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Portable Radio Transmitting on Random Talkgroups???

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WuLabsWuTecH

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So the other day, I was working a shift when my partner was in the back of the squad and I was driving. His walkie was acting up and asked for me to hand him mine so I did and thought nothing more of it--our radios act up from time to time. After we dropped off the patient, his radio seemed to be working fine again on the next call though he had to retransmit once to the hospital since they didn't get one of his transmissions. Once again, nothing abnormal. On the third run, his radio basically quit working for all intents and purposes. He could hear other people's transmissions but no one (including my radio) could hear his transmissions.

As we loaded up the patient, I got a call on my radio asking if I could phone call the dispatcher. I replied that we were in the middle of patient care so she just asked me over the air for my partner's radio number. We gave the dispatcher the info and the dispatcher said she saw some issues with it and was shutting it down remotely and advised us to be aware that it would no longer work. When we marked at the hospital, I got a private call on my radio to give my supervisor a call as soon as we were done with patient care. And this is where the fiasco blew up.

I was asked to return to the station out of service and when we got back, there were a lot of people wearing a lot of brass waiting for us. It turns out, while my partner could hear everything on his radio, he was transmitting on random talkgroups. There was a sheriff's operation going on at the same time, and his radio reports and other transmissions were showing up on their tactical channels and the police dispatch channel.. Which one he was on at any given moment seemingly random. I had never met a lot of the brass who were there that day, but our station LT was also called back and trying to make the brass less angry.

The only thing different that we did that day was that when he grabbed his radio in the morning during truck check, he didn't check the battery level and only later realized it was low when a run came in. So he put his issued radio back on the charger and grabbed one of the spares to save time rather than take off the clip and change out the battery. That's why dispatch wanted his radio number--all of our radios are numbered in a way that makes them identifiable, so they saw that the radio transmitting randomly was the spare but had no idea who had the spare.

So my question for the experts on this forum is: what the heck happened? Granted this sheriff's operation wasn't some extremely dangerous operation, but had it been, this could cause HUGE issues. I assume this is why the brass was so upset. Had a deputy gone down and been calling for help, my partner could have been walking on top of him with a hospital report and have no idea he was doing it! I had no idea what was going on, but has anyone heard of something like this happening? They went through his radio, and saw that he didn't even have the sheriff's channels programmed in (as it should, we only have one police dispatch channel on ours--the tac channels and such are not on the fire radios).

I'm also not sure what they thought asking us 20 questions was going to get them. I certainly didn't know anything about this and most of my answers to their questions was, "I have no idea, sir." The guys from the sheriff's comm office wanted my LT to write up my partner and for him to face disciplinary action for not signing out the radio properly but my LT had our backs on this one and told them that the he used the backup exactly as they are intended to be used and our policies state that if a radio fails, he was allowed to grab one and fill out the paperwork later.

It was a grand mess though, but I'm wondering if anyone has any idea what might have been going on? We test the backup radios weekly, but the last time it was signed out to be used was nearly 6 months ago. The radio doesn't get used very often so it's not like someone dropped it too many times! What could have possibly happened to cause this mess?
 

902

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So the other day, I was working a shift when my partner was in the back of the squad and I was driving. His walkie was acting up and asked for me to hand him mine so I did and thought nothing more of it--our radios act up from time to time. After we dropped off the patient, his radio seemed to be working fine again on the next call though he had to retransmit once to the hospital since they didn't get one of his transmissions. Once again, nothing abnormal. On the third run, his radio basically quit working for all intents and purposes. He could hear other people's transmissions but no one (including my radio) could hear his transmissions.

As we loaded up the patient, I got a call on my radio asking if I could phone call the dispatcher. I replied that we were in the middle of patient care so she just asked me over the air for my partner's radio number. We gave the dispatcher the info and the dispatcher said she saw some issues with it and was shutting it down remotely and advised us to be aware that it would no longer work. When we marked at the hospital, I got a private call on my radio to give my supervisor a call as soon as we were done with patient care. And this is where the fiasco blew up.

I was asked to return to the station out of service and when we got back, there were a lot of people wearing a lot of brass waiting for us. It turns out, while my partner could hear everything on his radio, he was transmitting on random talkgroups. There was a sheriff's operation going on at the same time, and his radio reports and other transmissions were showing up on their tactical channels and the police dispatch channel.. Which one he was on at any given moment seemingly random. I had never met a lot of the brass who were there that day, but our station LT was also called back and trying to make the brass less angry.

The only thing different that we did that day was that when he grabbed his radio in the morning during truck check, he didn't check the battery level and only later realized it was low when a run came in. So he put his issued radio back on the charger and grabbed one of the spares to save time rather than take off the clip and change out the battery. That's why dispatch wanted his radio number--all of our radios are numbered in a way that makes them identifiable, so they saw that the radio transmitting randomly was the spare but had no idea who had the spare.

So my question for the experts on this forum is: what the heck happened? Granted this sheriff's operation wasn't some extremely dangerous operation, but had it been, this could cause HUGE issues. I assume this is why the brass was so upset. Had a deputy gone down and been calling for help, my partner could have been walking on top of him with a hospital report and have no idea he was doing it! I had no idea what was going on, but has anyone heard of something like this happening? They went through his radio, and saw that he didn't even have the sheriff's channels programmed in (as it should, we only have one police dispatch channel on ours--the tac channels and such are not on the fire radios).

I'm also not sure what they thought asking us 20 questions was going to get them. I certainly didn't know anything about this and most of my answers to their questions was, "I have no idea, sir." The guys from the sheriff's comm office wanted my LT to write up my partner and for him to face disciplinary action for not signing out the radio properly but my LT had our backs on this one and told them that the he used the backup exactly as they are intended to be used and our policies state that if a radio fails, he was allowed to grab one and fill out the paperwork later.

It was a grand mess though, but I'm wondering if anyone has any idea what might have been going on? We test the backup radios weekly, but the last time it was signed out to be used was nearly 6 months ago. The radio doesn't get used very often so it's not like someone dropped it too many times! What could have possibly happened to cause this mess?
Considering the billions, if not trillions of transmissions that are made in collective trunked radio systems without failure, trunking protocols are usually very reliable. If I were presented with this situation, the first thing I would do is go into the system manager's utilities during the call and see if there were any problems or interference during those events. The next thing is I would look at is whether the portable is operating in spec. And, finally, I would look at the system to see if there are any intermod or other funky issues between the channels that might cause the radio to hang on to a channel and not release during a message trunking event. The fact that the system was busy with traffic would exacerbate a situation like that.

It could be something completely different, too. This one is a challenge. They'd be rightly concerned about why one radio would be doing this as opposed to another - but it's a dangerous thing when collar gold gets together to try to work out a radio issue, as most brass do not understand what a radio is, let alone how it works.

You didn't mention if the system was analog or digital, and what frequency band it was operating on. Also, how far away from the closest site were you both at the time of the interference?
 

phillydjdan

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While certainly a stretch, it could be possible that the spare had been cloned or someone programmed that same radio id number and their radio is affiliating with the other channels because they are listening to said channels.
 

RADIOSHOP

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Duplicate ID’s

If this is a true P25 trunk system and if the Radio ID is Cloned this could happen. We have Experienced it on P25 trunk systems we maintain. We have had Radios Transmitting and receiving on talkgroups that were not programmed in the radio because they had the same ID of a active radio on the system that did.
 

IAmSixNine

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If this is a true P25 trunk system and if the Radio ID is Cloned this could happen. We have Experienced it on P25 trunk systems we maintain. We have had Radios Transmitting and receiving on talkgroups that were not programmed in the radio because they had the same ID of a active radio on the system that did.
That seems like a flaw in the system to me. Being able to TX on an TG that is not in the radio based on the radios ID only being in use somewhere else on the system.
I would think the fine folks at Motorola would require the ID and TG to be authenticated / approved first before TX can be allowed.
 

esfd283

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That seems like a flaw in the system to me. Being able to TX on an TG that is not in the radio based on the radios ID only being in use somewhere else on the system.
I would think the fine folks at Motorola would require the ID and TG to be authenticated / approved first before TX can be allowed.


Sounds like a ghosted radio as mentioned above. Same ID in two radios. With a new release of their software I believe Motorola will have authentication of not only the Radio ID and the Serial #. This will help eliminate this. With current configurations there is nothing to stop a subscriber unit to have the same ID. It usually happens either by typing error or when swapping out old for new radios.
 

phillydjdan

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It also happens if an unauthorized user chooses to program a duplicate ID into their radio to scan the system like a scanner. Of course, if it's affiliating, they didn't do it right and are violating the law in most cases. It sounds like the powers that be already knew this, thus the large amount of "brass" waiting for them. They wanted to know what these two guys knew about it. Rest assured, if the admins care, they will track down the rogue radio.
 

chrismol1

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Certainly sounds as everyone else said its an unauthorized user you could say , a remote second operator of a legitimate radio on system who broke into the system. its unfortunate to hear you were interrogated and actually common this crap happens all over usually starts with a legitimate public safety employee with a radio hobby takes their radio home to add channels and this can be the result of unauthorized tampering of a radio computer system
 

n5ims

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And this is why many of us are hard on folks that want to use a Motorola (or other commercial transceiver) as their scanner so they can be cool or think it will simply work better than the typical scanner. Can that be done? Yes. Are most of them correctly programmed so they never interfere with normal system operation? Probably not.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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To answer some background, this is an 800 analog system. I do not know where the towers are.

So a bit of an update. I wasn't interrogated anymore, but it was indeed unfortunate that they pulled us off the line and questioned us since I don't think there was anything we could do at the user level to cause this. Based on what has happened in the past couple of weeks, I am guessing the duplicated radio ID is the problem and as someone already mentioned, it might have been the reason there were a lot of people waiting for us to see if we were the ones that did it. Of course that topic never even came up during our conversation so who knows what they were thinking.


They went through all of our radios (mobiles and portables) at the station to check to see that all were programmed correctly and then went through our old decommissioned radios to ensure that they were decommissioned correctly (I do remember when we got these new XTS 5000 and 2500s that they were replacing other radios).

Next, the radios for our truck and it's associated portables have been reprogrammed using a temporary ID that based on the numbering system, is for a station that doesn't exist.

-------
Everything above that line is what I know for sure. Everything below this line is based on what our LT has heard, but the top brass are being being very quiet about the situation.

-LT said that he understands that they were trying to figure out which radio is duplicated and by putting the Medic on a different "station" they can look for any radios with the original ID and see what's going on with them.
-He also mentioned that they can just remotely turn off the radio and put everyone back to what we should be, numbers-wise, but for some reason they are not.
-Based on his limited knowledge of radio systems, he thinks the easiest way to figure it out would be to remotely turn off the radio, and then see who complains that their radio isn't working to figure out which one got programmed incorrectly. Do it at shift change if you are worried about an officer losing is radio at a critical moment.
-He also hears that the tactical team also had all of the radios checked and they were all properly set.
----------

So what now? This is way above my paygrade, but it's interesting to me to see what might be going on.

Someone mentioned a cloned radio. If that were the case, wouldn't it have the exact same Talkgroups as my radio? Since it would be a clone, how could they transmit on TGs that my partner didn't have? I can see why it would go undetected for a long time, say, if the sheriff's tactical team had the same radio id as our backup, since we don't use the backup that often, but wouldn't the guy carrying that radio realize that he was missing all of his channels? Unless it's also that guy's backup radio.

And does that mean that that bank of radio numbers is now unusable permanently or at least until the other radio is found? Because knowing how our brass like to find 10 million dollar solutions to $10 problems, I can see them reprogramming all of our radios and renumbering our station and repainting the trucks...

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It also happens if an unauthorized user chooses to program a duplicate ID into their radio to scan the system like a scanner. Of course, if it's affiliating, they didn't do it right and are violating the law in most cases. It sounds like the powers that be already knew this, thus the large amount of "brass" waiting for them. They wanted to know what these two guys knew about it. Rest assured, if the admins care, they will track down the rogue radio.
Are you thinking that the brass might be thinking we did something to cause this? I guess it's possible for us to have let our radio sitting on a counter in the hospital or something like that, but it would only be for a few minutes at a time when we're restocking or decontaminating equipment. Would that be long enough for someone to take our radio, clone it, and put it back? They seem to really like writing people up for things related to this incident so I wouldn't put it past them to hand out a reprimand for leaving equipment unattended even if it was in a secure area...
 

FFPM571

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For someone to clone a radio they would have to read the radio using a laptop and cable and it takes a few minutes to read it.. It is probably an employee or someone with some knowlege of the system to clone a radio or knows the ID# to make a duplicate..
 

phillydjdan

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The brass could very well suspect you guys had a hand in it. In most cases, the person who cloned the ID did it from a buddy's legit radio. In recent times, though, cloning has become easier and more random due to the user simply getting the radio ID from a newer scanner that displays that info. It does not mean both radios have to have all the same channels. Once you duplicate the ID, you can change any other parameter in the radio to anything you want. If they then sit on a tactical channel, your radio will also sit on that channel.

They are likely changing IDs so they can track this rogue radio's activity in order to catch him. Why just brick a radio when you can catch the perp and lock him up for doing it?
 

SCPD

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I agree about the cloned RID. Those ID's can be revealed on some scanners or trunking monitoring software. The person just chose a RID that showed up and bingo. If they nuked the radio, hopefully it knocked out the cloned radio and it's a brick now. I bet that Medic felt bad for something that was out of his control.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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What you guys say make sense in regards to a duplicate radio ID. All of the radios in the county are numbered in a very predictable fashion. That theory makes more sense to me than someone grabbing a radio while we weren't watching and then putting it back. If you know the numbering scheme, you know which ones are spares and would probably choose one of those since they aren't used very often.

I still don't exactly understand the motivation for using a duplicate radio ID instead of creating one that is not used. Unless this guy was purposely trying to interfere with the Sheriff's operation and used one of our Radio IDs to mask his identity? If so, hopefully he goes away for a long time. Is it possible to catch someone that does this?

And more importantly, how does one radio take priority over the other? So let's say my radio number is 123456 and someone else also sets up a radio with 123456. Why is it that if he sits on PD Tac1, and I sit on EMS Tac1 when I transmit it goes over PD Tac1 and not EMS Tac1? What gives his radio priority over mine? And in an emergency situation, would hitting my emergency banner switch control back to my radio so I could actually talk on it?
 

n5ims

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I still don't exactly understand the motivation for using a duplicate radio ID instead of creating one that is not used. Unless this guy was purposely trying to interfere with the Sheriff's operation and used one of our Radio IDs to mask his identity? If so, hopefully he goes away for a long time. Is it possible to catch someone that does this?
Part of the motivation is that a cloned ID is known to be allowed on the system while a new unique one may not be. Basically the system can be told that IDs 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,&9 are good and ignore the rest. In my example, ID 5 may have been stolen so they monitor closely for that ID to try and trace it for recovery. Using that ID may be really bad for you. Using ID 10 may look like a good idea, but when you attempt to use that radio it could be rejected by the system and its use may be restricted or prevented.

Using a cloned ID, they may catch it if they monitor the logs closely. For example, if ID #9 shows up on talkgroup 1 where it remains for 20 minutes and 15 minutes after #9 first shows up another request for system access using ID #9 shows up it may indicate a cloned ID. Be aware that my examples are very simplistic but help explain things without getting much more complex.

And more importantly, how does one radio take priority over the other? So let's say my radio number is 123456 and someone else also sets up a radio with 123456. Why is it that if he sits on PD Tac1, and I sit on EMS Tac1 when I transmit it goes over PD Tac1 and not EMS Tac1? What gives his radio priority over mine? And in an emergency situation, would hitting my emergency banner switch control back to my radio so I could actually talk on it?
While there may be a priority on a system for access (e.g. the PD radios may get access while the sewer dept radios must wait when the system is full), this would be based on the ID so a cloned radio would have the same priority. What happens would be the radio that was used last would have control. If ID #9 (main) was on "Tac 1" and later ID #9 (clone) switched to "Car 2 car", if either radio transmitted it may go out over "Car 2 car". If either radio switched to "PD DIsp", both radios may switch there. Again, this is simplistic, but hopefully explains what may go on.
 

phillydjdan

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The reason someone chooses an ID that's in use is because one cannot just pick an ID number and use it. System administrators have lists of specific IDs that are authorized, and those are enabled in the system, any other ID gets denied if it tries to affiliate (and in some cases can be bricked).

As for the channel taking priority, it isn't priority, per se. What happens is the radio affiliates with the channel it has selected. Each time you switch channels on your radio, your radio tells the system what channel you have switched to and which one you switched from. If you are sitting on "fire channel 1" and the cloned radio switches channels over to "police tac 3", that radio ID now affiliates with "police tac 3" and basically says "here I am, let me on here". So when you press your PTT button, the radio puts out the call over "police tac 3" instead of "fire channel 2". If the cloned radio was sitting on "police tac 3" and you switched channels on your radio to "fire channel 1", that radio ID would then affiliate with "fire channel 1" and say "here I am". Hopefully that wasn't Chinese to you lol
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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That actually makes perfect sense to me. So hopefully this will never happen again, but theoretically, does this mean that I could get "control" of my radio back by just flipping back and forth between a couple of channels before transmitting? I have no idea how I would know my radio got cloned, but assuming I did, could I just flip from Fire1 to Fire2 and then back to Fire1 before transmitting?

Also, I was under the impression that in order for a radio to get access to an 800 system, that the radio would need both a username (the radio ID) AND a password. I know for my volunteer department that uses conventional Hi-Band, we don't need all of that fancy stuff, but I thought you essentially needed to "log on" to a trunked system before you could talk on it?
 

phillydjdan

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Nope, all you need is the system ID and connect tone (both of which are listed in the system's RR database entry), the system key (which can be made easily using a DOS based app searchable on Google) and then a radio ID number. The radio sends the ID to the system and the system either permits it or rejects it. No password required.

As for switching channels, I can't confirm that works, but I imagine it would.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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I'm also wondering if they are letting this guy just "have" the radio number at this point? If they kick him off and block his radio, won't he just be able to do the same thing again with a different radio number? (Unless the block is by serial number). It's a poor precedent, but it may just be better to let him have the radio number than to block him and have him come back at some other unpredictable time.

Of course that could be just as dangerous--I remember when we had a looney that called over the radio to pretend to be a batallion chief during an evacuation for a working fire and nearly cost a lot of kids their lives...
 

n5ims

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I'm also wondering if they are letting this guy just "have" the radio number at this point? If they kick him off and block his radio, won't he just be able to do the same thing again with a different radio number? (Unless the block is by serial number). It's a poor precedent, but it may just be better to let him have the radio number than to block him and have him come back at some other unpredictable time.

Of course that could be just as dangerous--I remember when we had a looney that called over the radio to pretend to be a batallion chief during an evacuation for a working fire and nearly cost a lot of kids their lives...
They can send out a command to "kill" a radio. That radio will then be useless until it is reset by a trip to Motorola where they'll need authorization from the agency that killed it to revive it. Without that, it will be useless. This is generally called "bricking" a radio since it turns that nice expensive radio into not much more than a brick.
 
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