainted with the local gendarme:

Cop: Excuse me, sir, why did you drive past my radar trap 15 times in the last hour?

You: Well, you see, I was testing this idea I had . . .

Your idea made me grin . . . any chance you could hire yourself out to one of the Cannonball Baker teams?
 

KB2GOM

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Wait, We need a Citizens SIGINT Topic
What a good idea! How 'bout we talk about strategies for Citizen SIGINT?

For example, are there "blank spots" in the radio spectrum where we might look for signals that aren't supposed to be there?

Or . . . other ideas?

PS -- Thanks to the mods for moving this back.
 
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