Encryption ..the end of the road for scanning?

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chaz0426

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I've read a lot of news articles online of various states starting to encrypt their digital public safety systems.

I'm starting to think that within the next 10 years, a majority of systems in most average sized cities will be encrypted.

It's not just police too, a lot of systems are interconnected (Fire,EMS,transportation, ect.) and hence will all be under an encrypted system.

People thought the end of the road was when public safety started moving to digital but as you can see, digital scanners are now easy to get.

But if you understand what encryption is, it is virtually impossible to listen to encrypted transmissions without having the correct key. (I'm a computer science major)

Yes theoretically it's possible to have a sophisticated scanner radio that could rapidly "brute force" the encryption and find the key and perhaps keep doing so. But considering today's powerful computers are having a hard time doing that within a year for DES and AES encryption which is what a lot of radios are encrypted with, I don't see that technology existing in scanners anytime soon. The only way such a scanner radio could be built is if you

A. travel 50 years into the future and obtain technology powerful enough and portable enough to be built into a radio.

B. Steal CIA and NSA technology (somehow they are probably able to listen in on encrypted transmissions).

Even then it would be illegal to listen to decrypted transmissions.

I've listened to a few encrypted systems and I've found that usually the dispatcher isn't encrypted and sometimes the police officer or whoever will forget to turn on encryption.

So scanning encrypted systems will have to rely on those human errors rather than the technology at least for the near future.

I'm just wondering what this will mean for the future of the hobby and I'm still very new to the hobby. I'm asking the opinions of many veterans on here and those more knowledgeable what they think.

Any thoughts?
 
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n5ims

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According to this thread http://forums.radioreference.com/general-scanning-forum/177481-opensky-beginning-end.html it isn't encryption, but OpenSky that's the beginning of the end of scanning.

When trunking came out it was "Will trunking be the end of scanning?". When digital came out it was "Will digital be the end of scanning?". I think we'll always have threads called "Will [insert technology here] be the end of scanning?". Funny how scanner technology keeps evolving along with the part-90 radio technology.

Folks will never get rid of their horses and move to those new fangled automobiles. They're just too noisy and unreliable!
 

chaz0426

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I mentioned that, but my point is encryption is a technology that can't be overcome technologically at present nor in the next 10 years. Any analogy to what you are saying is like "we invented cars", "we invented airplanes", "we put a man on the moon" but what I'm saying is are we anywhere near to making the jump to light speed on the USS enterprise? No, we aren't technologically there. Perhaps someday but not anytime soon. Same with the concept of a decrypting scanner which would require a quantum processor.

To listen to it you need to be given a key or somehow permitted to listen in on their encryption.

Only officials and maybe media sources will be allowed to do that by being given a radio from the department. Not a scanner.

The only way the scanning hobby will overcome encryption is:

1. Scanning hobbyists just monitor stuff other than Fire,EMS,Police,Utilities, and anything else encrypted.

2. States or even the Federal government after enough fuss from the media would create or consider some legislation that would consider public safety communications a part of the public domain and hence leaving it unencrypted. I don't see that happening though, I see it becoming less transparent to the public.

3. You somehow acquire a radio and a key from the encrypted system.

4. Those with digital scanners can rely on the breaks of unencrypted messages due to human error in an encrypted system to figure out whats going on (like just listening to the dispatcher ect.).


Trunk tracking and digital/ APCO-25 doesn't encrypt transmissions by default so it's technology was able to be easily built into scanners however making scanners more expensive.

I haven't really read enough of OpenSky to say much about it, but if it's not encrypted and it's protocol/implementation is released or sold to scanning manufacturers then it could be built into scanners. I don't see that happening either.

Encryption would require illegal "cracking" in order to listen in on, which we don't even have the computer capabilities available so it's going to be a while before that technology it's just not possible.

I do hope that one of these other things happen for the continuation of scanning public safety systems and it very well may, but if more and more systems start encrypting, the future looks bleak.

It could also happen that after many places move to encryption for a few years, they could encounter problems or other issues and end up opening their transmissions again. That is my hope if encryption does take over public safety.

Also it could happen that only a few systems stay encrypted like it is today and it stays that way. I also hope that is the case.

The point of this thread is just to gather more expert opinions on where this hobby is heading and or how they would cope if it happens.
 
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JnglMassiv

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Yes, of course it will.

The arguments against ENC are not easily understood by the public and policy makers.
The arguments for running crypto are pretty clear with scary 'failure to act' scenarios to those same groups.

Who would argue against police safety and medical privacy if it were effectively implemented?

FACTS: Encryption is becoming cheaper and easier to purchase, roll out and operate.
Crypto is generally supported by subscribers.
Scanner hobbyists are not particularly well regarded by the non-hobbyists.
Scanners are used by criminals during the commission of crimes.
 

mciupa

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I think threads about encryption+scanning should be encrypted :lol::p:twisted:
 

trace1

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Maybe it doesn't really matter if "Encryption .. the end of the road for scanning" because after 12/21/12 nothing will be monitorable... ;)

(At least according to some.)
 

2wayfreq

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I don't think personal computer technology will catch up to new developments in encryption algorithms. The government passes down its older declassified stuff (DES-XL/OFB) (AES-256) and whatever is now going to be the older "Type-1". The bit length keeps getting longer and longer 64,128,256 etc. So, You currently would need a Cray Super Computer sitting in your garage brute force decrypting voice samples for weeks and maybe you get something intelligible . But I don't see too many of those on Crag's List.
 

idontknow82

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For example when everything is all encrypted how are these companies going to make money? Maybe sell out to scanner companies, but more then likely they would be out of business by that time.
 
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N_Jay

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For example when everything is all encrypted how are these companies going to make money? Maybe sell out to scanner companies,
How so?:confused::confused:

That would make as much sense as selling the combination to user settable combination locks.:roll::roll:

Maybe you (somehow) missed that fact that having the algorithm is irrelevant (most are available anyhow), it is the KEY management that provides the security.
 

DPD1

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There's going to be plenty of stuff to listen to for many years to come. And what voice stuff goes away will also have new digital data modes to fill in, that can possibly be monitored... just like ATCS and ADS-B. I doubt all emergency services in the US are going to get full encryption anytime soon, if ever. But if people want to slow that down, the best thing they can do is just not do things that help justify it... Like talking about surveillance being done, or anything that will annoy the radio users. The hobby has been proclaimed dead many times over the last 20 years, and we're still here having fun. So enjoy.
 

idontknow82

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How so?:confused::confused:

That would make as much sense as selling the combination to user settable combination locks.:roll::roll:

Maybe you (somehow) missed that fact that having the algorithm is irrelevant (most are available anyhow), it is the KEY management that provides the security.
Maybe you missed my "FOR EXAMPLE" Right in the beginning, I never said it would happen!:roll::roll:



There's going to be plenty of stuff to listen to for many years to come.
What might that be? Ham radio?
 

Gezelle007

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Yeah, I'm sure not everybody is going to have encryption- besides doesn't it need better signal coverage?
 
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