SDS200 Receiving encryption on SDS200

epatchen

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I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to this question, but I figured someone may be able to prove me wrong.
I volunteer at my local fire department, where we have an SDS200 scanner. There's a nearby military base that we're 4th alarm for (hopefully that never happens, but we have to be ready anyway). The military base uses encryption, and getting the encryption key won't be a problem for us.
Is there any way to decrypt traffic with that scanner? I assume there must be an aftermarket firmware that would allow it, or a computer software we can run the audio through in order to decrypt it. If you have any information on that I'd appreciate hearing it. Static and chirping isn't too useful if it can't be decrypted.

Thanks in advance,
Ethan
 

GTR8000

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I assume there must be an aftermarket firmware that would allow it
Incorrect assumption...no scanner has the ability to decode encryption, there is no magic firmware to do so.

As @KevinC mentions, the Unication G series is capable of decoding AES, which should be the algorithm Fort Drum is using. Since that system is in the 380 MHz block, you'll need a G2 in the UHF 380-430 bandsplit. There's not much sense in buying a dual-band Unication like the G5, as there are no 700/800 MHz systems nearby.
 

n1chu

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If the military allows it, ask them to provide a radio for the firehouse. The FD commander probably has some say when it comes to how much importance they place on encryption in his dept (as opposed to the security or admin depts) if he can allow its use by others. Yes, they have their rules but the rules are allowed to be interpreted differently in certain situations. The Air Guard base where I live is not encrypted but they allowed the town FD to join them on their UHF repeaterized system, saving a bundle for the town.
 

ofd8001

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Yeah, I wouldn't know how to enter an encryption key in a scanner if it was given to me. Typically radios with encryption may require extra hardware, so a scanner probably would too. Then there is an issue with FCC acceptance (being able to receive encrypted).

I suggest you have your "upper command" at the fire department communicate with the upper command at the military base fire department to discuss communications during "the big one". This is something that has been done for Fort Knox and surrounding departments. (There is a patched talkgroup with local public safety system.)

In reality, even if you had something to receive the military FD at the fire station, it won't help you know what is going on after you leave the station. (Fort Knox FD is clear/not encrypted BTW)
 

GlobalNorth

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The Federal government doesn't hand out encryption keys to other non-Federal agencies, nor the commo gear that would need such a key to operate.

At most, you might get access to a radio that has unsecured / in the clear interoperability with their alarm room.
 

danesgs

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Without having to jump through hoops, why couldn't the MIL FD have a unencrypted fire channel you could monitor or simply a software patch that goes to unencrypted if a 4 alarm is sent, would make things less expensive all around. I also think their radio techs could figure out something on the base for that. Just an IMO but base security should not being encrpyting their fire channels during a 4 alarm fire where they need offsite help.
 

ko6jw_2

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Here in Santa Barbara County we have the Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is a sizable chunk of land. Fires start on the base and spread into the county area and vice versa. Also vehicle accidents on roads bordering the base. The County Fire Department does not talk on the AF fire frequencies. Rather, the base fire units talk on the county fire frequencies as well as USFS etc. for mutual aid. There is no encryption issue because we don't use the federal frequencies.

In the case of the present question it sounds like some mutual aid agreement is needed. It is ridiculous to suggest that a scanner should be the primary means of receiving alarms for the base. Probably not the case and you just want to stay informed. Not possible unless the military wants to loan you a radio. Not likely.

Fires that are purely the responsibility of Vandenberg are usually kept a "secret" by the base. Vague press releases are issued after the fact with little information. Mutual aid units responding onto the base are restricted as to where they can go when a fire is near sensitive launch areas.

We also have the Lompoc Federal Prison with its own fire department on other federal frequencies.
 

ko6jw_2

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Off topic, @ko6jw_2 , is Lompoc FBOP using P25 or Motorola Type II?
Sorry, out of range here and have little interest. I can ask some fellow hams in Lompoc if they know. My guess would be P25. Since they switch to county frequencies, there is little need to monitor them directly.
 

drdispatch

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...Is there any way to decrypt traffic with that scanner? I assume there must be an aftermarket firmware that would allow it, or a computer software we can run the audio through in order to decrypt it. If you have any information on that I'd appreciate hearing it...
1) Short answer: No.
2) It's a violation of federal law to possess any device/equipment/software that decodes encryption.

If your chief can go through official channels and get the encryption key or one of their radios, you'd be best off to go that route. If they value your help they should, in the interest of interoperability, oblige. You've got nothing to lose by asking.
 

KevinC

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2) It's a violation of federal law to possess any device/equipment/software that decodes encryption.
Are you sure about that? That would make the Unication G-series illegal...as well as all my Motorola radios...and a ton of other radios.

Maybe you are referring to actually decoding it, not just being capable of decoding it. :unsure:
 

drdispatch

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Are you sure about that? That would make the Unication G-series illegal...as well as all my Motorola radios...and a ton of other radios.

Maybe you are referring to actually decoding it, not just being capable of decoding it. :unsure:
Yes, my bad. It it illegal to actually decode the encryption, unless of course you are an authorized user of the system in question.
 
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