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Anonymous' Airchat Aim: Communication Without Need For Phone Or Internet 180

Posted by timothy
from the turn-down-your-volume-before-clicking dept.
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Online hacktivist collective Anonymous has announced that it is working on a new tool called Airchat which could allow people to communicate without the need for a phone or an internet connection — using radio waves instead. Anonymous, the amorphous group best known for attacking high profile targets like Sony and the CIA in recent years, said on the project's Github page: 'Airchat is a free communication tool [that] doesn't need internet infrastructure [or] a cell phone network. Instead it relies on any available radio link or device capable of transmitting audio.' Despite the Airchat system being highly involved and too complex for most people in its current form, Anonymous says it has so far used it to play interactive chess games with people at 180 miles away; share pictures and even established encrypted low bandwidth digital voice chats. In order to get Airchat to work, you will need to have a handheld radio transceiver, a laptop running either Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, and be able to install and run several pieces of complex software." And to cleanse yourself of the ads with autoplaying sound, you can visit the GitHub page itself.
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Anonymous' Airchat Aim: Communication Without Need For Phone Or Internet

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  • Best/worst part is (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:12AM (#46832531)

    They're anonymous, so they don't need to respect your frequency assignments.

    • by n1ywb (555767)
      You've heard of radio direction finding, right? Just stay out of the ham bands.
      • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:49AM (#46832891)

        Because Uncle Charlie is a fearsome power that is easily angered?

        I know of an idiot with 1000W linear hooked to an awful car CB that was previously modified to boost it's power (read: fuck up it's channel separation).

        You can not only hear him on the neighbors land lines/radios/TVs but on the fucking microwave!

        Less then 5 miles off the end of a military runway. Uncle Charlie doesn't care.

        If it was my neighborhood, I'd drop his tower on his house at 2AM.

        • by Entropius (188861) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @12:15PM (#46834083)

          In Huntsville, AL, there is a Seventh-Day Adventist college called Oakwood College that plays shitty gospel music on a radio station nominally on the lower part of the FM band, but their (large) transmitter is so badly tuned that it shits all over the lower part of the FM band -- and on people's land lines within a few miles. It's located in a very uneducated section of town, and some of the locals have said that they thought the gospel music was "something the phone company did, y'know, to be nice and give us something to listen to."

          I haven't been back with my car in a while, so I have no idea if they've fixed it.

          • No matter how badly a Transmitter is tuned, it cannot be the cause of interference to land-lines and other non-radio equipment.

            The cause can ONLY be crappy design of the domestic equipment.

        • From what you say, the fault is with the crappy domestic equipment. Most domestic electronics equipment in USA has very poor "Immunity" specifications. Any nearby RF will cause interference.

          BTW, interference to non-radio equipment (eg a landline) can never be the fault of the transmitter.

          And your claim that "boosting it's power" will "fuck up it's channel separation" shows that you haven't a clue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:15AM (#46832547)

    This is almost certainly illegal in the UK. Encrypyted comms over citizen/public radio bands is not allowed. Steganography would be required to carry an encrypted payload without being caught, but you'd still be breaking the law.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:22AM (#46832607)

      Isn't virtually everything illegal in the fascist UK?

      • Yes, and most of us ignore it.

      • by pr100 (653298)

        At least the UK has enacted the Human Rights Act 1998, which gives protection where rights afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights are violated by the state.

        Whilst I'm sure bad stuff happens in the UK, it does provide a framework that prevents overt abuses such as Guantanamo Bay...

    • Do we really care about the law anymore? The singular universal rule these days is, *Don't get caught - Burn the tapes*

    • Encrypyted comms over citizen/public radio bands is not allowed.

      Would that include Cockney rhyming slang?

    • by Alioth (221270)

      It's almost certainly illegal anyway - do you think they are all going to go to Ofcom and get a radio license? Therefore I don't think it's going to bother them if encryption is also illegal.

    • Why not send clear text via Morse that has been encrypted or encoded?

      You can't send over scrambled/encrypted links, you can send encrypted/compressed data.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Pretty much illegal everywhere. Amature bands are restricted to un encrypted communications.
      You can use the ISM bands lhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISM_band almost everywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe he should call it "Talking".

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Maybe he should call it "Talking".

      Or waving flags if you can use signal flags. I hear smoke signals can work too..

  • by bradgoodman (964302) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:22AM (#46832605) Homepage
    Use of this would (to my knowledge) require some sort of HAM licensing - and said regulations would have restrictions on things like frequencies (i.e. the whole "FM Pirate Radio" thing discussed on the README) or encrypted data.

    So the NSA couldn't necessarily snoop your data - but the FCC could (and if you pissed the NSA or FBI off, probable WOULD) come after you for these types of violations. They couldn't get your by IP address - but if your were operating this from a fixed-base - they could find you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Just an FYI - maybe for future use. But 'ham' is not an acronym like NSA or FBI - it's never written in all caps. Correct usage would be Ham, ham or even Amateur Radio. Also, you are correct on the radio location implications. Finding a fixed station is trivial. Even a low power station. Finding a moving station only slightly more difficult, but eminently doable even with minimal resources. Just takes equipment actually designed for that purpose and in this century instead of simplistically body nulling an
      • by Richy_T (111409)

        Actually named for the astounding amount of bacon it takes to keep a rig running correctly.

    • by pinkstuff (758732)
      Spies are already using shortwave radio [wikipedia.org], albeit using mostly goverment owned frequencies. This would be a great tool for them.
  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:24AM (#46832635)

    10-4, good buddy!

    Hmmmm... might have to dig out my 150W linear amplifier I used to use to drown out obnoxious truckers with, when they needed a smackdown.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bobbied (2522392)

      CB Radio === Total waste of a good ham band. Would/should have given them something above 6 meters where linears would have been of extremely limited value. But, as it stands we bid you a fond farewell 11 meters...

      • You mean the ham bands where you're not allowed to discuss anything political, not allowed to swear or basically have an opinion on anything even slightly controversial except who's going to win best tomatoes at this years vegetable growers competition?

        Yeah, who needs CB eh?

        No offence , but the ham bands are for old men with nothing to talk about except their radios and gardens. CB back in the day was far more vibrant.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          Obscenity and talking in code is legally frowned upon, but almost everything else is fair game as long as it's not business related on the ham bands, at least between two US stations. International communications are usually limited to technical discussions or communications of a personal nature (how the kids are doing in school, the weather etc), but if you think about it, that makes good sense. Most hams do stick to noncontroversial topics, but that's not legally required. I've heard some pretty heated

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          "You mean the ham bands where you're not allowed to discuss anything political, not allowed to swear or basically have an opinion on anything even slightly controversial except who's going to win best tomatoes at this years vegetable growers competition?"
          Wow that sounds great. The combination of profanity, political opinion, and "controversial" subjects usually means an idiot.

      • by westlake (615356)

        CB Radio === Total waste of a good ham band.

        CB radio at 27 MHz has been around since 1958. The radios were cheap --- remain cheap --- and have significant usable range without the use of repeaters.

        CB radio survives because the cell phone isn't the answer to every problem.

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          CB Radio === Total waste of a good ham band.

          CB radio at 27 MHz has been around since 1958. The radios were cheap --- remain cheap --- and have significant usable range without the use of repeaters.

          CB radio survives because the cell phone isn't the answer to every problem.

          Ham Radio: When all else fails, it works. I've never had an issue finding assistance on the ham bands. Even my unlicensed wife managed to get help by using my radio once. On the ham bands, it's about emergency communication and community service. They are there to help.

          CB? Good luck finding somebody who 1. cares and 2. knows how to get you help when your cell phone dies. Last time I listened to CB it was a pile of mindless operators who where jawing all the time and never listening. Heaven help you if y

      • HAM radio has long irritated me -- because while I completely see the value in people forming clubs to learn to use it, and value in cooperation so the bands can be used constructively? I think getting federal govt. involved in it was a HUGE mistake.

        I don't care how "easy" the licensing has become. The idea I should have to earn (and pay for) a license before I have the privilege of transmitting over the airwaves disgusts me. I was always very interested in the hobby, even purchasing a hand-held HAM radio

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          HAM radio has long irritated me -- because while I completely see the value in people forming clubs to learn to use it, and value in cooperation so the bands can be used constructively? I think getting federal govt. involved in it was a HUGE mistake.

          So you don't think the federal government has any right to regulate the use of radio spectrum? I think you are gravely mistaken. Radio spectrum space is a national resource that needs to be managed at the federal level or chaos would be the result. Literally nothing would work like it does now. Your cell phone, your GPS receiver, your WiFi router, the radio in your car and a whole host of things would be hit or miss, if they worked at all. The FCC is necessary. In fact, it was the FCC that created CB, a

  • I'm here sending out propaganda with this supa sekrit radio transmitter. Betch'a can't find me .. nyah nyah nyah

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:28AM (#46832681) Journal

    Packet radio is done every single day on HF on up. With APRS, you can get messages from one coast to the other and back again without any internet or phone connection.

    If you DO have an Internet connection, http://www.aprs.fi/ [www.aprs.fi] even shows you where all of the beacons, digipeaters, and stations are at a given time, and allows you to see all of the packets that are sent.

  • "...a laptop running either Windows, Mac OS X or Linux" Aw crap, I guess my DOSbook is out :(
    • People are comparing this to packet radio. Well, the first software I used for internet access was ka9q, originally for HAM use. And it ran on DOS. So there's no need to feel left out.
  • Why use this when I can get some cheap ham radio gear, or even a CB radio setup?

    It looks like a solution in search of a problem.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Well, TFA says they've been able to set up encrypted voice chats in low bandwidth,

      My guess, if Anonymous is using this, and it's intended to get around surveillance, it's explicitly *not* sending stuff in the clear.

      Which makes it different from a CB radio.

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:41AM (#46832813) Journal
    It's a great idea, I'll accept that, it's also not new - this has existed in some commercial form one way or the other (various calculators could communicate images & chat freely via the airwaves, Nintendo DS could also seek players within a certain range to do some picto-chatting or game with each other). Radio Amateurs have done this since the 80s, me too... I did it with a Commodore 64 + a home made 1-transistor modem and a walkie talkie, worked like a charm, but hey...it's good to see the kids of today doing something else than chatting on the internet.

    1). You may want to check with the laws of your country, transmitting on most bands are illegal and could potentially disturb or disrupt ambulance communication, police or other important communications. Becoming a licensed Radio Amateur the legal way, is a good step in the right direction.

    2). There are existing options you can use to chat & send files via radio today, Ham Radio enthusiasts knows all about this, visit your local (ARRL or equal ham-radio club in your neck of the woods).

    3). If you want to chat worldwide, you could get a shortwave radio - or satellite antenna with the appropriate transceiver and a packet modem, with this - you can chat digitally, send pictures, send files as long as you have a radio amateur license to do so. Basically you need this to operate on the bands, in most countries you can listen in on radio amateurs communicating via packet-radio without a license, but you DO NEED A LICENSE TO TRANSMIT.

    There are many more things you can do, there are a lot of commercially available radios, digital radios and much more. And none of them require the internet.
    • On 1, how honest is the "it will interfere with emergency services" reason? I've heard police in particular have unofficially switched to cell phones for sensitive information. And I'd imagine that there are always people willing to sell the government new and improved technology to "protect" against nefarious "terrorists" who might theoretically stage an attack and then mess with ambulances (and the lobbyists would of course assure everyone that this was 800% likely to happen.)

      I'm just wondering if
      • by jittles (1613415)

        On 1, how honest is the "it will interfere with emergency services" reason? I've heard police in particular have unofficially switched to cell phones for sensitive information. And I'd imagine that there are always people willing to sell the government new and improved technology to "protect" against nefarious "terrorists" who might theoretically stage an attack and then mess with ambulances (and the lobbyists would of course assure everyone that this was 800% likely to happen.) I'm just wondering if that's actually a nonsense argument the FCC uses to hold onto every bit of power they have. But I know nothing about it, which is why I'm asking.

        It depends on what frequency you are transmitting on. If you're on the same frequency, you may be interfering. I think a lot of larger cities are using the same type of radio technology - radios that support frequency hopping. They hop channels so fast that they are very difficult to jam without blanketing a huge swath of the available spectrum. More than likely any switch to cell phones would be to prevent the "sensitive" conversation from being recorded by their government agency. You wouldn't want t

      • by CrAlt (3208)

        On 1, how honest is the "it will interfere with emergency services" reason? I've heard police in particular have unofficially switched to cell phones for sensitive information.

        It is honest. Public safety is all up in VHF,UHF, and the 700/800mhz bands. Other then going to digital voice (P25 mostly) there hasn't been much change in the tech. Its just radio.

        Cops may use cellphones for sensitive stuff but dispatch and calls for help still use radio. Ambulances still use normal radios and "MED" channels in the clear to talk to doctors on the way to hospitals. FD's use normal low power portables while on site working a fire. If they get stuck that is how they call for help.
        If a boater

  • Spooks have been using radio waves 'forever'. Still, consumer progress moves onward. In effect, though, anyone with WiFi is using a shortrange version RF comm.

    • Long range WiFi >10 miles using highly directional Yagi antennas (& of course microwave transmission) is already possible and sometimes for really low cost, though primarily line of sight.

  • US Army vehicles pass IP traffic over 2 way radios to provide tactical situational awareness and status reporting
  • We've had it for a long time, it's called Ham Radio. [arrl.org] Sure you have to get a license but it's trivial nowadays.

  • And to cleanse yourself of the ads with autoplaying sound

    If you have to worry about crap like this, you need to install better ad blockers and script blockers.

  • And with encryption allowed.

    The reason the ham service cannot innovate like this is that to be a worldwide service it has to operate by rules that are a lowest common denominator of all the rule sets imposed by all the countries in which it operates.

  • Anonymous, the amorphous group best known for attacking high profile targets like Sony and the CIA in recent years

    I thought they were best known for making grandiose claims that never came to fruition? Remember how they were going to destroy facebook?

  • encrypted smoke signals. the hard part is keeping the decoy fires going

  • by ClayDowling (629804) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:45AM (#46833277) Homepage

    See, when I was a kid, we had this thing called the postal service. It was great. If you had a piece of paper, a writing implement, and a stamp, you could communicate without even needing a computer, let alone a phone or internet. It was even possible to encrypt your communication using a variety of methods so that even if intercepted it wouldn't be obvious that it was some form of secure communication, let alone actually be read by the man in the middle. There were even good methods of detecting if communication had been intercepted, which this new-fangled method lacks. And yeah, there were even people who played chess via this method.

    If these kids are gonna reinvent the wheel, they should at least make it work as well as the old wheel.

  • And to cleanse yourself of the ads with autoplaying sound, you can visit the GitHub page itself.

    Implying Slashdot isn't equally guilty of the same damn charge. About a week ago, while indulging myself in my daily fix while on my cellphone, I'll be damned if an ad on this very site (Slashdot) not only showed a video ad but the damn thing even autoplayed. I was not logged in at that moment so I can't confirm if it would have affected me while logged in.

    This kind of behaviour is not only damn annoying bu

    • by Arker (91948)
      "I'll be damned if an ad on this very site (Slashdot) not only showed a video ad but the damn thing even autoplayed"

      Not to defend the crappy code (it's been crappy from day one and unlikely to improve) the other point of failure here is your browser. You should be able to configure it to pass on any website suggestions that involve executing "active content" without your explicit approval. Which is necessary for a large and growing portion of the web, I am afraid, certainly not just slashdot.

  • the downside of SDR. Just wait until BladeRF [nuand.com] and HackRF [greatscottgadgets.com] and others really get spun up. No frequency will be safe.

    In an actual "Sh*t Hits the Fan" emergency, technology like this isn't a bad thing to have on tap. The fun part is managing it day-to-day.

  • ...I mean, good luck with that. That's pretty old-school, not sure it'll catch on, even in places where in really should. But hey, friends have iphones that need more charging than my startac did, and that was in the days when phone chargers could charge a phone and a second battery concurrently. So what do I know?

  • First off, in a war zone where there is anarchy, "everything is legal" unless the local warlord or the country or entity firing bombs in your direction says otherwise.

    Second, during times of disaster many communication rules are waived, particularly on frequencies that don't cross national boundaries and which don't cause harm to other emergency or government services.

    Third, there are unlicensed frequencies that can be used for ad-hoc metro-area connections if you have good directional antenna. CB radio wo

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      First off, in a war zone where there is anarchy, "everything is legal" unless the local warlord or the country or entity firing bombs in your direction says otherwise.

      So no different than a representative democracy then...

  • by jtara (133429) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @12:22PM (#46834125)

    Most posters here seem not to have read the details on the Github page, and are missing the point.

    This is a way to have encrypted point-to-point communication or (in some cases) network using any radio (or other) transmission equipment that will transmit/receive audio signals and allow you to tap-into the analog audio circuit of the transmitter and receiver. You could use it with:

    - telephones (landline kind)
    - mobile phones
    - radio transceivers (legal or illegal - the protocol doesn't *require* that you break the law!)
    - optical communication equipment - free air/fibre
    - etc. etc. etc.

    It just defines a common protocol and means of modulation/demodulation.

    They take a whole lot of words to say this, and throw in a lot of revolutionary rhetoric.

    And yes, it's very similar to amateur packet radio, except encrypted. So, lots of existing code to draw from.

    It's well within the capability of any PC or smartphone today. Although I let my ham license lapse many years ago, I do have a couple of receivers squirreled away somewhere, and a few years ago I experimented with listening-in on amateur packet radio. You just run the output from your receiver into the input of a Soundblaster card (I SAID this was a few years ago...) and the application handles the decoding.

    An interesting side-note: If you're near an airport, you can use similar software to decode VHF ACARS transmissions. (The kind that hasn't helped much in locating MH370). Just install some open-source software, hook your scanner up to your PC, tune to the right frequency, and it turns the squawks into somewhat-readable messages.

    It's biggest drawback is it's biggest strength, IMO. It DOESN'T define a common frequency, some complex frequency-hopping or spread-spectrum scheme, or even common transmission media. It would be extremely hard for it to gain critical mass. On the other hand, it means there are an awful lot of places one would have to look to find it. It's up to whatever group that wants to communicate to settle on a transmission media and (if applicable) frequency.

  • Heh. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Me and my group of peers have been experimenting with this for a long while. We were on IRC via telnet over packet radio and drop to the max distance to our setups. Fluid chat was impossible as the massive delay and data transfer rate was vastly sub par. I was complementing doing a project using a transceiver modal in the 433mhz range with a LNA (Low noise amplifier) and a custom designed directional antenna or a 2.4ghz transceiver using the nrf24l01. This would be controlled via a AVR micro controller to h

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Something like "talk" might be better where you could actually see what people were typing as they were typing it. I always enjoyed that, it gave you a better feeling of being in direct contact with the remote person.

  • There's something like this already working: SailMail. [sailmail.com] This is email for sailors, using a network of small radio stations around the world that talk to boats and to each other. It's very slow by modern standards; it makes dial-up look fast. It's strictly email, being a store and forward system. But it's a cheap, effective way to get a message to or from a small sailboat in the middle of an ocean. Coverage is worldwide. People have sailed around the globe without losing connectivity.

    The guy who set it up

  • ...because they're too greedy. Let's go down the list of what I've read here so far:

    1a. CB radio: this band, 11 meters, was formerly an amateur radio band and was taken away to make the CB band. It became the total morass it is now when they stopped licensing it.

    1b. This also shows what happens to a band in the absence of regulation and licensing. You can get away with this in the ISM portions of the microwave bands due to the massive propagation losses; this was originally the thought for using 11 meter

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