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Police Encrypt Radios To Tune Out Public 242

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-our-ears-only dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Police departments around the country are moving to shield their radio communications from the public as cheap, user-friendly technology has made it easy for anyone to use handheld devices to keep tabs on officers responding to crimes and although law enforcement officials say they want to keep criminals from using officers' internal chatter to evade them, journalists and neighborhood watchdogs say open communications ensures that the public receives information as quickly as possible that can be vital to their safety. 'Whereas listeners used to be tied to stationary scanners, new technology has allowed people — and especially criminals — to listen to police communications on a smartphone from anywhere,' says DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier who says that a group of burglars who police believe were following radio communications on their smartphones pulled off more than a dozen crimes before ultimately being arrested. But encryption also makes it harder for neighboring jurisdictions to communicate in times of emergency. 'The 9/11 commission concluded America's number one vulnerability during the attacks was the lack of interoperability communications,' writes Vernon Herron, 'I spoke to several first responders who were concerned that their efforts to respond and assist at the Pentagon after the attacks were hampered by the lack of interoperability with neighboring jurisdictions.'"
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Police Encrypt Radios To Tune Out Public

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:25PM (#38151854)

    You can tune me out from monitoring your radio, but you can't tune out my love.

    • by ehrichweiss (706417) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:59PM (#38152286)

      Most of the police departments are moving to APCO P25 which just so happens to be extremely vulnerable to a simple hack...

      http://hackaday.com/2011/08/18/project-25-digital-radios-law-enforcemnet-grade-vulnerable-to-the-im-me/ [hackaday.com]

  • Scanner Proof... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mister Transistor (259842) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:28PM (#38151886) Journal

    Encryption also makes the conversations unavailable to portable scanners, as well as the internet audio feeds to smartphones. These have been around a lot longer. It is just the recent upsurge in people using the scanner audio streaming apps that is feeding this latest FUD. In my state there is a concerted statewide effort to get all local municipalities on the state-wide system, which can very easily use encryption if the local agency wants to. This is aimed at "fixing" interoperability by having everyone on the same system using the same keys.

    • by TWX (665546)

      Wouldn't it make more sense to have levels? Assuming that there's enough bandwidth for city-level, county-level, state-level, and federal law enforcement on a given piece of spectrum in a given area, wouldn't it just make sense for each municipality to have their own that can't be readily listened in on by others, but also be able to switch, with different credentials, to different encryption that could be read by other agencies? Or maybe to have one bit of spectrum and encryption for individual cities an

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:39PM (#38152026) Homepage

        Wouldn't it make more sense to have levels? Assuming that there's enough bandwidth for city-level, county-level, state-level, and federal law enforcement on a given piece of spectrum in a given area, wouldn't it just make sense for each municipality to have their own that can't be readily listened in on by others, but also be able to switch, with different credentials, to different encryption that could be read by other agencies? Or maybe to have one bit of spectrum and encryption for individual cities and agencies, and one for metro areas?

        Or just have 'clear' channels. Your multi agency command and control channels SHOULD NOT be encrypted. That's for use in a disaster when you want everybody on the same page. Sure, encrypt the police channels - that is a reasonable thing to do to keep perverts^Hperps from being one jump ahead of the police. Everything else, not so much.

      • Re:Scanner Proof... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mister Transistor (259842) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:48PM (#38152118) Journal

        They do, sort of. Trunked radio systems use "talkgroups" which are isolated group-call (multicast) messages aimed at specific radios. You can send a voice "message" (transmission) to a specific radio if needed, but normal transmission go to the entire talkgroup. You would have Fire on one, Police dispatch on one, detectives on one, etc. That way they normally only get traffic they are interested in, but in an emergency they would all switch to a "city-wide" talkgroup so everone would hear everything. They also can reserve the talkgroups to be forced encryption or forced non-encrypted (clear) in case someone doesn't have the proper keys.

        There are also common clear channels reserved for interoperability nation-wide in the 800 MHz band just in case someone outside the state needs to join in the fun.

    • That's great, which means someone will leak a key (or it will get cracked, because I doubt the can change often if an entire state uses it), and police will be more candid while base station scanners will stream decrypted audio streams of the entire state online. All it takes is one police radio with the correct key to crack the entire system.

      As a network administrator, getting people to not write their VPN passwords on a post it or text file on their desktop is hard. I doubt an entire state of law enforce

      • Actually, they can re-key the radios over-the-air. That removes the requirement that everyone bring in their radios once a week/month/year to get them re-keyed to the latest keyset. If there is a stolen radio, first they send it a "remote monitor" command to listen in without the radio indicating it is transmitting (!) or to try to home in on it with a doppler (Lo-Jack) direction finder. If that fails, then they send it a "stun" command, which kills the radio until it is sent back to the factory. Finall

  • Took long enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:28PM (#38151890)

    I get that there are probably huge cost and scale issues, but it has always baffled me that police communications are still mostly unencrypted as complex encryption technology has gotten cheaper and cheaper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SeanDS (1039000)

      I get that there are probably huge cost and scale issues, but it has always baffled me that police communications are still mostly unencrypted as complex encryption technology has gotten cheaper and cheaper.

      Yes, until I saw this article I thought the police would have been encrypting this kind of stuff for years.

    • Re:Took long enough (Score:5, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:33PM (#38151950) Homepage Journal

      Not a radio operator are you? Digital systems don't work so well with interference or weak signals. On a digital system you'd end up with garbage or silence where without the cipher and digital codec, you might actually be able to hear them through the noise. So, there is a distinct advantage to open analog.

      That said, encryption certainly has it's place. Squad-level tactical circuits for SWAT, for example.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        quick note: i'm talking about phone operation. data is digital by definition, I know, but the analog transmission systems suck as MFSK or PSK tend to be quite robust as well.

        • Voice IS data. The encryption systems necessarily digitize the voice using a vocoder, then scramble the bitstream. The only "encryption" for analog signals is frequency-inversion ("donald duck" sounding type old-school "scramblers").

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            Er, no.... on my own equipment my voice drives the phase modulator directly. At no point is it digital, though it DOES use transistor amplifiers, digital controls, and a digital synthesizer to drive the oscillators. Unless you're arging that information is data, and it is. But in the context I'm talking about, we mean Phone vs Data - analog audio vs text.

            Donald duck is what you hear when you are listening to the wrong sideband, or are "off center" of the sideband. That's not anything to do with scramblers,

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              Er, no.... on my own equipment my voice drives the phase modulator directly. At no point is it digital,

              And thus you are not using a digital radio system. And thus you will not have available the modern digital encryption methods.

              Modern encryption uses modern algorythms on the digital data produced by digitizing the voice analog signal. The voice becomes data upon which DES or AES or whatever encoding is applied.

              Donald duck is what you hear when you are listening to the wrong sideband, or are "off center" of the sideband. That's not anything to do with scramblers,

              Yes, actually, it is. In a frequency-inversion analog system, you mix the voice signal with another fixed frequency, inverting the frequency content of the voice. E.g., a 3kHz tone in voice will mo

              • by X0563511 (793323)

                I stand corrected and a bit smarter now. Thanks :)

                Sounds like you're just describing a mixer in a superhet - same idea, different purpose.

      • Digital systems don't work so well with interference or weak signals

        Well, maybe for voice. For text, we have PSK31 and other system that can tolerate a very low SNR. Not that this helps the police much.

    • Actually no. Almost all the modern digital radios have a simple software encryption built-in. This makes it trivial to just turn on to use it. If a higher degree of security is required, then a hardware encryption board can be added as an option to most of the newer radios, that make them secure for even government non-classified traffic (lowest level of security but still encrypted). Anyway, since it is so easy and no extra cost to have basic encryption a lot of agencies are using it by default nowaday

    • by sribe (304414)

      I get that there are probably huge cost and scale issues, but it has always baffled me that police communications are still mostly unencrypted...

      They're mostly analog still... Which is part of the problem with coordinating across jurisdictions. An analog channel carries only 1 conversation at a time; different jurisdictions--even different departments within a single jurisdiction--use different channels, with dispatchers relaying messages...

  • Well this of course could easily be solved by national standards dictated from Washington tied to various financial incentives. We couldn't do that during the Bush administration because "we don't want the government picking winners and losers" so instead we had 11 years of no progress. Now we could just pick a good solution and go with it.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Yea, because Washington totally isn't already [wikipedia.org] on the encryption bandwagon...

    • Re:reason 328 (Score:4, Informative)

      by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:13PM (#38152478)

      Well this of course could easily be solved by national standards dictated from Washington tied to various financial incentives. We couldn't do that during the Bush administration because "we don't want the government picking winners and losers" so instead we had 11 years of no progress. Now we could just pick a good solution and go with it.

      And that is, of course, why the APCO P25 digital standard wasn't developed during the Bush years and didn't become a standard required by federal funding agencies for new purchases.

      And that is why, in this modern, standards-friendly administration, we are now adding MotoTrbo and Tetra as alternative (non-interoperable) digital standards.

      This issue is not new, and it is not surprising. Not to anyone who actually has to deal with it. Everyone talks about "interoperability" and how great it is, but then we push for ever-fancier technology which is inherantly NOT interoperable, or interoperable only at a huge price.

      For example, moving from 150MHz VHF to 700MHz. Under 150MHz VHF analog (or even digital) I can bring MY radio to an incident, and as long as I have the right frequency and digital "squelch" programmed in, I can participate. With 700MHz, my radio might not even have the right digital format, and it will not talk to the existing system because the system will lock it out. Not to mention that if I want to talk to my people there, I will have to have my 150MHz radio, and then a 700MHz radio to talk to other people. Two radios.

      Yes, there is movement towards multi-band public service radios, but that's the "huge price" I'm referring to. A digital single-band radio will run about $1500 for a reasonable version. A multi-band starts at $5k and goes up. That's not to say a high-feature single band is cheap -- the latest handhelds CAP distributed are list price $4500 or more.

      Interoperability used to mean "everyone can talk to each other" directly. Now it means "everyone might be able to find someone they can talk to that can also talk to someone else", or at best, "someone will have a portable linking system that will link two systems together." It's more of a nightmare now than it was ten years ago.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        this system works well to funnel ever larger quantities of municipal state and federal money to particular providers of bribes^W campaign contributions
      • by jbolden (176878)

        First off thank you for the detailed and knowledgeable response to my rant. Thank you for elevating the conversation.

        Everyone talks about "interoperability" and how great it is, but then we push for ever-fancier technology which is inherantly NOT interoperable, or interoperable only at a huge price.

        I understand that's a standard IT problem in all areas. How to integrate old technology into new systems. It is made much easier if a central agency can effectively control what happens. It is made much

  • I figured the easiest way to get a police scanner on your phone would be to build some fancy remote control / audio streaming setup...you mean there was an easy way to get local police scanner access on your phone?

    • by Known Nutter (988758) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:47PM (#38152102)

      Yes, there's an app for that.

      Basically, you've got it right. Folks around the world have scanners plugged into streaming software on their computers which stream up to a centralized service. RadioReference.com serves up the majority of these feeds. RR provides a API whereby any app developer can access the streams.... thus there are many apps on all platforms for monitoring public safety agencies in most areas of the US.

      Part of the argument against streaming police radio feeds in this way is obvious. It provides the bad guys a quick and easy way to listen in, where in the past you had to purchase a scanner or two, know how to use it, etc. etc... accordingly, some in the scanning community have advocated for a delay built into the stream (5-15 minutes, say) in an effort to appease law enforcement into not going encrypted. I think the damage is done though as more and more agencies continue to go digital/encrypted, mostly on the back of grants funded by federal US tax dollars.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Check this out [w4ax.com] - basically something like that, but without all the extra goodies and flexibility? :)

  • Generally speaking, why not use a solution where you can opt-in or out of the encryption? There can be a a clear radio channel that all emergency responders in a jurisdiction can broadcast to unencrypted to, and encrypted ones when that's deemed necessary. I'm not sure where I stand on the encryption. Honestly, encryption might work if it was was weak enough where you could brute force after a certain period of time. While there are abuses for closed communication of LEO's, there are plenty of channels where that could occur. If a scrambled signal was available that would be encrypted long enough to not let burgulars know the cops were coming, but would show weeks later that the cops planted those drugs on the suspect, that seems like a good balance.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      From what I've heard on the air, it's usually just like you said - long distance nonsensitive communication tends to be open (for a variety of reasons) but the tactical frequencies usually are (and should be) encrypted.

      Still, a smart criminal will know what that signal sounds like, and know that hearing that in close proximity is bad news.

      • Still, a smart criminal will know what that signal sounds like, and know that hearing that in close proximity is bad news.

        BOO! I'm a repeater. And I'm right next to you. Signal strength (as determined by radio audio output) isn't a very sensitive discriminator of distance.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Well, true enough. Do they use repeaters for those short range tactical radios?

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            oh also: you'd also be able to figure out if that's in play just by 'looking' to either side of the signal. (input and output frequencies are usually separated). You can tell simplex from repeater usage even without the actual 'data' being intelligible.

          • The handheld radio is still going to transmit on low power to the repeater. The input/output frequency pair information of the repeaters is public knowledge. Therefore, if you simply scan the INPUT frequency(ies) of the repeater(s) and you pick up signal, that means you have a mobile or portable radio in your area (say within 1/4 mile or so, depending on the position of your receiver).
            • by X0563511 (793323)

              Yep, I replied to myself. I realized that too late to include it in what you just replied to. Even if you don't know the exact signals, you can watch a spectrum analyzer and just look for signal pairs.

        • by Pope (17780) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:30PM (#38152642)

          BOO! I'm a repeater.

          Hey! Stop all the radioing!

    • by Zerth (26112)

      Most of the encrypted radios in use have an opt-in/out feature. The problem with that is the users can't tell which is which or forget to switch.

      There was a study just a little while ago that sampled the failures of feds to properly use encryption: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/p25sec08102011.pdf [wsj.com]

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Do the cops ever chat about planting drugs on victims (let's not call them suspects) over the radio? I'd assume that even the stupidest pig would know to keep that sort of thing between him and his partner.

  • Publish Them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:31PM (#38151924) Homepage Journal

    There is a real argument that realtime police communications requires secrecy to protect police and their operations while they do the majority of their work that is indeed properly protecting the public.

    But there is also a real argument that hiding those communications also hides lots of the minority of their work that at best doesn't protect the public, some of which severely harms the public.

    These arguments don't conflict when the realtime parameter is removed. Both legitimate cop business and legitimate public protection are served if all these comms are published after some short delay. Like the following day, or perhaps even just a few hours later.

    Publishing them also removes the advantage that some people have who can spend on equipment to monitor the comms. Instead any interested member of the public can check them. All of them, compared to audited logs of the activity on the cops comms equipment. The publication order has to have teeth, prosecuting people for obstructing justice when they're hiding cop comms they find inconvenient to reveal.

    • Virtually all public service radio channels are recorded. If you have the right credentials (and this would be the issue) you can get access to them. They're used in rehashing calls, determining times and for internal investigations. Offhand, I have no idea how or if the public could get access to the tapes, but they are there.

      • Re:Publish Them (Score:4, Informative)

        by wheels4me (871935) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:22PM (#38152568)
        Seriously? How can you be that naive on /,? The US Attorney in Seattle can't get SPD video. He had to take the SPD to court to get video and still likely never got all of what he asked for. Who has the "right credentials"? Certainly not the local ABC affiliate, KOMO TV. They sued and got jacked around. "In October of 2008, Rachner was arrested while out with friends. Police stopped them, and Rachner refused to identify himself, which is not legally mandatory. He was arrested for obstruction of justice. One officer bragged to colleagues he arrested Rachner because he “acted edjumicated.” Rachner filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Accountability, the civilian-run oversight organization of the Seattle Police Department. Immediately after he filed the complaint, the city filed obstruction charges against Rachner that were later dropped because the prosecution lacked proof. Rachner received one dash-cam video recorded from a police cruiser’s dashboard camera during his criminal case but learned of six others that police refused to release. Rachner sued the Seattle police in 2008 for covering up the existence of the six other videos from the night of his arrest and other records pertaining to his case. He won a judgement against them in 2010, but filed a subsequent lawsuit on Oct.6, 2011, for false arrest, “spoilation of video evidence” and “malicious prosecution.” According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Seattle Police Department is currently under federal investigation for not releasing video evidence from dash-cams when requested. Seattle news station KOMO, an ABC affiliate, filed a lawsuit against the SPD in September, claiming that the SPD had knowingly violated the Washington state Public Records Act. U.S. Attorney Mike McKay of Seattle has also sued the SPD for refusing to release records about criminal investigations and arrests." I would far and away rather have a few more property crimes than leave in a secret police state.
        • Sounds like the SPD fucked up big, and the feds came in to sort it out because they broke the law.

          I fail to see how that's a police state.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Did you not even read the title of this story, "Police Encrypt Radios To Tune Out Public"?

        What good are the recordings of encrypted comms? I'm obviously talking about publishing the unencrypted content.

  • Easy fix. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Voogru (2503382) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:40PM (#38152034)
    The solution is actually pretty simple. Use encryption and have it send out the data in the clear after [X] minutes. You can still listen in, but it's [X] minutes old, so not much use to criminals.
    • Criminals do not need to actually hear what the police are saying, they only need to know that the police are saying something. This is essentially what Kevin Mitnick did while he was a fugitive -- he hooked a portable scanner up to an alarm of sorts, so if the police got too close he could escape.
  • Heck, how can you have a secret police force if everything they do isn't kept secret? Do not be concerned, citizens. Our secret police force will keep us safe and secure and will inform us of all secret police matters deemed important for the security of our glorious homeland.

    • by murdocj (543661)

      You're on slashdot, you need to also toss in a car analogy, but good job on the tinfoil hat stuff.

  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:45PM (#38152076) Homepage Journal

    This has nothing to do with safety, this is to mute the press. The press follows the scanner conversations to report on all accidents and incidents. With police hiding records and conversations due to lawsuits, we dont need more "hidden" police communications, we them open to keep them honest.

    Its bad enough the PR for police is on TV, almost 1/2 of the line up are some cop based shows, perfect cops fighting evil criminals.

    In reality, we have a growing movement in the US to keep police honest due to the mega lawsuits in almost every major city. I'm in Seattle, and the police abuse is way out of hand here. The internal coverups, the blue code of silence, the getting ride of whistle blowers, the incompetent police are costing this state with awards and settlements in the millions. Its also sad that the state budget hides these lawsuits. The most open lawsuit loses, department of transportation, they list every payout in our budget. We need that detail for police.

    • by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:26PM (#38152604)

      This has nothing to do with safety, this is to mute the press. The press follows the scanner conversations to report on all accidents and incidents. With police hiding records and conversations due to lawsuits, we dont need more "hidden" police communications, we them open to keep them honest.

      As someone who works in SAR, I can tell you that muting the press is a valuable and useful goal, for two reasons. First, if we find something or someone, it would be very nice if eighty reporters and cameramen didn't descend upon the scene and get in the way of trying to save a life or even just preserve evidence at a crime scene. And second, family members of the person we are looking for are better served learning about the results of a search from an in-person discussion with a trained professional than a news flash on the radio.

      • by BrookHarty (9119)

        Press is known as the fourth branch of the government, it helps us keep check on the other 3. There is a reason that freedom of the press is so important and nobody should have to explain why its needed.

  • 'The 9/11 commission concluded America's number one vulnerability during the attacks was the lack of interoperability communications,' writes Vernon Herron, 'I spoke to several first responders who were concerned that their efforts to respond and assist at the Pentagon after the attacks were hampered by the lack of interoperability with neighboring jurisdictions.'"

    Wikipedia quote:

    TETRA [wikipedia.org] was specifically designed for use by government agencies, emergency services, (police forces, fire departments, ambulance) for public safety networks, rail transportation staff for train radios, transport services and the military.

    This is widely used standard around the world despite the slight downsides of the system.
    Anyone want to guess if US government goes with standard system or decides to spend few hundred million to reinvent the wheel?

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      Anyone want to guess if US government goes with standard system or decides to spend few hundred million to reinvent the wheel?

      Google for "APCO P25". Standard already invented. The rest of the world went with their version. You could change the word "TETRA" in the wiki quote to "P25" and it would be just as correct. It is a bit dishonest to wave the TETRA flag around as if the US wasn't already using a standard and TETRA should be what we decide to adopt now.

      The issue now is that the FCC is permitting TETRA in the US, but only for commercial and business use. So, we'll have TWO standards in the same place. No, Add MotoTrbo -- th

  • Why not use a rolling window of encryption keys, and publish the keys after 24 hours or so? That way, criminals can't make use of real time updates on police status, but the police are still required to keep their asses clean on the radio?
    • by AdamJS (2466928)

      A good idea, but I can see general police incompetence leading to most officers and their equipment not utilizing the right keys on disaster day and it ending in, well, disaster.

  • by quetwo (1203948) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @04:52PM (#38152176) Homepage

    Right after 9/11, all sorts of grants and public monies came out so that police and other first responsers could upgrade their aging systems -- also with the stipulation that the communities work together to be able to allow intercommunications.

    Everybody wrote a grant and everybody got a brand new radio system.

    Very few people worked together to make sure they were compatible with eachother. In fact, since most departments moved to digital systems on dedicated frequencies, they lopped off a whole integration system between different radios that allowed officers to talk from one municipality to another.

    In our case, our State Police post can only communicate to the 5 surrounding municipalities via cell phone (or land-line, I guess). We have a central dispatch that does our 911 center, and they have to have 3 different radio systems in order to communicate with the three areas they dispatch for. It is a complete mess, and it call came from each silo wanting to do their own thing and not talking to anybody else.

    And I know we are not the only ones...

  • Sine and Tetra... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MindPrison (864299) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:02PM (#38152350) Journal

    Man...even though I know a lot more about this than the average Slashdot audience, your idiot mods are probably going to mod me out into -1000 troll territory for saying what I'm about to say, but guess what - bring it on mods, you're morons...not techs....so I can afford it...

    Not a single person of you here, know what the SINE or TETRA system is...but I'm going to explain it to you. (gawd knows why...)...but I'm all for information to the public, so I'm going to tell...

    In Scandinavia the police use Sine and Tetra. The radios are developed by Motorola and often called "Spectra". (google it if you must), these have a specific software & hardware encryption system. It works something like this - every unit has a GPS built in, in fact...it's kind of like a 10 year old cell-phone with a GPS, pretty crappy screens, but it does sport TETRA and SINE, an infra-system that is very difficult to crack (but HAS been cracked, with a 32-piece FPGA card...again...google this, I don't care what you know), or you could use an average pc. to crack one minute of conversation in 1 hour if you don't care to have it real-time.

    The thing is...the police wanted a system that was interconnected with the Fire-department, Hospital & Ambulance, and lock out any of the public listeners as they could be drug-distributors, thieves & criminals...but things didn't exactly go according to plans, the system failed numerous times, and they had to revert to their old systems (which...btw...also had an analog&digital encryption option...that still hasn't been cracked...)

    However....this new system had a downside...namely people! People all over the country was used to owning and listening to police radio...you know...analog signals...kind of like your FM or CB radio...for years, like the last 30 years...these where gone now, everything was SINE (tetra) and digital, so no layman out there could listen in (unless they where geeks, and purchased the very expensive 16x2 (32) FPGA cards for their pcs...and installed the geeky software) realtime, so the police didn't get the info on purps...as they usually got from the faithful legal scanner listeners...they used to get information from.

    What do I mean by this? Imagine your average joe out there, wanting some action, purchasing a Scanner...he listens in....hears the police talking about some criminal in his neighborhood...he looks outside the window...discovers the purp...calls the police, and informs..

    Now...he can't do that anymore, because it's encrypted...

    The only people who can do this now...is the Drug barons with a lot of money to buy the Open-Source 32-FPGA cards that are available to the public...and eliminating the average JOE from listening in...helping the police.. ...I bet the authorities didn't see that one coming.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Im sorry but let me fill you in on someone who works in policing. The publics information is considered private (much like healthcare and HIPPA). They have to pass very stringent computer/network security configurations and auditing to be able to process the data. While this is in place and all good, Joe Public can hear it on unencrypted (analog or digital) via scanner. If someone getting their plate run gets information leaked (most information is NOT needed by the public and only on rare occasions is

    • Imagine your average joe out there, wanting some action, purchasing a Scanner...he listens in....hears the police talking about some criminal in his neighborhood...he looks outside the window...discovers the purp...calls the police, and informs..

      Not that I disagree with you on whether citizens should have access, but has this actually ever happened? Not just once (I'm sure it's happened somewhere), but on a regular basis?

      It's neat to think that this is possible, but things like "most wanted" lists have been around a long, long time without producing very many tangible results. Trying to do it in real-time is even less likely, even before considering how few people are likely to be listening to police scanners at a given time vs. seeing a most wante

  • Sounds like a hacker's wet dream.

  • They sure worked well in World War II: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_talker [wikipedia.org]

    In an ironic historical twist, you don't call for the Calvary anymore . . . call for a Navajo Code Talker . . .

    Of course, large criminal gangs will also start recruiting native talkers . . . just like criminals pay for information from informants in the police themselves. But this will at least cut out the phone app scanner crowd . . .

    . . . until someone writes an app to translate Navajo in real-time.

  • The article doesn't say to which protocols the agencies are switching to. This could be an issue.

    As weak the current (clear-text) system sounds like, there is no expectation of privacy, and officers know that. In Montreal at least, when they need to communicate privately, they exchange cell phone numbers and talk over the phone, which is considered more secure (something could be said about that too).

    With an encrypted system, the officers will then expect the whole network to be secure and will therefore sa

  • When she was working, mom was a journalist. I spent a bit of time in various offices she worked at, and the one thing that they always seemed to have was a police scanner. There really isn't a better way to get up-to-date news about all manner of interesting things. Encrypting those communications will undoubtedly make journalists' jobs a fair bit harder too. Though I suppose that's the least of most newspapers' worries these days...
  • HIPPA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:34PM (#38152680)

    I enjoy listening to the local police/fire but have always wondered whether HIPPA does/should cover fire-department dispatches.

    Given the encryption and privacy requirements for your doctor/hospital/pharmacist, it's a bit odd to hear the constant stream of "Engine 71 respond to a medical. 1233 Main apartment 12. Attempted suicide. 23 year old female took a bottle of pills. Stage for PD.", "Engine 65, respond to 4321 Center. 34 year-old female having a miscarriage.", "Engine 72 respond for a 76 year old male non-breather. 8765 Harbor Place.", etc.

    No name, but age, sex and address which pretty much uniquely identifies the person and which is combined with potentially embarrassing information (drug overdose, drunk, family disturbances, sexual assualts, and the like).

    Other info that I'd prefer stay off the air: "Use gate-code 5564 to get in.", "Person is disabled, key is in the fake rock by the chimney"...

  • Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  • We already know that police officers have no right to personal privacy on work owned communications equipment (smartphones or cellphones)

    encryption is a method of privacy. Hence police communications cannot be encrypted.

    I can understand the need for special units to use encrypted communication like SWAT. LAPD SWAT used LASH radios for years.

    But there is simply no need to encrypt all police communications.

  • Encryption ain't cheap, ok so I have not shopped around or even used it. But it seems to me it make look inexpensive but if it's digital that means it is computer/software meaning you have to pay and renew software licenses, upgrade to upgrade to meet the next upgrade, etc.

    Then all this talk of interoperability (which I am thinking more of it as a bankrupt expression these days), but encryption not helpful in that regard unless you have everybody using same key (which doesn't seem to make much sense).

    R

  • This is a Very Bad Idea, for several reasons, but one very BIG reason is called "bonking", or "The Sound of Death".

    The digital radios shortcomings are so widely known that they've acquired nicknames. There's the "digital cliff," when a radio is out of range and the connection ends without warning. There's "bonking" - also dubbed "the sound of death" by some Philadelphia firefighters - when an important transmission gets rejected because too many other radios are using the system. Then there's "going digital

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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