Once a radio system goes encrypted.....

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RedPenguin

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I've been noticing how many radio systems that are currently encrypted and how many are going encrypted. So my question is, even though this may be a simple question, I figured I would ask it anyway.

Do you think those systems will always stay encrypted and never be non-encrypted? I mean, like say, in 10 years a new radio system comes out, they upgrade, and don't choose encryption the next time. Or for some other reason.

Do you think they eventually every single law enforcement/rescue agency will be encrypted or that that just will not happen?

Also, why does it seem like smaller or at least less known areas are going encrypted, yet many of the huge cities, like NYC, are still back on UHF and can be picked up by almost any scanner old or new.

Is there a reason that smaller cities are just in favor of encryption compared to the bigger cities?

Also, what's with TRS in California. Constantly while looking up CA info, I noticed almost everything seemed to be Motorola II SmartZones.

My main idea for this thread is, do you all feel that eventually we will be completely locked out of law enforcement and never be able to know what they are doing at any certain time?

I'm not saying that law enforcement doesn't need encryption for certain stuff, but it seems like many cities are locking down like they are afraid of everybody and anybody.

I can see stake-outs not being in the plain (non-encryption) but a simple traffic stop, they don't even want us to hear now.

Many times they claim that they don't want the criminals/terrorists to figure out where all the police are. It would take a lot of work just to figure out where all the police where, in a place like NYC or something. I think anyway.

I remember when many agencies seemed to love it when people would listen it, like they thought it was cool that the public even cared about the police, I guess they figure no one supports the police anymore and that no one at all should be listening in.

How does anyone else feel about this subject?

EDIT: Many police agencies want or did want good community relations, but isn't it hurting community relations somewhat if the community can't know what the police are doing, kinda making the community a tad bit suspicious of the police at times. It just seems to me like using encryption would just arouse suspicion and make it like someone's hiding something.

I know it's illegal to hack encryption, but what if someone in the law-enforcement agency, actually put his/her legal radio on the net, without breaking the encryption. Is that also illegal?

Also, if a terrorist really wanted to use the radio to find out where the police are, isn't it somewhat possible for them to get a radio, maybe even by stealing one or maybe breaking the encryption. I don't think terrorists care if it's illegal, they got more to worry about.
 
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n2mdk

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I'll tackle part of this, the main reason places lik NYC don't use encryption, is basically cost. The sheer number of radios in a system like NYC prevents them from switching. There are some units in NYC that have and do use it, I know TARU units can use it as well as other specialized squads. It's much cheaper to use Cell phones or things like Nextel for secure communications in a large city.
 

wlmr

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I know of at least one department that has encryption only on it's "special" talkgroups and is clear on the patrol talkgroups.

They recommend citizens call 911 if they see something happening (suppose it keeps them from having to hand out transmit capable portables) but acknowledge neighborhood blockwatches want to be aware of what's happening in their neighborhood. They drafted a simple handout with the control channel frequencies and talkgroups to listen to. The handout mentions that there are scanners available to purchase that can receive the system. Think they avoided mentioning specific manufacturers and models for a couple reasons - the list would become out of date - and a new manufacturer can't yell about not being listed.

Instead of the old "I have a right to listen to PD" mantra, a new one should replace it that goes something like "I'm a member of a citizen blockwatch and I'm trying to help you keep our streets safer".
 

RodStrong

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Unfortunately for hobbyists, the use of encryption is going to grow dramatically in the coming years, mainly due to it getting easier to encrypt radios, and better technology. One can easily encrypt them when programming them now, wheras many models in the past had to have a special loader to do it with, which was another step in the process, and an additional hassle.
 

wlmr

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RodStrong said:
Unfortunately for hobbyists, the use of encryption is going to grow dramatically in the coming years, mainly due to it getting easier to encrypt radios, and better technology. One can easily encrypt them when programming them now, wheras many models in the past had to have a special loader to do it with, which was another step in the process, and an additional hassle.
For the example I was mentioning, every PD radio is issued with all the talkgroups (encrypted and not) and encryption all set up. The extra step and equipment isn't really much of a hassle at all anymore. The local news media and PD have a good relationship here, that plus the blockwatch angle is the reason things are a mix as they are.

I'm not every going to argue that every department will set things up like this. Would be good for the hobby if it were so.
 

citylink_uk

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I think in the future technology will encrypt itself. Just look at Opensky and TETRA, they are secure (from scanners) mainly due to how they operate rather than them having extra encryption.

Still, every system is different and it may be 10 years before inherent encryption is standard.


====
Rich
====
 

rescue161

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I've seen two systems that used encryption in the past that went back to analog clear systems.

1) Conventional UHF system that used encryption all the time. They went to an 800 MHz system that was in the clear. Some of the officers were pissed off about the switch.

2) Type II UHF system that used encryption and now they don't. I don't know why they switched, but most of the users I talked to when it was in use hated it. I'm not sure when the change over took place, but DES was in full effect when I was there the first time (1994-96) and now everything is in the clear.

It's not only a cost issue, but also a logistical issue as well. You'd have to load all of the radios with a key just to get started. Once it's all in place, OTAR Over The Air Rekeying can be used, but the radios have to be loaded with that first. You get the people that pull the batteries on their radios and lose their key, so they are always asking for a rekey. It's a pain in the butt for the key manager and the dispatchers, especially on larger systems.
 

RodStrong

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rescue161 said:
It's not only a cost issue, but also a logistical issue as well. You'd have to load all of the radios with a key just to get started. You get the people that pull the batteries on their radios and lose their key, so they are always asking for a rekey. It's a pain in the butt for the key manager and the dispatchers, especially on larger systems.
None of this applies anymore with the latest radios. Virtually no extra cost (8 dolllar option on new Motos), and no logistical problems. Everything is done through the programming. No key loaders, nothing.

The only time I've seen users go back to the clear is due to old systems sounding like crap, or an agency thought they were gonna be slick and wound up isolating themselves from their neighbors (and in some cases, their backup).
 

n8emr

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When it was cities and towns paying for encryption, it was an expensive option. NOW with the feds picking up a big hunk of the cost of new radio systems for interoperability encryption is a must have requirement. Add to that encryption modules are much cheaper now than when trunking first started, Radio built from the ground up to support encryption, The radio's are now more affordable and when you have a bigger purse to take from they are much more affordable.
 

iMONITOR

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The cost of encryption doesn't need to be so expensive. Cost could come down significantly as it becomes more common. Radio manufactures are just milking the cash cow.
 

rescue161

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RodStrong said:
None of this applies anymore with the latest radios. Virtually no extra cost (8 dolllar option on new Motos), and no logistical problems. Everything is done through the programming. No key loaders, nothing.

The only time I've seen users go back to the clear is due to old systems sounding like crap, or an agency thought they were gonna be slick and wound up isolating themselves from their neighbors (and in some cases, their backup).
What you're talking about is Software Encryption. Does not apply to hardware UCMs. They are expensive. Software encryption isn't very secure. Radios can be easily read and codeplugs can be copied compromising the agencies encryption. You cannot get a key out of a radios UCM period. Most agencies would be wise to stay away from Software Encryption.
 

mjthomas59

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There are very few things that are scarier than as an LEO being dispatched to a building in the middle of the night with an open door only to arrive and enter the building, turning your own radio down(as they train you to) and still hearing your dispatch and your backup loud and clear. I haven't experienced this yet, but know several officers who have encountered this.

I'm not advocating the use of encryption from a hobbyist standpoint, but as a rookie in the law enforcement field i have mixed feelings.

Encrypting tac channels should be mandated by the FCC for the safety of the officers, both from the thought of the bad guy listening in, and the fact that when you are taking fire the language and remarks tend to get a little(a lot) offensive.

The cost is what keeps (or atleast ues to keep)encryption from becoming main stream, but as more departments are switching to newer systems i think it will become much more prevelant. A majority of departments are still using systems that were setup decades ago and now, as their systems and equipment are beginning to breakdown, new systems aren't optional anymore. If you are spending money to upgrade anyway, you might as well get the best of whatever it out there, knowing that decades will have to pass before another upgrade will be made.

As far as the prevelance of smaller departments using encryption i'd say there are atleast 2 big reasons(if anyone can even concur that it is more prevelant in small towns vs. large cities, i personally don't know for certain either way). Regardless, there are fewer politics and hurdles to jump when trying to get new equipment in a small town. When the money becomes available the dept. requests whatever it feels it needs and it usually gets approved. If the chief wants to get encryption instead of buying tasers, no one on the decision-making committee has enough knowledge to challenge him. Also, in a department where there are only 1 or 2 officers on duty at a time, it becomes more of a safety issue to keep your locations more of a secret. If i know where you backup is i'm going to be more likely to fight, and if i know where both of the cops are, i'm going to head to the other part of town to commit a crime. I've also found it rather frustrating when dealing with the younger age groups(teens who are driving) because they tend to break laws i.e. loiter, or vandalize property, trespass etc. and then once the call goes out on the radio they all scatter before the police arrive. I use to do it to, so i guess turnabout is fair play. I do find it an interesting change in the scanner market demographic.

Regardless, more and more stuff is moving to cell-phones and in-car computers(e-mails and instant messages) to prevent this type of thing from happening, so to say that encryption is a big deal, i dont think it necessarily is. Most "interesting" or "out of the ordinary" things are sent out via cellphone in my area, so encryption is somewhat moot.
 

SCANdal

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Best wishes in your new career.

59,

mjthomas59 said:
Encrypting tac channels should be mandated by the FCC for the safety of the officers, both from the...
Having the Federal Communications Commission mandate something like this opens a very, very dangerous door.

mjthomas59 said:
I've also found it rather frustrating when dealing with the younger age groups(teens who are driving) because they tend to break laws i.e. loiter, or vandalize property, trespass etc. and then once the call goes out on the radio they all scatter before the police arrive.
I presume these drivers are scanner equipped. Don't worry. They may get away from you tonight, and again next weekend, but you'll catch up to them - you'll see. I find the idea of using a scanner to protect you from the long arm of the law amusing.

SCANdal

PS to n8emr,
If you are receiving federal grant monies to build or improve your radio system, there is no mandate to encrypt that system.
 
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zz0468

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RedPenguin said:
Do you think those systems will always stay encrypted and never be non-encrypted? I mean, like say, in 10 years a new radio system comes out, they upgrade, and don't choose encryption the next time. Or for some other reason.
I think there may be some agencies that opt out of encryption after running it awhile, but the general trend will be for more, not less, encryption. As costs for encryption come down, and encrypted voice quality improves, we'll see fewer and fewer agencies opting out once they've used it.

RedPenguin said:
Do you think they eventually every single law enforcement/rescue agency will be encrypted or that that just will not happen?
In what time frame? 10 years? 25 years? 50 years? Eventually, encryption will be the normal way of doing things.

RedPenguin said:
Also, why does it seem like smaller or at least less known areas are going encrypted, yet many of the huge cities, like NYC, are still back on UHF and can be picked up by almost any scanner old or new.
Cost, primarly. A system as large as NYC's is hugely expensive to equip every radio with encryption.

RedPenguin said:
Is there a reason that smaller cities are just in favor of encryption compared to the bigger cities?
There could be a number of reasons. Cost, for one. Perhaps a smaller department has more autonomy in making such decisions.

RedPenguin said:
Also, what's with TRS in California. Constantly while looking up CA info, I noticed almost everything seemed to be Motorola II SmartZones.
Many systems in California are pushing 15-18 years old. Motorola salesmen were very busy in California back then!

RedPenguin said:
My main idea for this thread is, do you all feel that eventually we will be completely locked out of law enforcement and never be able to know what they are doing at any certain time?
Yep. Oh well.

RedPenguin said:
I'm not saying that law enforcement doesn't need encryption for certain stuff, but it seems like many cities are locking down like they are afraid of everybody and anybody.
You need to understand how and why these decisions are being made. Many law enforcement agencies have the *PERCEPTION* that encryption will enhance officer safety. That is the primary, and frequently the only, reason they do it. This perception is based on events like 9/11, and increased activity by organized crime, drug cartels, and gangs that are becoming more and more sophisticated. The cops don't feel that they're just fighting the small time street criminals anymore, and they want every advantage they can get. Encrypted radios are just one of many tools they're moving to.

RedPenguin said:
Many times they claim that they don't want the criminals/terrorists to figure out where all the police are. It would take a lot of work just to figure out where all the police where, in a place like NYC or something. I think anyway.
That would be a trivial task for criminals bent on using that information.

RedPenguin said:
EDIT: Many police agencies want or did want good community relations, but isn't it hurting community relations somewhat if the community can't know what the police are doing, kinda making the community a tad bit suspicious of the police at times. It just seems to me like using encryption would just arouse suspicion and make it like someone's hiding something.
They still want good public relations. That's why many, if not most, police departments make sure the local news media has the ability to listen to dispatch talk groups, even to the point of providing radios, preprogrammed appropriately.

RedPenguin said:
I know it's illegal to hack encryption, but what if someone in the law-enforcement agency, actually put his/her legal radio on the net, without breaking the encryption. Is that also illegal?
Yes, that would probably be illegal. But what would be the point if it wasn't decrypted?

RedPenguin said:
Also, if a terrorist really wanted to use the radio to find out where the police are, isn't it somewhat possible for them to get a radio, maybe even by stealing one or maybe breaking the encryption. I don't think terrorists care if it's illegal, they got more to worry about.
If an encrypted radio falls into the wrong hands, a simple rekeying of the encryption code will solve the problem. As to hacking the encryption, it's good enough that it would be a challenge to a foreign nation's resources, let alone a criminal enterprise. That's not to say it's physically impossible, but highly unlikely. And again, a simple rekeying of the encryption code would render all that hard work useless. Without the right key, the hardware is useless. If a key is compromised, it can be changed.
 
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RodStrong

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zz0468 said:
If an encrypted radio falls into the wrong hands, a simple rekeying of the encryption code will solve the problem. As to hacking the encryption, it's good enough that it would be a challenge to a foreign nation's resources, let alone a criminal enterprise. That's not to say it's physically impossible, but highly unlikely. And again, a simple rekeying of the encryption code would render all that hard work useless. Without the right key, the hardware is useless. If a key is compromised, it can be changed.
Great answers. An easier way to deal with someone having a encrypted radio is to kill the encrypted radio and get it off the system (assuming it's on a system in which this is possible). The likelihood of the bad guy actually having the key on today's modern systems is slim. The higher likelihood is he/she copied a plug somehow and copied the "unknown" key over to another plug.

Regardless of our feelings about being able to hear it or not, encryption is growing and will only become more commonplace. It's easier to do, getting to the point where cost is not an issue, and the technology is getting better.
 

Raccon

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citylink_uk said:
I think in the future technology will encrypt itself. Just look at Opensky and TETRA, they are secure (from scanners) mainly due to how they operate rather than them having extra encryption.
Nope. A non-encrypted TETRA network is as secure as any other digital system, which means it isn't; as soon as someone implements this function into a scanner the "security" you alledge is gone.
Air Interface Encryption is optional but most public safety organizations will chose it for TETRA, and some go even further and use End-to-End encryption, too.
 

RedPenguin

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zz0468 said:
Yes, that would probably be illegal. But what would be the point if it wasn't decrypted?
I of course meant sending it over the net decrypted, I just meant, since it's an offical/authorized radio of the system, the encrpytion was never technically illegal hacked or anything.
 

wlmr

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RodStrong said:
The higher likelihood is he/she copied a plug somehow and copied the "unknown" key over to another plug.
As far as I'm aware, the keys cannot be read back out of the radio and are not in the same area as the code plug.

rescue161 said:
It's not only a cost issue, but also a logistical issue as well. You'd have to load all of the radios with a key just to get started. Once it's all in place, OTAR Over The Air Rekeying can be used, but the radios have to be loaded with that first.
The radios when initially handed out (or when the talkgroups are set as being encrypted) have to be programmed. No real headache at that time to load keys.

rescue161 said:
You get the people that pull the batteries on their radios and lose their key, so they are always asking for a rekey. It's a pain in the butt for the key manager and the dispatchers, especially on larger systems.
Think I've seen recommendations recently that said that it's better to program the radios to never forget the keys, battery removal or whatever. A compromised radio can be dealt with in a number of ways so the need to have the radio forget the keys isn't recommended anymore.
 

RodStrong

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wlmr said:
As far as I'm aware, the keys cannot be read back out of the radio and are not in the same area as the code plug.QUOTE]

Obviously, there are different systems, but some "keys" are in the plugs themselves on certain systems. I won't go any further with this, as we are getting into some stuff that needs to stay in house, so to speak.
 
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