Encryption or Not

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ampulman

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I do a lot of listening to Federal frequencies. Some seem to be all encryption, so are usually locked out. Others will be half and half.

I recognize that sensitive comms might be need to be encrypted, but I don't understand why one party (to a comm) will be in the clear; the other, not. This is not accidental, as I will sometimes hear that 'this is so-and-so in the clear', and it usually happens on the same frequencies.

Is this just to PO us hobbyists?:)

Amp
 

davidbond21

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Hobbyists are(or at least should be) the least of these peoples concerns.

Most often, half clear/half not transmissions are the result of someone not properly using their radio, i.e. they haven't manually turned their encryption on. This would especially seem to be the case when there are multiple radios using encryption but only one radio not. With digital nowadays, there is no discernible audio difference between clear/encrypted communications, and as long as the receiving radio has the proper keys loaded, the end user won't know he's listening to clear or encrypted comms(well, from the audio alone).
 

signal500

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I recognize that sensitive comms might be need to be encrypted, but I don't understand why one party (to a comm) will be in the clear; the other, not. This is not accidental, as I will sometimes hear that 'this is so-and-so in the clear', and it usually happens on the same frequencies.

Is this just to PO us hobbyists?:)

Amp
Amp,

Some radios are programmed to be secure only, without the option of going "in the clear". Many dispatch centers are set up this way. As the Federal Govt. moves to P25 digital, you will hear more and more communications 100% encrypted. Many FBI radios are now programmed to be encrypted only without the possibility to change to clear mode on there frequencies. This prevents any "accidental" clear transmissions.

There are agents who have not been trained correctly on how to use the radio and transmit "in the clear" without knowing it. There also were many times when using the old analog DES/DES-XL encryption that agents would have to transmit "in the clear" because the other agent could not understand them when transmitting "in the private".

I also posted this back in August of this year:

Just a word of caution. It is exciting to listen into surveillance, but never go to the area (if known). Just kick back in your home or office and enjoy what you hear. I know for a fact that the FBI conducts "training operations" throughout the year. These "training operations" usually involve many agents. The main purpose is to enhance the art of surveillance for the team. One to many agents will transmit "in the clear" and give away there location. Other agents will note any vehicles or persons that are in the area or keep driving by the area of interest. They have used aircraft support in the past. This operation also is used to find out who is listening into there communications. It works very well and has for many years. They would sometimes use the same motel for this type of "cover" operation. Yes, we know the frequencies, but always stay away from the surveillance.
 

Big_Ears

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You never know, the agents may be training on counter-surveillance related activities. I've been told stories of street-level drug dealers who often utilize the 2 car method where the primary (sales) car is "shadowed" buy their secondary car that stays behind and watches to make sure that the primary car isn't being followed.
 

ampulman

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Hey, good information guys.

While I don't disagree with anything you are saying, it seems strange that some within the surveillance group will be clear while others are not.

Some transmitting in the clear must know they are doing so, as they go out of their way to not disclose 'specific' information, but rather use vague references.

Oh yes and BTW, I wouldn't think of visiting any surveillance location. 99% of my Fed listening is from my home QTH or in the parking lot of JC Penney (waiting for the wife to finish shoping.

Amp

Amp
 

KB1JHU

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From monitoring in my area, it seems that when there is a mix of clear and encrypted or they are all clear, it is a multi-agency task force operation and it it likely that a completely encrypted operation is an all Fed agency operation. I have also heard things like "Hey Jim, turn off the scrambled mode, we can't hear you." It seems that most of the time, fed agencies refer to encryption as the "coded mode".
 

sflmonitor

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There are many other factors to consider. Most of the time, units may be "in the clear" because they just don't have the current encryption key. This may be because their radios cannot OTAR (Over the Air Rekey). They may not be able to OTAR because they are either too far away from an OTAR-capable repeater or their radios are just not communicating with the KMC (Key Management Controller) at the other end. You have to have a fairly good signal in order to OTAR. Also, some agencies do not have OTAR at all. This means that each and every radio has to be "touched" or physically programmed with encryption keys. This is especially true with smaller angecies who don't have large radio radio systems. So if some agents updated their keys and others didn't, well...no secure comms.

Another thing to consider, as was mentioned earlier by signal500, encrypted transmissions on analog channels just sound nasty. And the farther you are from the signal, the worse it becomes.
 

zerg901

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I heard a recent surveillance in the Federal VHF highband - the agents were not happy with the radios at all. Some of the traffic was P25, and some messages seemed to be failing to make it thru the repeater in a recognizable manner ("going digital" you might say). I got the impression that encryption was not helping matters. Agents were trying to use a "matrix" to find useable "direct" channels. Peter Sz
 

dd364

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As I read this I'm listening to something going on with one side semi clear and the other encrypted.I say semi because I'm getting distortion that sounds like the encrypted signal.It goes from clear to distorted as he speaks.It's kind of hard to tell the difference sometimes.
 
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