Encryption of police radio poses dilemma for local governments, journalists

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kmartin

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Encryption of police radio poses dilemma for local governments, journalists

Encryption of police radio poses dilemma for local governments, journalists

one page article from Reporters Committee for Freedom Of The Press presents an overview of current openness issues
lets face it...encryption is here to stay and even all police and fire calls dispatched or tac will all soon become encrypted !
and i seriously doubt even the news media will be allowed access to these because law enforcement doesn't want any chance of fake news or miss information to be released this keeps the ball in their court
sadly the days of scanning are coming to an end and no legislation will have power to change this !
 

W1KNE

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sadly the days of scanning are coming to an end and no legislation will have power to change this !
You know there's a lot more to scanning than Public Safety. Lots of people listen to lots of different things and are content with that, regardless of public safety comms or not. Myself included. I listen to a lot of business comms, electric utilities are on my regular scanning. Others love hearing aviation, railroads, milcomms, you name it. So, no, scanning is not coming to an end anytime soon.
 

russbrill

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lets face it...encryption is here to stay and even all police and fire calls dispatched or tac will all soon become encrypted !
and i seriously doubt even the news media will be allowed access to these because law enforcement doesn't want any chance of fake news or miss information to be released this keeps the ball in their court
sadly the days of scanning are coming to an end and no legislation will have power to change this !
Not so fast! There are a lot of local governments that understand who they work for, unlike the crooks that hide behind encryption...
 

cpetraglia

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Not so fast! There are a lot of local governments that understand who they work for, unlike the crooks that hide behind encryption...
I agree and from what I read in that article and many others, if any leeway is given to the press, that still leaves us hobbyists out of luck. So I'm not real sure what were discussing here.
 

KK4JUG

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Personally, I have no desire to listen to taxis, Walmart, McDonalds, baby monitors, wreckers, manufacturing plants, my neighbor's FRS/GMRS, my neighbor's phone, the electric company, movie studios (yes, we have some here), etc., so, cpetraglia, I understand your point.
 

ka2aradio

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lets face it...encryption is here to stay and even all police and fire calls dispatched or tac will all soon become encrypted !
and i seriously doubt even the news media will be allowed access to these because law enforcement doesn't want any chance of fake news or miss information to be released this keeps the ball in their court
sadly the days of scanning are coming to an end and no legislation will have power to change this !
I agree that encryption is not going to go away. Here in New Jersey most agencies encrypt their sensitive talkgroups or frequencies. I'm not seeing too much being done on regular dispatch channels but certainly it's done on TAC and surveillance channels. Let's hope that this trend doesn't carry over into fire and ems activities.
 

mmckenna

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Not so fast! There are a lot of local governments that understand who they work for, unlike the crooks that hide behind encryption...
There are several reasons agencies are going to encryption. In California, it's recently been pushed by the State DOJ -for a number of reasons-.
Assuming that it's only being done so agencies can break laws doesn't acknowledge the realities behind it. It's a cheap shot.

I agree and from what I read in that article and many others, if any leeway is given to the press, that still leaves us hobbyists out of luck. So I'm not real sure what were discussing here.
I believe you are correct.
Challenge is figuring out who's the 'press' and who's some random internet dude that claims to be the press. We've all seen the nut-jobs with a cell phone camera posting stuff on the you-tubes. That isn't 'press'. But sorting out who's who needs to be done carefully so as not to tread on the freedom of the press. In other words, government approved news media is not something we should be looking at in any way, shape or form. But since the state requirement here are not requiring all agency communications to go encrypted, this may be a non-issue in some areas.

One interesting outcome of this is that it may result in the news media having to work harder to get their stories. That may lead to more reliable/honest reporting, and less reliance on electronics to make the job easy.


As for the State of California, the requirement is that personal identifying information not be transmitted in the clear. There is NO requirement for all communications to be encrypted. That doesn't stop agencies from going 100% encryption, though. What some agencies are doing is having a secondary channel or switchable encryption that gets used when running checks. The other direction some are going is to run those checks over the terminals. None of that is going to work in 100% of the situations, so there's going to be some various interpretations. The State DOJ has been releasing clarifications on what that needs to look like.
The current December 31st 2020 requirement from the State of California DOJ is not for mandatory encryption by that date, but to have a documented plan on how PII will be handled.
 

Floridarailfanning

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As for the State of California, the requirement is that personal identifying information not be transmitted in the clear. There is NO requirement for all communications to be encrypted. That doesn't stop agencies from going 100% encryption, though. What some agencies are doing is having a secondary channel or switchable encryption that gets used when running checks.
This is the way it should be. Citizens have a right to privacy with their PIA and having a dedicated NCIC/Records channel with strapped "E" is the way to go.

The problem is that many agencies use this along with the "Officer Safety" argument as their reasoning to run full-time secure on every channel.
 

DJ11DLN

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I have no problem with agencies having some ENC Tac/Ops for sensitive stuff. We all know that there are things that shouldn't be sent in the clear, whether it's patient info or just things that need to stay under a lid until a situation is resolved. Or other things, use your imagination. But the bulk of routine traffic should remain in the clear for transparency's sake. Many agencies lack oversight or have it in some measure that is insufficient. Letting the public hear the non-sensitive stuff can help to ameliorate that sort of thing, at least to an extent.
 

mmckenna

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This is the way it should be. Citizens have a right to privacy with their PIA and having a dedicated NCIC/Records channel with strapped "E" is the way to go.
For the State of California, that's the driver.
I was talking with one of our LT's yesterday about this, and he agrees with it. He's felt for years that sending name, address, description, dob, DL number, etc. over the air in the clear isn't a good plan. It's only a matter of time before someone's identity gets stolen and the PD gets sued.

It's an easy fix. On the IT side, it's been required for a long time. No one in their right mind would post their personal info on the internet for anyone to access. You don't drive around with your social security number written on the back of your car. We all protect our information and we expect other too, also.

The problem is that many agencies use this along with the "Officer Safety" argument as their reasoning to run full-time secure on every channel.
There are well documented instances where officer safety has been put at risk due to unencrypted communications. Like it or not, it's a reality. Public safety professionals should not have to put their own lives at risk for the benefit of the news media or hobbyists.

Again, I fully support the idea of primary dispatch being in the clear, and everything else strapped 100%.
 

mmckenna

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This is the way it should be. Citizens have a right to privacy with their PIA and having a dedicated NCIC/Records channel with strapped "E" is the way to go.
An interesting little side note regarding this….
Whenever I purchase any equipment at all that has a network connection, I have to go through a security review. I just had to do it with some remote environmental monitoring equipment. This gear will report temperature, indications of water on the floor, and a few contact closures. This will be used for monitoring remote sites.
Our purchasing group puts a hold on any requisitions that include anything that connects to the network or is software. We're required to go through this process with our IT Security group and everything gets graded as to potential risk.
Even a thermometer, since it was something that had someone else's software and a network connection.
Yeah, it's silly sometimes, but it wasn't something they randomly thought up out of the blue. It became a requirement after equipment was purchased and put on the network that lead to some serious security breaches.

I'm getting ready to build out a new radio system for our PD. Sites will be linked over IP for simulcast and remote fill in receivers. Each of those repeaters, receivers, GPS/NTP boxes, etc. will have to go through the same security review. Our purchasing group will require the vendor to sign agreements and have insurance in place in case a breach happens.
When I tell the IT security folks that these repeaters will be on the network and handling voice traffic that includes personal information, they're going to launch into a full review. That will happen even though the system will be buried behind firewalls, access control lists, etc.

If running that sort of info over a data network triggers that sort of response, it better damn well be encrypted. Even if the PD doesn't care, I'll still have to meet the requirements of the IT group.

This is so far beyond simply being an 'inconvenience" for scanner listeners. Like I've said before, the arguments proposed by the scanner hobby are all wrong, and will not likely result in any changes. By all means, keep trying, I'm not going to stop you, but this goes really deep, and well beyond scanners or hiding suspected nefarious deeds of public officials.
 

Floridarailfanning

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Our purchasing group will require the vendor to sign agreements and have insurance in place in case a breach happens.
I used to do IT work for the Sheriff's Office here and we really could have used a buying and review structure like that. We had two major breaches back in 2017 and 2018 because AT&T had opened up some ports while doing maintenance work, which they had not asked, or at least notified us about. Hackers took down the entire CAD and JMS system before we even know something was wrong, and the off-site failover server replicated the malware from the main server so that also failed. The whole 911 center was basically useless for about 48 hours.

Needless to say, there were some new policies put in place after this ordeal. If we would have had an SEIM in place this probably never would have happed but the command didn't think we needed one.
This is so far beyond simply being an 'inconvenience" for scanner listeners. Like I've said before, the arguments proposed by the scanner hobby are all wrong, and will not likely result in any changes.
I totally agree, and I wish more folks realized this.
 

jim202

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lets face it...encryption is here to stay and even all police and fire calls dispatched or tac will all soon become encrypted !
and i seriously doubt even the news media will be allowed access to these because law enforcement doesn't want any chance of fake news or miss information to be released this keeps the ball in their court
sadly the days of scanning are coming to an end and no legislation will have power to change this !
Let me interject a comment about the news media having access to the law dispatch encrypted frequency. When I worked for an interop company, I traveled around the country from Anchorage, AK. to the Bahama's. This is a question that I asked to every dispatch center that I was in. I didn't keep track of the numbers, but there was a very large number of them that said the news agencies were given access to their dispatch communications. In just about all of the cases, the news media had to buy their own radio, but the agency would program the radio with the required encryption key to be able to monitor the communications on the dispatch channel.

There were a few departments that refused access to their dispatch communications. But the number of them was a very small minority. In trying to talk with the chief of those departments, the normal response was "No way would I let the news media have the ability to monitor our dispatch communications".

So there are those in charge that just have this stand that it won't happen. In those cases, your not going to change their stand.
 

GlobalNorth

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How many newspapers, radio, and television outlets actually get news stories from scanners? Not many in my area.

When I was in LE, the designated reporter would come to the station in the morning, sit down with the PIO, and go over "exceptional Incidents". That's how the media got the news. Now, the newspaper is a Gannett holding and it is nothing but USA Today with some local ads and "Staff Writers" for bylines.

The local radio stations source their news from network syndications and the local corporate TV stations would rather post stories of interest to women and certain "high profile" crimes. Big fire downtown? No mention of it. Some unhinged idiot killing domestic pets? Not a word will be said.

The days of reporters getting a "hot scoop" from a scanner went away with fedoras, overcoats, and Crown Speed Graphic cameras.

Initial reports given out on scanners are not always what they seem. A robbery in progress is more likely to be a burglary that happened over the weekend, a house fire is likely to be a small grease fire, etc. Chasing these types of calls is unprofitable and a practical waste of time.
 

KK4JUG

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I'm not sure what a "designated reporter" is but the media outlets here have lots of reporters. The city population is about 200K and a metro population of about 450K, with 4 TV news outlets and probably a half a dozen or so radio news outlets. The TV motto is "If it bleeds, it leads." They don't get the "bleed" part of that from talking with someone in an office. Good or bad, people want to see wrecked cars, burning buildings and they want to almost see dead bodies. That all comes from reactive reporters, not from people who schedule appointments.
 

vagrant

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Back in the late 90's I visited several different local TV station locations to get them online. Two of them had scanners. One of them was turned off. The working one was on a far wall away from people with the volume low enough it wouldn't bother anyone. Honestly, how often does one listen to the routine dispatch to the section 8 housing area before you tune it out? Still, I do monitor local PD when driving, so I can avoid road closures/incidents.

Oh, I forgot about several local radio stations. I also visited them and zero scanners were observed, but someone in an office somewhere may have had one. I also visited the local newspaper and physically touched every computer as well around 2000. I did not observe one scanner or receiver at anyone's desk.
 
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