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Pasadena Police Encrypt, Deny Access To Police Radio

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the can't-broadcast-where-their-combat-UAVs-are dept.

Encryption 487

An anonymous reader writes "There is media (but not public?) outcry over the Pasadena, CA police switch from analog radio that can be picked up by scanners to encrypted digital radio that cannot. 'On Friday, Pasadena police Lt. Phlunte Riddle said the department was unsure whether it could accommodate the media with digital scanners. Riddle said the greatest concern remains officer safety. "People who do bank robberies use scanners, and Radio Shack sells these things cheap," Riddle said. "We just had a robbery today on Hill Avenue and Washington Boulevard," Riddle said. "The last thing I want to do is to have the helicopter or the officers set up on the street and the criminals have a scanner and know where our officers are." Just prior to the switch over, city staffers said they would look into granting access to police radio chatter, most likely by loaning media outlets a scanner capable of picking up the secure signal.'"

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So? (5, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963529)

So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security. It sounds to me like the police are handling this sanely and fairly. What's the problem here?

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963563)

The problem is the status quo. People got used to have access to something (and I'm sure some have a legitimate reason for it), so it is conisdered bad form to remove said feature. That's the way I see it, at least.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963851)

Why not present the radio traffic time lapsed on the web?

A delay of up to an hour wouldn't hurt the news agencies that much and still would keep any criminals off track.

It also allows for the possibility to further delay or even cut traffic in special cases.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963907)

I'm actually surprised it took them this long. Operational security is important, and bad guys listening on scanners has been a fiction theme for what, 25 years? It's been well proven to happen in practice too.

And no, for the commenter above, time delay doesn't work. Even response times, the names and numbers of units, processes and practices are all operational security elements that can be exploited by criminals and these would be revealed by a time-delayed online stream. Besides, providing it requires public moneys put to a use outside the police department budget.

I'm as suspicious of some members of the police as the next guy, and feel they generally need good supervision. But transmitting their radio signals in the clear is a simple detriment to the public safety mission.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 2 years ago | (#38964001)

Even response times, the names and numbers of units, processes and practices are all operational security elements that can be exploited by criminals and these would be revealed by a time-delayed online stream.

By this logic, the public should have no method of determining their local police forces typical response times, how well or under staffed they are, etc. Being able to not reveal a thing to the public might do wonders for the security of the police, but without some oversight how can you tell if the police are doing their job well or not?

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963983)

People got used to have access to something (and I'm sure some have a legitimate reason for it) ...

This is about internal police comm channels. What legitimate reason is there to allow others to tap into that? Freedom of the press and all that, sure, but facilitation of the press by the police, why?

The cops don't owe the press anything, and they should be thankful for the free ride they've had until now.

Fifth Estate, go do your damned job. It's your job to figure out how to do that.

We the people... (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#38964015)

and all that blabber should provide the answer to your fundamental questions.
The bigger question should be how much personal information with respect to those accused/victims/witnessing crimes is indiscriminately broadcast over police radio.
When faced with the 'next victim', it is too often a Chief-Wiggam event.

The rest is just astro-seeding.

Re:So? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963577)

You forget, this is Slashdot. If we give any service even a penny of tax money, we feel we should be able to watch and listen to every single thing they do, if desired, especially when technology is concerned. If they wanted more secure communications, they should've come up with something else. And then told us exactly how to monitor them, because we'll be damned if any of the money we give them is used. At all.

Re:So? (4, Informative)

errandum (2014454) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963595)

The problem here is not really the access, but the access in real time, according to the article.

If you request a communication you will still be able to get it.

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963619)

well fine.. then they don't have to take a penny of public money. they can fund their own privacy like we citizens are apparently expected to do.

Re:So? (3, Informative)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963673)

hang on, these are SUPPOSED to be PUBLIC SERVANTS. Aren't they? That's what all the literature says. "To protect and SERVE"?

A little history:

The precursors to State-run police forces were a gang on private enforcers known as the Bow Street Runners, who patrolled most of London selling their services to anyone who could afford them or needed them badly enough - for example, to dish out vigilante justice to someone who had welched on a deal or raped someone's dog. They did their job so well, the Government wanted their piece of the very lucrative pie, as it were, and regulated them - giving them Lawful authority, Legal powers and the right and duty to bring criminals - wherever in England they found them - to justice, rather than wait for someone to go cap in hand to them and beg. In return the Runners gained immunity from prosecution in case - or rather, when on the many occasions - someone they were pursuing or had apprehended, died.

Current police forces still operate this vigilante, mercenary approach: cherry picking jobs and only working for those who hold the chequebooks. DO NOT expect protection from the police, that is not what they are there for: they are there to protect PROPERTY. For PERSONAL PROTECTION you need a BODYGUARD.

Oblig. Simpsons WAS:Re:So? (1, Funny)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963687)

Your ideas intrigue me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:So? (1)

Zibodiz (2160038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963759)

I would disagree with the statement that they're there to protect property. They're there to put notches in their collective belts. Surely you've seen those 'real life' cop TV shows where they're detaining car thieves on the highway by taking out the car. The car is totaled every time. That's not protecting property. And what about 'evidence'? It's police property. The rightful owner rarely, if ever, gets it back. Typically it sits in storage until they decide to auction it off.

Re:So? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963781)

TV show? Really? That's all you got?

Re:So? (5, Funny)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963779)

I think if the mods had a "+5, Hysterical" option, people would use it all the time.

Re:So? (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963803)

who had welched on a deal or raped someone's dog

Man.... London must have had some ugly women or really horny dudes to have a dog raping problem that required vigilante justice to solve it.

Re:So? (0)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963833)

elephant skin, tits past the knees, bad teeth... little has changed in two centuries.

Re:So? (2)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963997)

I was not aware that dog raping was such a problem in England. Of course, I just feed mine a steady diet of roofies anyway.

Re:So? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38964021)

Haw... if the animal is thus incapacitated hence unable to object to such violations, no problem!

I was just sick a little.

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

RobbieCrash (834439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963607)

Not only that, but this is exactly the kind of thing that people suggest as an effective solution all the time. Comments like "If they're not smart enough to encrypt their transmissions, it's their own fault for having people intercept them."

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

johngaunt (414543) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963625)

My only problem with this scheme, and I work for the local constabulatory as a civilian, is that they hope to give preferential treatment to the 'press'. If they won't let Joe Citizen have access to, then no one should. Just because you work for a paper or TV or Radio station doesn't make you better or more able to access information than anyone else. Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else.

Re:So? (1, Offtopic)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963689)

Had a little chuckle because your handle is the same as a rag journalist in the UK... oh, wait, you're not him, are you?

Re:So? (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963747)

Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else.

What about press passes [wikipedia.org] , then?

Press passes just a courtesy (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963817)

Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else.

What about press passes [wikipedia.org] , then?

They are a courtesy. They are at the police department's discretion.

Re:Press passes just a courtesy (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963877)

So that's why Charles was on April's ass in the TMNT movie! The chief was holding that over his head! That's bugged me for twenty years!

Re:Press passes just a courtesy (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963961)

So that's why Charles was on April's ass in the TMNT movie! The chief was holding that over his head! That's bugged me for twenty years!

Donatello is that you?

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963771)

My only problem with this scheme, and I work for the local constabulatory as a civilian, is that they hope to give preferential treatment to the 'press'. If they won't let Joe Citizen have access to, then no one should. Just because you work for a paper or TV or Radio station doesn't make you better or more able to access information than anyone else. Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else

The problem with that is, at least right now, they would not Dare say something into the radio such as "Hey disregard that 911 call, that's the guy who banged my wife" or "That's the prick that tried to assert his 'rights' with me, so be sure to rough him up after dealing with that burglar"

At least with press access, they still wouldn't dare say such a thing, while still having their legit communications secured.

We all know what atrocities the US government covers up and classifies so proper legal action can not be taken against them. The same thing will happen here with no oversight at all.

As with all things related to the police, it's a fine line between security and responsibility in preventing abuse. The press option is the closest thing to satisfying both.

Press has political connections, not rights (3, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963799)

... Maybe it's different in California, but where I live, there is no law granting the 'press' special powers or privilege to information that is denied to everyone else ...

The press would like us to believe otherwise but it is the same in the U.S. The only right that the press has is that it can not be muzzled, it has a Constitutionally guaranteed right to speak. It has no right to access the government beyond what a normal citizen may nor does it have any immunity from laws when pursuing a story. If they wiretap, trespass, etc they can be arrested and prosecuted.

When the press is treated advantageously compared to a normal citizen it is merely a courtesy or politics. Nothing in the Constitution requires it.

Re:So? (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963773)

So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security.

This presumes that "the public" isn't one of the stake-holders.
While it's nice that the media acts keeps an eye on our interests, that doesn't abrogate any of the public's rights.

I, for one, am not in favor of more secrecy for the police.
More often than not, the less transparent a police force is, the more they're hiding.

Media does not protect our interests (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963869)

... While it's nice that the media acts keeps an eye on our interests ...

No, the media acts on its own interests, selling ears and eyeballs to advertisers. When they protect our interests that is a happy coincidence and subordinate to their business or political interests.

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

fearofcarpet (654438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963813)

So, the police have a legitimate reason for securing their network, and have discussed options accommodating other stake-holders who might be inconvenienced by improving their system's security. It sounds to me like the police are handling this sanely and fairly. What's the problem here?

If digital radio encryption is actually secure, then nothing--provided they adhere to their promise of keeping "chatter" open and loaning the media (i.e., the fourth branch of government) secure scanners to maintain accountability. However, they may run into the false sense of security problem; if criminals break the encryption and start listening in to conversations that the police think are secure, then they have only succeeded in making police scanners useless for civilians, but far more useful for criminals. Currently, as they know that their communications are being listened to, they can use codes and give false and misleading information over the radio. For example, even something as simple as radioing to the helicopter telling them where officers are and then sending a text message to the pilot's cell phone with the real positions. And to keep the communications secure, they will have to rotate keys, which adds complexity, and increases the risk of the sort of total chaos of radio communication that ensued after 9/11, when suddenly no one could talk to each other due to incompatible hardware and whatnot.

Remember when the US military found out that their drones were broadcasting unencrypted video feeds, allowing anyone with a laptop and a TV tuner to see the feeds? (And the CIA had to have had the same problem, though the media didn't report on it.) Because they thought those video feeds were secure, they were inadvertently handing out valuable information such as location, timing, potential targets, tactics, etc. They would have been better off knowing that people were watching those feeds, and even using it to their advantage.

lame excuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963845)

those real criminals that do this will still do it and now they just will take apart and make a doc and spread it about so they and friends can.....THUS like all things instead of encrypting and having changing algorithms ...one can change ( as in it auto changes both ways each transmission using a certain algorithm and periodically when say vehicle is on way to shop it also goes to the "cop tech shop to get a new patch each week" then you'd have as secure as you need be....

Re:So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963859)

Problem that I see, police may use unlawful methods.
Before those could be traced with radio communication. Now - no more. In article it clearly states that Polie Department may very well refuse to provide any communication in the interests of some open case and officer security. However, I can already see it being abused by covering dirty cops. If truth can easilly be concealed - it will be abused one way or another and it will have bad impact.

Re:So? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963981)

How are the 17 tow trucks supposed to race to each accident if they can't listen in on the damn police radio???

Society will collapse!!!

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38964013)

But, but, how would I know where the bad guys are at?

- Mr. Incredible

Why is this news? (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963533)

This has happened in hundreds of jurisdictions, and its been going on for a dozen years. Some jurisdictions only encrypt special tactical frequencies used for emergencies, but most realize that as soon as they did that they needed the decryption capable radios for every officer and car any way, and there was not much saving leaving regular channels unencrypted. They bought the radios, why not use them.

Not having reporters and wanna-be-cops show up at every incident was sort of a side benefit in their eyes.

Why the press would expect to be "loaned" a radio is beyond me. The press never "loans" their confidential sources to the police.

Re:Why is this news? (2, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963617)

The press never "loans" their confidential sources to the police.

What does that even mean?

Are you saying that the press never shares information with the police? I find that to be incredibly unlikely. Are you saying that they have "confidential" information they don't share with the police? Possibly, but don't you have confidential information you don't share with the police? (Such as the ounce of weed you keep hidden behind the plates? Or the details of the red light you ran through the other day?)

I'm sort of surprised that the police are so willing to be accommodating here too -- "They bought the radios, why not use them" makes perfect sense here. But the idea that the press doesn't share, why should the police? seems very strange -- as I'm pretty sure the press does share.

Re:Why is this news? (4, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963663)

I'm sort of surprised that the police are so willing to be accommodating here too

The reason they don't care is that they already use cell phones for any sensitive communications, as well as any communications that might not look good in a newspaper article or court transcript.

As I mentioned in an earlier Slashdot story on police use of encryption, the most common phrase you hear on the (unencrypted) Motorola Smartnet system around here is "Call me on my cell."

Re:Why is this news? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963717)

omfg, cellular: the least secure narrowcast system in use today!

Re:Why is this news? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963709)

The police bought the radios not knowing a: what they'd use them for, b: how many would be deployed, c: how to manage key systems, d: how to manage cross traffic, e: how much they'd cost to maintain/repair, f: how they would affect regular cell traffic and vice versa (hint: it's pretty fucking dire in the middle of Nottingham at the best of times) and from that; if using them in place of the UHF gear (that was already well managed) rather than either sticking with the UHF period or only using TETRA in special tactical operations (such as stinger deployments) was a smarter idea, keeping both the public and the media happy and prolonging the useful life of keypairs.

Re:Why is this news? (5, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963653)

the cops are supposed to work for the public interest, but they don't. they work for the state's and thus not for us. the media is supposed to keep tabs on the government's activities, but they're really in it for their own personal gain and glory these days. I think if public money gets pumped into it, it should be accountable to the public should individuals take an interest. in this era of standing up for your rights = terrorist, locking up the radio broadcasts is just one more step towards an opaque state that can do whatever it wants.

Re:Why is this news? (-1, Offtopic)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963705)

"but they're really in it for their own personal gain and glory these days" and "standing up for your rights = terrorist"
BS generalizations offered up by those without the slightest bit of common sense required to make intelligent comments.

Re:Why is this news? (0)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963729)

who the hell modded this flamebait!? It's absolutely spot on, they're supposed to be publicly transparent - including radio comms - since they're paid for with PUBLIC MONEY!

Re:Why is this news? (5, Insightful)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963763)

I wouldn't object to a delay, say 15 minutes, before public availability, if the data is streamed directly onto a public access server not controlled by the police force (perhaps a service bureau that acts as a neutral third party). That would meet the public's right to the information, and also the need for the police to not let the bank robbers listen in while the police are saying "you two go around the back, you go up on the roof, and we'll go in the front door on five ... one ... two ... three ... four ... FIVE!".

Re:Why is this news? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963867)

I would be ok with even 24 hours, or a week. A month becomes annoying, longer becomes obstructive. What bothers me is an increasing tendency to "lose" controversial footage. While it's a good move to record all police activity, we must realize that if we expect the police to document their crimes, they're going to do a lousy job of it.

We need to pass laws/regulations that make losing the recordings itself a crime of significant note.

Re:Why is this news? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963993)

What bothers me is an increasing tendency to "lose" controversial footage.

Yes, this is why it should be immediately spooled to a neutral third party whose job it is to archive it for future access according to the law and policy.

In fact, I could see that being a good and useful business - providing guaranteed (so far as is possible) preservation of such data for public access at a later 'date' for many agencies and institutions. If such a business could achieve the proper reputation it could become a major force. Both the data sources (police or whatever) and sinks (media, citizenry, etc.) would have to trust it. Therefore it should probably be a non-profit entity with a widely distributed board. Its revenues could be partly income from payments by the sources (reducing their own liability, risk and data management costs), and partly income from supplying the data (those who want the data sooner might have to pay, or pay more). By using some form of pay-as-you-go funding, you can eliminate the compromises that a constant search for grant money or government funding might entail.

It could be like a very reliable and secure version of archive.org, and/or like an escrow company (data is saved but not released except according to the rules in place for that data.)

Re:Why is this news? (3, Insightful)

Squiddie (1942230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963913)

Who goes on five? Three is the magic number, my friend.

Re:Why is this news? (4, Interesting)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963955)

This. I hope you're modded +10, Insightful.

Our local PD (in our small town of ~40k heads) decided to encrypt all of their radio traffic a couple of years ago. I wrote a (scathing, factual, naming-names) letter to the editor of the local news rag about that time, pronouncing that the concept was stupid and that all of their reasons for the concept were also stupid. (I'd link to my published letter and/or provide more details, but I like the aura of anonymity here, and my name isn't really Adolf Osborne.)

I have even been encouraged by a sergeant at the local sheriff's office to request recordings, as often as I feel like, under the FOIA, just to make it a pain in PD's ass. (The SO has encryption available to them, but they do not use it unless it is important that the things being discussed remain secret...unlike the PD, who does it 24x7. Further, the PD refuses to share their encryption key with the SO, rendering moot any chance that the two overlapping agencies might be able to help eachother out efficiently.)

I nearly lost my job over that letter, since I'm one of the guys responsible for actually programming the radios and I have the requisite encryption keys on my thumb drive and can (pretty much literally) do whatever I want to make things work/fuck up the system.

BUT: I never thought of a delay. 15 minutes is perfect. It allows the people to know what's going on with their paid and well-armed uniformed thugs, while also preventing active criminals from understanding the goings-on of the police department.

Scanner-land wins, paranoid public entity wins, and active criminals still lose. Sign me up. (Hell, sign everyone up.)

Re:Why is this news? (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963839)

who the hell modded this flamebait!? It's absolutely spot on, they're supposed to be publicly transparent - including radio comms - since they're paid for with PUBLIC MONEY!

No they are not meant to be totally transparent. That's a great way to get innocent people killed, and totally destroy the effectiveness of police.

Being paid by public money doesn't entitle every bank robber, drug dealer, or murderer listen into police comms.

If the press gets to listen, then everybody gets to listen, because the press can't keep a secret. The big competition becomes which radio station can get it on the air first.

Use just a tiny bit of common sense before you post.

Re:Why is this news? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963861)

the press at least being able to listen, introduces that necessary DELAY that the police may carry on. It's for THE POLICE to judge whether or not a RADIO STATION gets a functional scanner.

Use a bit of common sense before you try a shootdown. I don't care if your UID only has five digits.

Re:Why is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963841)

Tell that to the person who calls 911 after being raped. I'm sure they love to know that their address is being dispatched in the clear all in the name of transparency. Privacy extends both ways and so does the lack of it.

Re:Why is this news? (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963947)

Ok, I'm usually all for governmental transparency, but really? You expect police tactical communications to be public? Do you expect military comms to be in the clear as well, for the sake of transparency?

Record them, and publish them a week or so after the fact for transparency, but real-time police comms need to be secured so they can actually do their job.

Re:Why is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963899)

Quite right, but we wouldn't exactly want laws that protect people from the press just because news companies' standards are lower than we'd like. Being able to print or speak of publicly the doings of a public body should come as common sense, and thus obfuscation of transmissions (are they speech only if the content is speech?) from a public body shouldn't be kept from being spoken about or printed. If the concerns of the police in keeping their targets from knowing what they'll do next require that they use encrypted signals, so be it. If the press wants to be able to listen in on a public broadcast from a public body, they should be able to under normal circumstances or have access to the transmissions after the fact. Also, your example is silly but demonstrates the distinctness of their functions; just imagine a law that protected whistleblowers from the persecution from journalists' writings by allowing them to be arrested anonymously by the police!

Key management? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963553)

What is key management like on these civilian encrypted radio systems? Can a single stolen (or hacked) key decrypt transmissions indefinitely? Do they regularly replace the keys? How do they securely update keys across hundreds of radios in the field?

Re:Key management? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963599)

Keys are changed at regular intervals by a device that can be carried in the field and push the key to each radio.

Re:Key management? (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963605)

It sucks donkey balls, is what it does. Essentially, they never update their keys. COMSEC isn't much fun for civilian law enforcement. They don't really get it.

Re:Key management? (2)

Technician (215283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963659)

Most likely this is a trunked radio system. Trunk following scanners have been out for years. A trunked radio system is a subscription radio system just like cell phones. Disabling a stolen radio is a simple administration task encrypted or not.

These are not simplex walkie talkies, but are duplex radios with a control channel.

Re:Key management? (4, Interesting)

RubberDogBone (851604) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963775)

It's not just trunked but P25, with encryption. P25 digital signals can be scanned with a modern higher end scanner specifically designed for P25. Trunktrackers will not cut it. There is regular and encrypted P25. Encrypted P25 cannot be decrypted by the scanners. You'd need 2-way radio that can connect to the radio system as a user on the system and have approval from the agency to allow you to hear decrypted radio traffic.

Some media and agencies do this, but it's not too common. The radios are rather pricey and leasing them out tends to make the agencies nervous and liable to pull the plug at any moment.

There are also methods to break the P25 encryption mainly based on sloppy key handling by the agency and ways to take advantage of sloppy practices by the officers.

Re:Key management? (3, Interesting)

dingram17 (839714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963685)

Most encrypted (analogue or digital) radio systems have a remote stun/kill feature. When the radio is reported lost it is sent a message that disables it, or the disable code is sent regularly until the radio gives a stun/kill acknowledge. At that point the radio is a brick.

Queensland Police have been using encrypted P25 radios (not trunked) for some time in Brisbane & the Gold Coast. The media cannot monitor, but neither can tow-truck operators, which improves safety at road crashes. The clear-speech audio is recorded at Police HQ for later review or in court cases. The people that oversee police behaviour (Crime and Misconduct Commission) have access to this. Despite their own opinions, it is the CMC that keeps the Police honest in Qld, and that's why the CMC has access to the audio and the media do not.

Really tight security in Pasadena. (0, Flamebait)

BlaKnail (545030) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963557)

They are even encrypting the officers names!

TFS wrote:
"Lt. Phlunte Riddle"

Big deal (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963569)

All police are going this route and shortly the encryption will be broken or cloned radios will be available, so for thugs in the know it's a non-issue, for the news they will have to foster better connections with the people in the department, for the stupid, well you deserve what you get.

Re:Big deal (1, Flamebait)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963587)

Yep. Report what the police want you to report, or get locked out.

Re:Big deal (0)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963589)

All police are going this route and shortly the encryption will be broken or cloned radios will be available, so for thugs in the know it's a non-issue, for the news they will have to foster better connections with the people in the department, for the stupid, well you deserve what you get.

Ok, can you provide proof of concept for your claim?

In Australia many police radios have been encrypted for years.
No one has broken them yet.

Re:Encrypted Radios are also Trackable (1)

sasha328 (203458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963677)

I agree with Dan541. I regularly use these digital "encrypted" radios in NSW (not sure about other states), and these are used by all emergency services in the state (not just the police). Each group has its own "talk groups".
What I want to add to this conversation, is that the Pasadena police will most likely be using the Motorola radios sicne these are the most widely used digital radios. These kinds of digital radios also have a central control opcen. Basically, if a radio is stolen, it can be locked out, basically like a stolen mobile phone can be locked out using IMEI.

Re:Big deal (3, Informative)

thogard (43403) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963633)

The keys for an Aussie Police system have been out for at least 2 years according to people who were at Ruxcon this year talking about this very topic.

The radios sent lots of known plain text at the end of every call and its trivial to get the encrypted data. The rest is lucking into a key for newer systems or trying them all for some of the older systems.

What? Luddites in Pasadena? (2)

Formalin (1945560) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963575)

I'm more surprised they aren't using some sort of encryption already.

Well there goes 10 seconds I can't get back... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963593)

No offense, but why is this even on here? Perhaps in the movies the criminals are listening to useless chattter. Honestly, are the criminals going to listen and say to themselves: "Lets go out the North entrance because the South is covered. I heard it on my Radio Shack scanner!"?

About time. (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963601)

Scanners are fun.

Until you are the one dialing 911 --- and fielding calls the next day --- the next week --- from every friend, neighbor and relation who picked up on the response.

UK police have had TETRA for yonks... (0)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963611)

...FYI:TETRA is a digital scrambled radio service that runs over (or under, depending on how you look at it) the cellular network. You can even make cell calls to regular mobiles and landlines from the portable terminal gear (usually badged Motorola round here). Yes I understand how they'd not want Jack Bankrobber knowing where the stinger's going to be deployed, but to deny press access to radio traffic, as they do here, smacks of criminals who don't want their communications monitored and possibly publicly aired. But that's just my paranoia talking.

Re:UK police have had TETRA for yonks... (1)

dingram17 (839714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963693)

TETRA is not necessarily scrambled. Plain TETRA is still hard to listen too, but I guess a TETRA scanner could be made. TETRAPOL might have encryption as standard

Motorola operate a TETRA system in Australia called 'Zeon' which companies, councils and universities can subscribe too (each with their own fleets). I use the Brisbane City Council radios as part of the State Emergency Service. The phone patch capacity makes the police jealous since they can't manage it with their P25 radios.

Re:UK police have had TETRA for yonks... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963905)

Add to it the fact that it from time to time there are screwups with the system resulting in units being out of communication and even have to resort to mobile phones.

(Cell phone - Phone for inmates)

Well duh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963623)

Any self-respecting police state will encrypt their police radios. Gotta keep those citizens out of the know!

Won't mean jack. (0)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963635)

You just gave the thugs ideas on how to plan their stuff without police snooping.

Way to let them know about encrypted radio, idiots.

Unfair (3, Insightful)

McDrewbie (530348) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963639)

Now only criminal organizations with the fund and resources to have a police officer or five on the take will have access to vital information. What is the lowly freelance hoodlum supposed to do?

Re:Unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963733)

Blacks never had scanners.

Re:Unfair (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963739)

I see a rich new market open for opportunity.

Quid Pro Quo (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963641)

I'll accept the police having encrypted communications, the moment EVERY COP on duty has video and audio surveillance on their person at all times recorded on person, and rebroadcast to their squad car for preservation without tampering.

Short of that? No, you can't have encrypted communications.

Re:Quid Pro Quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963767)

That might be going a little far to address this issue--I'm not saying it's a bad idea, just that it's outside the bounds of this issue. But it does lead to a good point, let them have encrypted communications, which are all recorded back at dispatch, and released fairly quickly, say a 12 or 24 hour delay. (With perhaps an exemption in the case that something bad is going on longer than that.) Heck, with digital technology, you could even have a web-based continuous time-delayed stream.

The covers the problem of this allowing them to hide misconduct, and it provides some information for reporting. It does not, however, allow the media to get to police action in progress, and so certainly wouldn't satisfy the media.

Re:Quid Pro Quo (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963835)

They need to make sure that they can't be turned off. Like this woman [youtube.com] that managed to 'fall' over and over when the camera was off.

Or there was this recent beating [rmirror.net] of a homeless man when he thought he turned off his camera. I want helmet cams and microphones too. You do something you get recorded.

Re:Quid Pro Quo (1)

arse maker (1058608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963881)

How are these things equal? You think having raw radio chatter means you know whats going on? I have a feeling if a police office was going to abuse their position they arent using the radio to announce it.

APCO-25 (1)

sillivalley (411349) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963647)

Google APCO-25 decoder.

Re:APCO-25 (1)

dingram17 (839714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963703)

Google 'encryption'.

All P25 is digital, but not all P25 is encrypted. There are P25 ham radio repeaters in Australia, but these are not encrypted.

When the Queensland Police first announced they were moving to P25 many tow-truck operators bought P25 scanners from the US, but found they wasted their money when the Police bought the encryption option.

Not News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963651)

This has been seen in other areas too, many public safety agencies are switching over to digital TDMA to reduce bandwidth use as FEMA and the FCC push for all public safety agencies to go to the 800 MHz band. This allows not only secure communications and less bandwidth, but for clear voice, and data transmission. Also, the system can be setup to disregard other radios that might be trying to interfere with the system, similar to a cell system, and track/disable stolen radios.

Government transparency (0)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963655)

There has been a lot of attention on government transparency in recent years, due to WikiLeaks and so on. But it seems as though police radio is exactly the sort of thing that should be exempt from government transparency -- it pertains to operations that are going on right now, and disclosing those details immediately in public could compromise those operations. I don't see the problem with police security.

Re:Government transparency (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963893)

They absolutely should not be exempt, but I can accept that they might need to be published on a delay. It seems that most police radio communications has a tactical lifespan of under an hour. That is, it doesn't help the bank robbers to know that an hour ago the police were going to check out suspicious activity at the bank. By then, they will likely be painfully aware of it.

Re:Government transparency (1)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963919)

Then in that case, the delay (which will vary based on the operation) will require that the public cannot monitor police radios. They would have to come up with an alternative mechanism for distributing radio chatter to the public, perhaps via the Internet.

But I'm curious as to why they need to be published at all. We do not publish private conversations between police officers at the station, so why do we need to publish their long-distance communication?

Not really that secure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963675)

Insecurity in Public-Safety Communications: APCO Project 25 [nicta.com.au]

Abstract. APCO Project 25 (P25) radio networks are perhaps the most
widely-deployed digital radio technology currently in use by emergency
first-responders across the world. This paper presents the results of an
investigation into the security aspects of the P25 communication protocol.
The investigation uses a new software-defined radio approach to
expose the vulnerabilities of the lowest layers of the protocol stack. We
identify a number of serious security flaws which lead to practical attacks
that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of P25
networks.

...

Conclusions
P25 radio systems are more secure than conventional analogue radio systems
but not nearly as secure as the term “encrypted” would imply. The most serious
security flaw in P25 is the optional nature of the security protocol, however
even when the security protocol is used several serious security flaws present the
design of P25 cryptographic protections, remain:
– Weak encryption permits an attacker to recover the encryption key, and fre-
quent re-keying is not an effective defence.
Insecurity in APCO Project 25 17
– There is no effective authentication and access control mechanism.
– The lack of a key hierarchy means that a single key is used to encrypt traffic
between many users over many sessions.
– The integrity, authenticity and freshness of traffic cannot be ensured even
when the security protocol is in use.
– Serious denial-of-service threats against individual stations are possible.
The contribution of this paper is in several parts: firstly, we have applied the
techniques of software-defined radio to enable the study and network security
analysis. This approach has the potential to expose network traffic at all layers
of the protocol stack. Secondly we have identified a number of serious security
flaws that are present in the P25 protocol and described attacks which exploit
them.

Some basic info (3, Interesting)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963679)

Current.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_25 [wikipedia.org]

And old but informative:
http://www.fordyce.org/scanning/scanning_info/encrypt.htm [fordyce.org]

From what I gather cell phone jammers seriously screw with this mode of communication, I think it's a bad idea all around to encrypt radios, not to mention repeater issues and the relatively low number of keys available.

Re:Some basic info (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963783)

GSM jammers work on 900MHz and 1800MHz bands. They won't touch 800MHz. They also work at very short range. Repeaters will just retransmit the signal (either verbatim or minus any CTCSS tone) as long as they receive the correct key carrier. It's just waves, be it clear voice, data or encrypted stream.

don't underestimate the beavers (2)

wickerprints (1094741) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963715)

Nestled in quiet suburban Pasadena, a small university without a football team is full of hundreds of students who could probably crack the encryption scheme faster than they can finish their CS/EE midterms. That is, if they could be bothered to....

Loaning???!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963731)

This boggles the mind: "city staffers said they would look into granting access to police radio chatter, most likely by loaning media outlets a scanner capable of picking up the secure signal."

This is NOT loaning! This is a CRIME.

All Staffers of the LA City Government must be arrested for criminal activities.

encrypt everything, release key 3 hours later (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963743)

along with the decrypted audio. That gets the info onto the public record, without giving realtime whereabouts to crimes in progress. It can still get in the next day's paper with the 3 hour delay. In case of a longer event (hostage drama etc) police chief could authorize increasing 3h delay to 24 or 48 hours. Longer than that would require a judge to sign off.

Who will watch the Watchdogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963753)

Well personally I believe this is more of a move to remove public access to the goings on.

All this does is to give the police the ability to not be "watched" (or listened to as the case may be).

Where I live (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963761)

Police don't encrypt their radios. Anything remotely sensitive is done using cellphones. Listening to the police bands is rather boring.

If they're not doing anything wrong, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38963793)

they've got nothing to hide right?

I'm OK with this IF... (3)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963829)

They retain recordings of all the radio traffic and make it public after 24 hours.

-jcr

What an amazing(ly stupid) police force (1)

jwijnands (2313022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963863)

I remember the switch made by our police forces to digital encrypted radios. There was outcry over the costs, there was grumlinbs about bad reception but not one journalist was stupid enough to complain about not being able to listen in. Why on earth would anyone grant radios to the media? Without radio they will either have to work harder or find other news.

Temporary solution (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963933)

It won't be long before some career criminal or reporter gets a hold of a receiver capable of handling their crypto, then getting the key.
I figure it's only going to be 5 months before non-cops are listening in, and the cops will have no idea unless someone broadcasts something to clue them in. I'd suggest a sound clip from Sinistar :) http://youtu.be/S-XEINagmaU

A decoder is being readied as we read (2)

kawabago (551139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38963959)

Someone is going to crack the encryption and start selling decoders to all the criminals. So the result will be that only the criminals will know what everyone is doing.
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