Defund Encryption Update

trentbob

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Good points. For immediate communications with mutual aid agencies, encryption can screw that up. For non-immediate needs, like a search and rescue, there are plenty of dedicated interop frequencies that all agencies should have programmed into their radios.

We're starting to tackle this new DOJ mandate here, and I've had discussions with the county radio shop about how we're going to continue to interoperate. There's ways around it, but it takes cooperation.
While this may be a big challenge, I fully expect radio techs will cooperate and develop solutions.
For my County which is full police encryption now it really causes a problem for our firefighters and EMS personnel.

Encryption was never a big issue in my County, the P2 system had encrypted Ops channels to switch to if they wanted and dispatch was in the clear. Law enforcement never had an issue with media, First Responders and serious hobbyist having sophisticated equipment listening in on dispatch with good intentions.

That all changed when dispatch became available to anybody which is not for discussion here. Dispatch went to partial encryption and anything sensitive they could throw the slide switch on their apx7000 and go encrypted, the dispatcher stayed in the clear. As per orders of the Board of Supervisors dispatchers would remind officers to switch back to the clear. The reason was the safety and situational awareness of other First Responders.

As civil unrest continued in Philadelphia, a nearby City... the county proposed increased funding, not defunding and made a 1.5 million dollar proposal to equip Fire and EMS officers and equipment with encrypted radios. They didn't however wait for that to be done, they went to full encryption despite endangering other First Responders. By the way we have no civil unrest in our County.

There's no need to spend 1.5 million dollars of the taxpayers money. They just need to teach the officers how to operate their radios as some can still not switch zones or go to encrypted Ops channels on their radios. Meanwhile Fire & EMS remain in the dark and ultimately citizens may suffer as more and more First Responders stage rather than respond secondary to lack of situational awareness and the concern for personal safety.
 

mmckenna

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There's no need to spend 1.5 million dollars of the taxpayers money. They just need to teach the officers how to operate their radios as some can still not switch zones or go to encrypted Ops channels on their radios. Meanwhile Fire & EMS remain in the dark and ultimately citizens may suffer as more and more First Responders stage rather than respond secondary to lack of situational awareness and the concern for personal safety.
Had a meeting with our chief, lieutenants and dispatch manager a few days back. We're being required to move away from sharing personal identifying information in the clear. Failure to do so will result in the loss of terminal access into the state databases.
We only have a few options:
Running drivers licenses/ID's over the terminal. Fine if they are in their car. Not fine if they are on motorcycles or on foot.
Use cell phone to call dispatch and run the info. That's our immediate solution.

Long term...
We're replacing the old single channel/single site radio system. I specifically asked the LT in charge of training about this. Our plan is to go with primary dispatch in the clear for interoperability, and the other channel (or channels) full time encrypted. Training officers to switch channels will take time and we know there will be mistakes, but as you said, it's a training thing.

I've always been for keeping primary dispatch in the clear, but the requirements on PII are real and will be enforced. How that gets handled is up to each department and there's a lot of variables.

As for Fire and EMS, that should have been done first, but likely there is a LOT of stuff going on behind the scenes that is impacting and driving these decisions. Not all those will be visible to the hobbyist or general public.

The issue with Fire and EMS scanning the other agencies is that scanning impacts receiving. Scanning on these radios needs to be set up carefully, and the agencies need to make sure important traffic isn't missed. Good dispatchers could pass on relevant info, but dispatchers are often busy with lots of other tasks.

None of these solutions are easy, and the public/hobbyists do not have full view into the decision making process.
 

GlobalNorth

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Is your agency not using automated citation generators? Our motors and specialty squads do - use a tablet that has citation generation capacity built in, with a DL reader [swipeable, enter the OLN manually, or QR]. Punch in the violation code, date/time, any vehicle info, GPS or location, and then print.

One encrypted datastream, no illegible citations, faster than handwriting, and everything fits in a saddlebag.
 

mmckenna

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Is your agency not using automated citation generators? Our motors and specialty squads do - use a tablet that has citation generation capacity built in, with a DL reader [swipeable, enter the OLN manually, or QR]. Punch in the violation code, date/time, any vehicle info, GPS or location, and then print.

One encrypted datastream, no illegible citations, faster than handwriting, and everything fits in a saddlebag.
Not yet. Right now the terminals are only in the cars. No printers. But really there's not enough of that to require it, usually it's just running someones info to check for warrants.

Our parking enforcement has those sorts of electronic citations, and it works well.
 

657fe2

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Had a meeting with our chief, lieutenants and dispatch manager a few days back. We're being required to move away from sharing personal identifying information in the clear. Failure to do so will result in the loss of terminal access into the state databases.
We only have a few options:
Running drivers licenses/ID's over the terminal. Fine if they are in their car. Not fine if they are on motorcycles or on foot.
Use cell phone to call dispatch and run the info. That's our immediate solution.

Long term...
We're replacing the old single channel/single site radio system. I specifically asked the LT in charge of training about this. Our plan is to go with primary dispatch in the clear for interoperability, and the other channel (or channels) full time encrypted. Training officers to switch channels will take time and we know there will be mistakes, but as you said, it's a training thing.

I've always been for keeping primary dispatch in the clear, but the requirements on PII are real and will be enforced. How that gets handled is up to each department and there's a lot of variables.

As for Fire and EMS, that should have been done first, but likely there is a LOT of stuff going on behind the scenes that is impacting and driving these decisions. Not all those will be visible to the hobbyist or general public.

The issue with Fire and EMS scanning the other agencies is that scanning impacts receiving. Scanning on these radios needs to be set up carefully, and the agencies need to make sure important traffic isn't missed. Good dispatchers could pass on relevant info, but dispatchers are often busy with lots of other tasks.

None of these solutions are easy, and the public/hobbyists do not have full view into the decision making process.

Thank You for keeping CH 1 in the clear wherever you work. Much more respectful of public.
 

trentbob

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Had a meeting with our chief, lieutenants and dispatch manager a few days back. We're being required to move away from sharing personal identifying information in the clear. Failure to do so will result in the loss of terminal access into the state databases.
We only have a few options:
Running drivers licenses/ID's over the terminal. Fine if they are in their car. Not fine if they are on motorcycles or on foot.
Use cell phone to call dispatch and run the info. That's our immediate solution.

Long term...
We're replacing the old single channel/single site radio system. I specifically asked the LT in charge of training about this. Our plan is to go with primary dispatch in the clear for interoperability, and the other channel (or channels) full time encrypted. Training officers to switch channels will take time and we know there will be mistakes, but as you said, it's a training thing.

I've always been for keeping primary dispatch in the clear, but the requirements on PII are real and will be enforced. How that gets handled is up to each department and there's a lot of variables.

As for Fire and EMS, that should have been done first, but likely there is a LOT of stuff going on behind the scenes that is impacting and driving these decisions. Not all those will be visible to the hobbyist or general public.

The issue with Fire and EMS scanning the other agencies is that scanning impacts receiving. Scanning on these radios needs to be set up carefully, and the agencies need to make sure important traffic isn't missed. Good dispatchers could pass on relevant info, but dispatchers are often busy with lots of other tasks.

None of these solutions are easy, and the public/hobbyists do not have full view into the decision making process.
Well you know my background and the friends and contacts I've made in law enforcement and otherwise over decades. Yes there are many reasons why decisions are made that just by the nature of that reason would never be known to anyone. When antifa was going full blast before the Department of Justice dropped the hammer on them and their leadership with heavy jail terms they were making threats willy-nilly, it had to be taken seriously if they directed them towards a specific department or officers.

As far as encrypting data talk groups, of course. Often in my system in acute situations they didn't switch to data they just blurted out a plate or a DL number. It does go by maybe they have someone at gunpoint or are in a high-speed Pursuit or something. The zones I live in are sort of like that. When officers were flipping the slide switch on top of their apx7000 it was often just a ncic check and not the fact they were following a bank robbery suspect they've been looking for days. That would be in the clear LOL

As far as the cell phone idea you would be surprised in my area how often officers don't have their issued restrictive number cell phone that they use to take reports over the phone rather than show up in person for various calls. They never forget the phone they talk to their wife on... That's the number the Sergeant would call if he really needed to get a hold of someone.

Ahhh ... officer training in the use of their radio. It's a work in progress, we've only had our tdma Phase 2 system for five years, it takes time I guess LOL.
 
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avdrummerboy

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Ah, the great encryption debacle! While I will gladly discuss it with anyone who asks and I will admit that I am somewhat weary of its discussion in public forums, but I figure why not throw my hat in the ring and offer up my 3 grubby cents worth about it. First, the long and short of it for those of the millennial generation such as myself with shorter attention spans: Daddy E (ncryption) is way over used and pointless 95+% of the time!



For those with a little bit of time and a nice hot (or cold) glass of... whatever who are curious about the above foregone conclusion, here's a little about me. I am an end user of an encrypted radio system whose EMS, yes EMS, agency uses an encrypted channel. I can speak on encryption from experience with it. Now I know that I am not a law enforcement agent but we work VERY closely with them and I had LE training and was trying to get into LE before turning to EMS full time because it was a good opportunity for me and the continuing of my education. So while I cannot speak directly from the LE perspective, I can speak from the first responder perspective in general, a perspective that is surprisingly similar and in many ways indistinguishable for all of us first responders. Who knows, there may even be a radio enthusiast law enforcement officer out there who can back up my side.

Which is a first point I'll make. I work in a very rural EMS system; we cover 2700 square miles of desert with 4 ambulances. If we are responding to an unknown medical aid in the middle of nowhere at 3am with no additional info from the call center (a very common occurrence), we are called to go to a strange house at 3am, go up and knock on the door and go forth into whatever happens next. We have no clue who's in there or what they want, we don't know what's going on- or even if it's the correct house sometimes. We have nothing but unknowns. It could be something real and legitimate, 20% or so of this. It could be a bunch of bulls***, 79.9% or so of this. However, for EMS, there is that very real 0.01-0.1% chance that it could very well be some sort of ambush against first responders in general; sadly the hatred of cops and the violence associated with it is bleeding into the other services of Fire and EMS. Now some may say that I'm being dramatic, and who knows, after over 8 years in EMS maybe I am, but the only real difference between a police officer and me in that situation is that I don't have a gun or any alternative incapacitating tool such as a tazer or pepper spray; I don't have any real way to detain someone like handcuffs. All I have if the **** hits the fan is my brain power and whatever the hell I can grab on the way back to the rig to drive away or run off and take cover!

The real point is that the safety concerns are very real for all of us, especially in today's hyper divided climate! And I will emphatically say right now that encryption does very little- next to nothing really- in terms of safety. It is a very minor portion of the maybe 5% of the time that encryption is useful. Sure, a "bad guy" can't use his awesome brand new Uniden sds200 scanner- that I'm sure he bought leagally- to hear where we (or the police) are per se. But, again, I work in a desert area, when a dust trail is coming down your road (or headlights/ code 3 lights at night) or when someone is walking up to you door, that really cool encrypted tactical advantage is now long gone, and you're at the mercy of the situation as it stands. The fact that Sally Q scanner listener down the street and John Q scanner listener in town didn't hear you go en route or on scene does NOTHING to help or guarantee your safety! Now, yes, I do understand that there is that 1 in 20 million call that the E channel will have contributed some to the safety of the situation and that cannot be discounted. But it surely does not logically lead one into a conclusion of blanket encryption being a good thing. I promise you that no one out there can actually show with any real certainty that encryption saved a life. Just because a radio has it "built in" does not mean it needs to be used.

So, there is your "officer safety" or a better phrase would be "first responder safety" aspect of it.

The next aspect to tackle is the buzzword of the decade: you guessed it..... interoperability! Now we all know that after 9/11, one of the biggest *****ing points of the responders involved was that no one could talk to one another. Even within the same agencies there were issues. Now, yes, I do know that radio technology was different back then, and most agencies didn't have radios with channel capabilities for multiple agencies and interop channel groups, but the complaint was there all the same. Now the really interesting part is that almost 20 years on, in major incidents I'll give you three guesses what a major complaint is. You got it..... interoperability. People still can't talk to each other even with dedicated interop channels and the push for plain language. Now the problems with this are numerous and won't be discussed here as they aren't truly pertinent to the discussion at hand, but I can say with 100% certainty that encryption is not the answer and the way it is being used and implemented today is only driving a knife into the heart of any idea of interoperability.

Now, to be fair, I never have heard of interoperability being used as a reason or excuse for encryption, but it is certainly a reason that encryption should be very very lightly and very very rarely used. As has been pointed out before, when it comes to mutual aid and interoperability, encryption only multiplies problems exponentially. Now, a whole slew of agencies and many hundreds if not thousands of additional radios need to have shared encryption keys- and all be rekeyed together- which only drives down any idea of security that you thought you had. It's a definite no brainer that the more "out there" an encryption key is the less safe and secure it is. Also, for cooperating agencies who don't have or don't want to afford the radios for it, backchannels with no encryption need to be added, defeating the idea of encryption all together.

Now, sure, these access channels will only be turned on when needed (or turned on and not turned off if a dispatcher forgets to break a patch.) But guess what incidents are going to need the access channels turned on? You got it, the big ones, the ones that the powers that be might want some secured comms on! Again, defeating the purpose.

I can tell you from many personal experiences that it really sucks being on scene or going to a scene and not being able to hear pertinent radio traffic. We are a private non profit agency and have our own encrypted channel and dispatch. We don't have fire department- **slight exception to this but not really**- or law enforcement channels nor do we have scanners anymore. Conversely, they don't have our channel. Therefore, to get information too or from one agency to another, we have to play the famous game of telephone.

As the saying goes: when seconds count.... What should be one press of the microphone PTT and a second or two of talking now takes 1 or more minutes depending on the number of dispatch centers the information has to go through. And inevitably what was said on one end will not be what comes out on the other end. Can't really tell you how embarrassing it is to have a $5000 radio flapping on my hip as I run over to a LEO or fire apparatus just to talk to them because the telephone game would be useless. Also can't really explain how strange it is to try and cancel needed resources only to have them show up and then 30+ seconds later have their dispatch advise them that we are on scene and that they can cancel. No one can hear each other, no one can talk to each other and every agency wants their piece of the encryption pie and we are now farther than ever from any sort of interoperability. How we have truly failed our 9/11 predecessors.

So that covers the first responder safety and the interoperability aspects of encryption. As I stated at the outset, encryption is way overused and useless 95+% of the time. I just covered the useless part of it, now let's see the overused part. Now, to start, yes I do see the usefulness of encryption on certain well defined and limited channels. I am not "anti encryption" in my views. There are certainly channels that deserve encryption. SWAT/ SRU channels need it, though my belief is that SWAT should use low power simplex encrypted channels with portable repeater use as needed. Narcotics, vice, undercover all the same thing. When it comes to tac channels I may ruffle some feathers here; I do believe that primary (dispatch) as well as the primary tac channels should be clear. There can also be an encrypted tac channel for use as well as a records channel but the main tac channel should be clear. As I said, I know there will be some disagreement there, but hey, this is my opinion, take it or leave it. This part is really just relating any justifications for encryption that I have heard and refuting them as any real justification.

First, I want to point out that encryption doesn't truly hide anything. In today's world with cell phones and tablets and cameras and internet everywhere, people find out what's going on one way or another. Every city or town that I know has at least 1 "What's going on in XXX" Facebook page. Any time a police or EMS helicopter flies around or any time multiple emergency units respond somewhere, people start posting about it. It's only a matter of time before the information about what is going on is on there. And it's all in pretty real time. Sure, it's not perfect, but if something is going on people know about it and post any information that can on it.

Now, when it comes to EMS encryption the main justification I hear is HIPAA. The only bad news is that the HIPAA regulations themselves explicitly exempt 2 way party line style communication devices because you can't truly protect patient privacy on them. Most hospital talk groups on trunked systems are moving to encryption for this very excuse. Nevermind the fact that EMS 99+% of the time uses cell phones to call the hospital, encryption is useless as we don't give out PHI over the air- or on the cell phones. To illustrate further, if I am sitting in my ambulance and have the encrypted hospital channel selected on the radio and I listen to another ambulance give a report and use PHI (the supposed justification for having encryption) that is a HIPAA violation in and of itself as I am not in any way directly involved in that patients care or treatment. This reasoning is bunk. Unencrypted hospital channels would be boring as they may get one 3 minute use every third day or so, but should be left unencrypted anyway. The default needs to be clear not encrypted.

Another reason I have heard for encrypted EMS channels is that let's say a gang shooting occurs, we don't want the gang members to know which hospital we took the guy to because they may show up to finish the job. However, if you call an ER they will usually tell if a patient- if they are a loved one- is there. If homeboy Joe calls about his "brother" who just got brought in.... well, you see the rest. Plus, again, cell phone usage precludes a scanner from listening in anyway.

Another reason I have heard for encryption is on a big incident, like a terror attack, you don't want other "bad guys" to know where the triage tent and other areas are set up or what is going on. Aside from the non stop news coverage that would happen, doesn't seem too difficult for a "bad guy" to go there on foot and in person to take a look around and figure it all out for himself anyway while posing as an interested civilian or reporter.

These are but a few examples. I haven't even covered transparency. This is a discussion that will last for a very long time and stir up much heated debate and controversy. As I said, encryption is not needed 95+% of the time and the reasons for it are lame.

As an end user of it, all I can say is that we are now farther than ever from anything worthwhile. It has done very little for safety, done nothing at all for interoperability, killed any remaining trust and transparency for many agencies and will only increase public distrust of public safety agencies at a time when it is least needed. Encryption needs to be used a sparingly and rarely as possible and for reasons of dire need. General blanket encryption is not a dire need. Locking out the public from radio traffic does no one any favors. Clear airwaves should be and need to be the default not the exception.

I do apologize somewhat for the length and for those of you who hung in this long, bravo!
 

mmckenna

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I do apologize somewhat for the length and for those of you who hung in this long, bravo!
Thanks for sharing your point of view on this. You do bring up some good points.

Encryption has its place. That place is not 'everywhere' and it's not 'nowhere'. Its place is somewhere in the middle. It should be used appropriately and always available. If that means switching to a cell phone, then so be it.

Most of the challenges you speak of in regard to encryption can be overcome. Sharing keys where appropriate is a solution that works. Unfortunately it does not work when "Billy-Bob's Radio service and lawn care" is looking after equipment for an agency/company. Agencies with their own radio techs can achieve interoperability with encryption. But interoperability doesn't always need encryption.

The other approach is that there needs to be more thought put into how radio service is provided. As an EMS provider, you should have access to CALCORD. Whenever you are working with another EMS agency, fire department, or even PD, CALCORD should be used, or at minimum, some channel should be made available for responding units.

It also sounds like your county/area has some issues with how they dispatch. Nothing against your company, but using private dispatch for just your company is impacting your ability to do your job. Many places put Fire and EMS on the same channels. Makes life quite a bit easier for everyone. Combined dispatch would solve some of these issues.
 

trentbob

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"Billy Bob's Radio Service and Lawn Care" OMG oh, you've got to love it. So I heard my county is going to be changing Keys daily, maybe I misunderstood, does that make sense?
 

trentbob

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Yes I heard it would be done remotely over the air. Yes I can see it being extreme for our secret squirrels LOL... Thanks.
 

RichardKramer

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I worked in security for a well known dept. store for 15 yrs. Across the parking lot were a group of stores which when they reported shop lifters; the local Le would put out a broadcast giving the description of the perp. It gave us a heads up if the perp came into our store. I would let the floor co-workers and manager know so we could all keep watch. Since I was the only guy that listened to the scanner, when I was off duty and heard a broadcast, I would notify the guard on duty to keep an eye out. We notified Le on several occasions that we had a shop lifter come into our store and they were arrested on site or if they drove away, were arrested later after giving Le a description of the vehicle. All this took place while our County was still on the old analog system. In 2014 the County went to a phase 2 system with full time Le encryption. Since then several times I saw pictures of shop lifters in the paper that shop lifted at the local stores and were even in our store. This may seem trivial, but some of those arrested had felony warrants on illegal guns, domestic warrants and the like. There was a bank robbery in that group of stores in which a Le officer came into our store and asked if anyone saw anything suspicious outside. I said it would have helped if your radios would have been in the clear, I would have gotten a heads up before you guys got on scene and I would have paid more attention to the fact. And one of the reasons our County purchased the multi million $$ phase 2 system was for units to interoperate. With Le using full time E, fire and ems units still have to ask the dispatch if Le is responding. And as others have said in this forum, when there is a big Le operation with multiple agencies working together, they have to use interop freqs in the clear; so much for the E.

Rich - N3VMY - KAG 0096
 

avdrummerboy

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Thanks for sharing your point of view on this. You do bring up some good points.

Encryption has its place. That place is not 'everywhere' and it's not 'nowhere'. Its place is somewhere in the middle. It should be used appropriately and always available. If that means switching to a cell phone, then so be it.

Most of the challenges you speak of in regard to encryption can be overcome. Sharing keys where appropriate is a solution that works. Unfortunately it does not work when "Billy-Bob's Radio service and lawn care" is looking after equipment for an agency/company. Agencies with their own radio techs can achieve interoperability with encryption. But interoperability doesn't always need encryption.

The other approach is that there needs to be more thought put into how radio service is provided. As an EMS provider, you should have access to CALCORD. Whenever you are working with another EMS agency, fire department, or even PD, CALCORD should be used, or at minimum, some channel should be made available for responding units.

It also sounds like your county/area has some issues with how they dispatch. Nothing against your company, but using private dispatch for just your company is impacting your ability to do your job. Many places put Fire and EMS on the same channels. Makes life quite a bit easier for everyone. Combined dispatch would solve some of these issues.
While I do agree that encryption should not be everywhere or nowhere, the middle is hardly a label I would apply to it. Encryption needs to be used very sparingly and should always be the exception in radio systems not the default.

You are correct about challenges being overcome and as I said in my post I didn't comment on it because it wasn't truly relevant to the conversation at hand about encryption. Yes, interoperability can be mostly achieved but the biggest problem is training. Most end users get a simple training on how to change radio zones and what channels are what and then memory dump that information so when it is truly needed it is not there. Sadly, if you ask the average user (PD, FD, EMS) what bank or zone and what channel CALCORD or VTAC or CA LAW is they will give you a blank stare and have no clue what you are talking about! Regardless of encryption status, 99+% of end users only know channel 1, maybe channel 2 and that they need to hit the PTT to say something that hopefully goes through! Most issues are training though there are some others as well. As an EMS agency we absolutely have access to CALCORD- as well as a few others,- the big problem is people knowing how to operate radios and find that channel or any other channel.

Sharing ENC keys files is a solution, to be sure, but is not the best one. The more widespread an encryption key is the less intrinsically safe it is. If everyone knows a secret then it's not that secret anymore; it's just general knowledge. A little simplistic I know, but you see the point. The more people and more users and more radios that have a key, the less truly secure it is.

While I will not talk bad about my company or how we operate, I can say that San Bernardino county is unlike many others that have a requirement that ALL EMS agencies have each others channels and be able to talk to one another. A county like Riverside knows what they are doing when requiring all fire departments (who participate in EMS activities) be able to communicate directly with EMS agencies- AMR- and vice versa. Unfortunately, there is one public agency within San Bernardino county (who shall remain unnamed) who is VERY resistant to letting other agencies utilize their channels to communicate with one another. As I stated originally, everyone wants their piece of the pie and interoperability is VERY low on the list of abilities.

While having our own dispatch separate from county dispatch is an interesting divide, there is a very strong resistance from the county side to allow us access to what we need whereas we would gladly give them access to us. Again, this is not bashing anyone, but it can be easily seen in our company how interoperability and cooperation is the last thing on anyones mind, encryption or not. As I said, we have an encrypted channel- at the direction of the EMS agency- and the county does not. Not by our choice, we literally have nothing to hide and I hate the reality that we are encrypted; there is ZERO reason for it!

That said, I will stand before anyone and testify that encryption needs to absolutely be the exception and never the rule when it comes to radio systems!
 

mmckenna

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Sharing ENC keys files is a solution, to be sure, but is not the best one. The more widespread an encryption key is the less intrinsically safe it is. If everyone knows a secret then it's not that secret anymore; it's just general knowledge. A little simplistic I know, but you see the point. The more people and more users and more radios that have a key, the less truly secure it is.
Sharing encryption codes doesn't mean that each radio tech needs access to the codes. It just means an agency needs to have them loaded in with the KVL. We're ironing out this process right now with the county. Not an insurmountable problem. No a security risk if it's done right. That includes proper management of individual radios, as in accountability. If a radio cannot be accounted for at the end of a shift, the keys get rolled.

As I stated originally, everyone wants their piece of the pie and interoperability is VERY low on the list of abilities.
I think some appropriately applied mandates to stop this sort of crapola need to be enacted.

While having our own dispatch separate from county dispatch is an interesting divide, there is a very strong resistance from the county side to allow us access to what we need whereas we would gladly give them access to us. Again, this is not bashing anyone, but it can be easily seen in our company how interoperability and cooperation is the last thing on anyones mind, encryption or not. As I said, we have an encrypted channel- at the direction of the EMS agency- and the county does not. Not by our choice, we literally have nothing to hide and I hate the reality that we are encrypted; there is ZERO reason for it!
"Dispatch for hire" done by counties is a bad thing. We have it here. "Pay to play", but we're at the mercy of the dispatch entity. Again, see my comment about appropriately applied mandates. Public service needs to come first.

That said, I will stand before anyone and testify that encryption needs to absolutely be the exception and never the rule when it comes to radio systems!
OK…..
 

FIRE321FIGHTER1985

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This... I remember at least twice that, as a "hobbyist," I helped my previous local PD apprehend criminals... without getting involved in the incident itself of course! Kids were driving around smashing mailboxes... heard it on the scanner... and sure enough a few minutes later heard the bam, bam, as they were driving down my street... called the non-emergency PD number and reported it, and within minutes the juveniles were arrested... they had destroyed over 135 mailboxes between their town and our town. Another was a call for a teen male dressed in all black threatening kids with a knife at the neighborhood park while working on my car in the garage... I had seen the kid walk towards the park earlier, and just after that dispatch saw him walking double-time towards his house a few doors down from me. Couple minutes after that, a squad came down the street and I walked out to it and pointed out the house... another arrest.

In my current town... a former police chief told me (when I worked with EMA) that he would never want to turn on E for that very reason. Unfortunately he's long gone and now we have E on the new county system.

That's obviously not a good enough argument for legislation... just my experience.
We live in NE La and late October a man robbed a pharmacy, stole a truck and was pulled over for speeding. The officer walked up to the truck and the driver shot the officer and left the scene. Somebody saw the officer on the ground and called 911. Many agencies responded. My wife and I heard our SO Dispatch tell all available units to respond to another Parish for an officer down. We immediately stopped and prayed for the officer and that the shooter would be caught quickly. He was caught about 2.5 hours later in our parish. Unfortunately the officer passed away earlier this week. I think that most of the parishes dispatch SO and PD on the same channel, but each agency has their own channel.
 

657fe2

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While I do agree that encryption should not be everywhere or nowhere, the middle is hardly a label I would apply to it. Encryption needs to be used very sparingly and should always be the exception in radio systems not the default.

You are correct about challenges being overcome and as I said in my post I didn't comment on it because it wasn't truly relevant to the conversation at hand about encryption. Yes, interoperability can be mostly achieved but the biggest problem is training. Most end users get a simple training on how to change radio zones and what channels are what and then memory dump that information so when it is truly needed it is not there. Sadly, if you ask the average user (PD, FD, EMS) what bank or zone and what channel CALCORD or VTAC or CA LAW is they will give you a blank stare and have no clue what you are talking about! Regardless of encryption status, 99+% of end users only know channel 1, maybe channel 2 and that they need to hit the PTT to say something that hopefully goes through! Most issues are training though there are some others as well. As an EMS agency we absolutely have access to CALCORD- as well as a few others,- the big problem is people knowing how to operate radios and find that channel or any other channel.

Sharing ENC keys files is a solution, to be sure, but is not the best one. The more widespread an encryption key is the less intrinsically safe it is. If everyone knows a secret then it's not that secret anymore; it's just general knowledge. A little simplistic I know, but you see the point. The more people and more users and more radios that have a key, the less truly secure it is.

While I will not talk bad about my company or how we operate, I can say that San Bernardino county is unlike many others that have a requirement that ALL EMS agencies have each others channels and be able to talk to one another. A county like Riverside knows what they are doing when requiring all fire departments (who participate in EMS activities) be able to communicate directly with EMS agencies- AMR- and vice versa. Unfortunately, there is one public agency within San Bernardino county (who shall remain unnamed) who is VERY resistant to letting other agencies utilize their channels to communicate with one another. As I stated originally, everyone wants their piece of the pie and interoperability is VERY low on the list of abilities.

While having our own dispatch separate from county dispatch is an interesting divide, there is a very strong resistance from the county side to allow us access to what we need whereas we would gladly give them access to us. Again, this is not bashing anyone, but it can be easily seen in our company how interoperability and cooperation is the last thing on anyones mind, encryption or not. As I said, we have an encrypted channel- at the direction of the EMS agency- and the county does not. Not by our choice, we literally have nothing to hide and I hate the reality that we are encrypted; there is ZERO reason for it!

That said, I will stand before anyone and testify that encryption needs to absolutely be the exception and never the rule when it comes to radio systems!
 

657fe2

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When the Big One hits, it will be interesting to see how encryption crazy San Bernadino County deals with it. I predict the County fire Department Dispatch, ComCenter will be overwhelmed dealing with mutual aid because of the inability of agencies too talk to each other. It will be a mess.
 

KK4JUG

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If I was governor I would fire Joe Dominic encryption of dispatch channel's violates the freedom of information act and not only that I would sign a bill that makes it unlawful to encrypt public safety dispatch channel's it violates the constitution.

If I was governor, I'd move 'cause I wouldn't want to live in a state that would elect me.

Anyway, all these fantasies are just that. The chiefs are claiming officer protection. But, it's not what it is, it's what it appears to be.
 

mmckenna

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violates the freedom of information act and not only that I would sign a bill that makes it unlawful to encrypt public safety dispatch channel's…. it violates the constitution.
Care to explain your reasoning behind this?

-How is it against the "freedom of information act"?
-How is it against the constitution?
 
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