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"Knitted" Wi-Fi Routers Create Failover Network For First Responders

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the fire-department-do-you-read-me dept.

Network 97

wiredmikey writes "Wireless Internet routers used in homes and offices could be knitted together to provide a communications system for emergency responders if the mobile phone network fails, German scientists reported on Monday. In many countries, routers are so commonplace that they could be used by police and fire departments if cell towers and networks are down or overwhelmed by people caught up in an emergency, they say. This rich density means that an emergency network could piggyback on nearby routers, giving first responders access to the Internet and contact with their headquarters. The researchers suggest that routers incorporate an emergency 'switch' that responders can activate to set up a backup network, thus giving them a voice and data link through the Internet. This could be done quite easily without impeding users or intruding on their privacy, the study argues. Many routers already have a 'guest' mode, meaning a supplementary channel that allows visitors to use a home's Wi-Fi." This is a cool angle on mesh networking — reminds me of the emergency response capabilities of ham radio; if it sounds intriguing, remember that even sparse networks can make use of this kind of networking with the right antennas. Related: even without touching the hardware on your router, you can do some meshing around with Byzantium.

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97 comments

Yes but (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069167)

Why do blacks keep chickens in their yards? To teach their kids how to walk!

Why was the wheelbarrow invented? To teach knee-growz to walk on their hinds legs!

What do you call a bunch of old knee growz in a barn? Antique farm equipment!

Why do police dogs always lick their own asses? To get the taste of nigger out of their mouths.

What does NAACP really stand for? Now Apes Are Called People!

Cell Phone App? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069177)

Is there a Cell Phone version? I mean, not everyone knows how to revamp their router, whereas everyone knows how to enable that "in case of an emergency" App. (For Mesh, not for using the cell network)

Re:Cell Phone App? (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 years ago | (#41069237)

Just wait until it is built in by default on all future routers with no option to disable. Oh and using a router without the "emergency backdoor" will become illegal

Re:Cell Phone App? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069267)

A bit tin-foil hattish, but plausible I think. The best part of that process will be the HARD sell to tech folks that you DON'T REALLY need to lock-down your personal network.

Re:Cell Phone App? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 2 years ago | (#41069561)

A bit tin-foil hattish, but plausible I think. The best part of that process will be the HARD sell to tech folks that you DON'T REALLY need to lock-down your personal network.

You bet it would be a hard sell. In a time when someone could sit on your street slurping up child porn or other banned materials and the cops will raid your house I certainly would not do this willingly. If emergency vehicles need backups, why not use the already mentioned ham radio or another long range radio system. Satellite phones are also an option - hell they could do both.

The bottom line is (in my opinion) the risk outweighs the potential benefit.

Re:Cell Phone App? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#41069797)

not likely.

as long as there is hardware that can send/receive wifi and run open source code, there's no way to fully lock down citizens' networks.

and if you think you can lock us down, we'll create a dual infrastructure. give you access to the tcp:/dev/null device and you can 'connect' there all you damned want! have fun!

but you are not getting any access to my network as far as I can help it.

you have enough taxes: build your OWN damned secondary network! there's more than enough tax revenue to support what you folks seem to want to do. don't involve us in your lunatic power-grabs.

oh, and its not for our benefit. it never is. don't believe any of their lies.

Re:Cell Phone App? (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 years ago | (#41074779)

oh I get all that from a technological standpoint. But what happens when they see a wifi network, cant log in, and than raid you for it?

I know I am going WAY far, but the potential for abuse outweighs any benifit

Re:Cell Phone App? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41070073)

Just wait until they make it illegal to post slippery slope statements on the internet, with retroactive enforcement on past posts. Then you'll regret ever making such a post.

Serval (2)

jago25_98 (566531) | about 2 years ago | (#41071101)

See the Serval Mesh networking project.

There's been a lot of work put into getting people to stop sharing their networks or using open networks so now a lot of people use passwords and WPA/WPA2 is commonplace.

Mesh networking would now need to run alongside this way of doing things now, or at least have a switch for emergency use; not ideal.

Re:Cell Phone App? (2)

complete loony (663508) | about 2 years ago | (#41075589)

The Serval Project [servalproject.org] is aiming to do exactly this (disclosure, I'm working for them ATM). Use the Wifi chip in android phones to create an adhoc network for situations where the phone network is down or non-existent. It's still alpha quality [google.com] at this point, but we're working on phone calls, text messaging and file distribution using strong cryptography, without any central administration or infrastructure. And we're planning to use our file distribution system for a bunch of other services like collaborative mapping.

Re:Cell Phone App? (2)

complete loony (663508) | about 2 years ago | (#41075719)

I should point out that adhoc mode on android is not supported and not well tested on most handsets. Our approach is based on a much earlier tethering application that requires root to reload the wifi driver and set it's mode. Some later versions of android though have explicitly disabled adhoc mode so even that approach wont work. However our software can also work when connected to an access point, and most phones allow the built in hotspot to be turned on, so you can still setup a network in an emergency or disaster with just mobile phones.

Potential for abuse (5, Interesting)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#41069229)

Once you let them have access to your network, they will rely on it more and more, till they saturate your network. Unless they want to pay for using my equipment and my service, I say no way!

Re:Potential for abuse (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 2 years ago | (#41069419)

But what if you got everyone on board and you could go anywhere in the world and have access to free WiFi? [fon.com]

Re:Potential for abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069493)

Damn commie.

Re:Potential for abuse (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 2 years ago | (#41069549)

Yeah, the problem with "what if" is that it dies the minute someone sees a way of making a profit.

Re:Potential for abuse (1)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#41070189)

Everyone would be leeching off the only person paying for Internet!

Re:Potential for abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41075865)

Get rid of ISP and make Internet a community provided resources that you pay for in taxes... and then provide national wifi coverage.... the only ones who lose out would be greedy corperations

Re:Potential for abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41075881)

except if everyone's on it, noone needs to pay for a connection to anyone else, everyone's already connected.

Re:Potential for abuse (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41084361)

If everyone was on a mesh network, why would you need the old internet? If everyone was on an ad-hoc mesh network, that would become the network. Had wifi come before the internet was poppular, I doubt there would be any such thing as an ISP today.

Re:Potential for abuse (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069453)

It's 'emergency response'. Chances are, payment will be SAVING YOUR UNGRATEFUL ASS.

Re:Potential for abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069579)

Because the taxes you pay are not enough. Now you pay taxes that are supposed to fund the network AND provide the network as well. But idiots like you don't even bother asking where the money is going [youtube.com] .

Re:Potential for abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41070317)

A program where you could give another backup method that might have a chance of saving someone's life, while utilizing pre-existing equipment and unused bandwidth that 99% of people have and that you could turn off if you were in the other 1%? No, Heaven forbid we help people that are paid by taxes. Parents don't have to help educate their kids, we've already paid for teachers. Drivers don't have to get out of the way of emergency vehicles, they already paid for them too. We don't want to fund them both to pay roads, and then have to give up those roads for a moment, they should have just built more roads. Why even leave a building when the fire alarm goes off? You paid for the firefighters, they should come and carry you out of the building in case of a fire.

Re:Potential for abuse (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#41073797)

If my house in intact, I still have power, I still have broadband access, my router is still turned on, What is this great emergency that is overwhelming the current infrastructure that I need saving from?
It's not a flood or earthquake, since power will be the first to go.

Re:Potential for abuse (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41070041)

Indeed. I am not sure that Wifi lends itself to topologies in the same way that wired networks do.

The thought of taking a trip across 30 omni-directional routers fills me with a sense of horror for some reason.

Re:Potential for abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41070281)

EXACTLY!, they will also start using it to access your computers, while claiming they need to do so.

I pay for my network and I will not allow them access to it under ANY circumstances.

Access denied (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069235)

No. GTFO my premises.

Re:Access denied (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41071345)

As our "first responders" grow more military in nature and our virtual spaces take on the importance of our physical ones, in the US this should be an extension of the 3rd amendment. [wikipedia.org]

Maybe in urban settings... (1, Flamebait)

jfalcon (163956) | about 2 years ago | (#41069265)

Ah, typical Euro-centric thinking where they think because you live in Paris, you can just usurp free wifi because it's there. Never mind that it's on shared cable modem bandwidth and that typically bandwidth in Europe is shit. The ISM band is so saturated that you could charge your phone just through induction because to live there you're living 3-5 stacked on top of each other (in the city). So when the lights go out, so does the Wi-Fi network. If you were relying on the mobile network instead of dedicated 2-way radios, then it usually means that the mobile network will overload instantly with people calling their friends asking "are the light out where you are?" And I don't like the idea of an Emergency "switch" of any kind backdooring my router. Cisco already does it with their 'Vault' devices and the idea that I would now have to rent my router that I paid full price for from the retailer makes me want to smash the device with a hammer. Don't try relying on it outside of the city tho... it goes from city one block to farm land just like that. And it would never work here because of the suburbs.

Will the ISP make the data cap free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069269)

Will the ISP make the data cap free?

If not I may want to lock down the WIFI even more and use 3rd party firmware.

I think something similar is already being done (1)

mrjb (547783) | about 2 years ago | (#41069275)

Here in the UK, anywhere near a home network you'll also find that your mobile phone will detect BTOpenZone Wi-fi. As Wifi is relatively short range, it stands to reason that this "open zone" network is just piggybacking on the network wifi of their subscribers as it doesn't cost them anything but a bit of software inside home routers that they'd provide anyway.

Re:I think something similar is already being done (1)

Soluzar (1957050) | about 2 years ago | (#41070637)

It only works on routers supplied by the BT Group to business customers, and can be disabled by the customer. In addition, some BT public phones (payphones) are part of the OpenZone WiFi network. You have to pay for access, and the speeds are pretty poor. Almost unusable for even the most basic of browsing in my experience.

yeah, it'd get abused for surfing porn. (4, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | about 2 years ago | (#41069277)

I used to live next door to a public library that had free wifi. Guess where the safest spot in the neighborhood was on the graveyard shift? That's right - the library's parking lot. Without fail, almost every night, there would be a cruiser parked there with the two cops surfing the net. I guarantee you that this 'emergency switch' would just get used by cops to get free internet access where they're hidin...er, "patrolling".

Re:yeah, it'd get abused for surfing porn. (3, Interesting)

Nkwe (604125) | about 2 years ago | (#41070323)

I used to live next door to a public library that had free wifi. Guess where the safest spot in the neighborhood was on the graveyard shift? That's right - the library's parking lot. Without fail, almost every night, there would be a cruiser parked there with the two cops surfing the net. I guarantee you that this 'emergency switch' would just get used by cops to get free internet access where they're hidin...er, "patrolling".

If a cop or other "first responder" type wants to park on the street near my house and use my net connection, they are welcome to. Having a cop car parked on the street is a nice crime deterrent. Sure there are some bad cops out there, but they are the exception and not the rule, and even in the case of a bad cop - wouldn't you want them on "your side"?

Re:yeah, it'd get abused for surfing porn. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#41071815)

The cops would be so busy fapping they would never notice your house being robbed.

I'd like them there too. But I would get a long lens and collect me some blackmail information.

Re:yeah, it'd get abused for surfing porn. (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#41075583)

Just make your alarm system disable the internet, that will get their attention!

Re:yeah, it'd get abused for surfing porn. (1)

antdude (79039) | about 2 years ago | (#41076091)

I wonder why the libraries don't turn off their wireless when they are closed.

Re:yeah, it'd get abused for surfing porn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41077491)

Because they want to provide a public service?

Wait a sec (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069281)

German scientists? Isn't Germany the country that made it illegal to have an open wifi network [techdirt.com] ? So if you want to give free wifi access to Joe Public, you're going to get your ass fined. But I guess if the state wants to use your bandwidth, hey, that's just dandy.

Re:Wait a sec (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#41070559)

Do they use scientists in Germany to create law?

Abuse (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 2 years ago | (#41069307)

Yeah, but the emergency switch would probably include some kind of extra functionality....like giving police the ability to monitor your network traffic, kill your network, or even just allow them to park outside your house and surf the net while eating donuts.

Dedicated emergency networks? (4, Insightful)

heypete (60671) | about 2 years ago | (#41069319)

Don't emergency services have their own dedicated communications networks?

Sure, most police departments that I've seen use mobile data terminals for dispatching calls but the dispatcher, officer, and car itself still have two-way radios. They can still communicate among themselves and dispatch calls using radios, albeit slightly less efficiently than they can with mobile data terminals.

In the US at least, emergency services have priority access to telecommunication networks like mobile and landline phone networks. So long as the network itself is intact (but merely overwhelmed by non-emergency calls) they will be able to get access.

Why would any emergency service worth their salt even remotely consider using home networks, particularly with no assurance of service quality or availability?

Lastly, what prevents bad guys from operating this "switch" to gain access to home networks? Even if they can't access the internal network itself, they'd be able to piggyback on the connection to browse the internet (likely for nefarious purposes if they're activating this sort of access switch).

Re:Dedicated emergency networks? (1)

agizis (676060) | about 2 years ago | (#41069545)

Congress has been selling off the frequencies that were reserved for first responders and Federal users to the cell phone companies (see the 1800 MHz band, as an example). They don't really have these dedicated networks anymore. Most of what's left is narrowband (6.25KHz channels) that are of no use for data.

Re:Dedicated emergency networks? (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41070111)

So introduce them to the concept of a directional antenna. When paired up with 802.11n, it can exceed the distance of fiber without a repeater.

But then they'd need to tech emergency personnel how to use a directional antenna...which depending on the person, might not be worth the hassle.

Re:Dedicated emergency networks? (1)

heypete (60671) | about 2 years ago | (#41070837)

What I meant by "dedicated communications networks" was "radios used only by emergency services for voice", in that they weren't using public mobile phone bands for police radios but rather had their own radio infrastructure. I apologize for the lack of clarity.

My point was that data networks may make things a bit more efficient, particularly with routine stuff like dispatching resources, looking up license plates, etc., all of that can be done over voice radios. Most of the police departments I'm familiar with in the US (I have a few cops in my extended family) have mobile data terminals connected to commercial mobile phone providers but the police voice radios are owned and operated by the department (or the city/county/state). The MDTs use a minimal amount of bandwidth, the providers already give them priority access in the event of emergencies, and all of what the MDTs do can be done over voice radios, so why would they be remotely concerned about mooching off of privately-owned wifi networks in an emergency?

Re:Dedicated emergency networks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41070465)

Don't emergency services have their own dedicated communications networks?

Yes, they do. They're all being pushed towards digital technologies - mainly meant for voice - although data can be transmitted (slowly). Their radios don't rely on any infrastructure at all (all radios are battery powered or have a battery backup, and it is all point-to-point communication, not needing any fixed towers or repeaters).

However, for a true first responder, voice is what you really need. When rushing into a burning, collapsed building in thick black smoke, you *need* a radio lifeline; you don't want or need to lug in a laptop or a smartphone. Data communications is much more a tool of the secondary responders (e.g. ambulances, police incident teams).

Re:Dedicated emergency networks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41070517)

'Don't emergency services have their own dedicated communications networks?'

Yes they do and in Germany, they're all much more expensive than promised, go online way later than promised and generally are simply shit.
The most widely used communications channel of the German police is... WhatsApp, I shit you not.

Re:Dedicated emergency networks? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41071635)

yeah.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/BOSNET [wikipedia.org] the german authorities cell network.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VIRVE [wikipedia.org] the finnish authorities network(both are tetra based and this one has an english article..).

idea of piggybacking on everybodys routers isn't new but it's not that good idea, especially in emergency services. the emergency networks already are separate from the consumer cell networks for a reason. and if you were to actually mandate this through.. oh boy the potential for abuse. might as well just mandate universal guest access _which would be totally cool_ and cause lots of gray hairs for riaa/etc posse. but these guys don't sound too much like scientists..

Hell no ... (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#41069331)

This rich density means that an emergency network could piggyback on nearby routers, giving first responders access to the Internet and contact with their headquarters. The researchers suggest that routers incorporate an emergency 'switch' that responders can activate to set up a backup network, thus giving them a voice and data link through the Internet

As soon as some well meaning person starts suggesting this be built into routers, this opens you up for another vector to be hacked.

If the routers have such a switch, it won't be long before someone else figures out how to enable it, and essentially turn your router over to them. And, for those of us whose internet usage is metered, we'd end up paying for this.

This is just a big giant back door which is screaming to be abused.

This is one of those ideas which sounds kind of nice on the surface, but which would be fraught with really bad implementations and unintended consequences. This researcher is kind of like people who try to pass laws around technology, and utterly fail to comprehend the other related issues.

You may not open up a communications channel on something I'm legally liable for without my permission. In many places, that is illegal.

Re:Hell no ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069503)

You will go over quota and quickly realise that some teenager across the street has hacked into it to turn it on to get free internet access.

Re:Hell no ... (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#41069567)

If the routers have such a switch, it won't be long before someone else figures out how to enable it[...]

Most likely it will be a phone call: "Hello, this is Sam from your ISP, we're having some trouble with your connection, could you follow some troubleshooting steps for me?..."

Re:Hell no ... (1)

FreshlyShornBalls (849004) | about 2 years ago | (#41069755)

As soon as some well meaning person starts suggesting this be built into routers, this opens you up for another vector to be hacked.

I think what really needs to happen is that the switch LITERALLY be a hardware switch. You, as the owner of the router and user of the network, should be allowed to decide whether you want to turn it on or not.

I would seriously be happy to open up another "vector to be hacked" to do good, in spite of the potential for abuse by hacker and, yes, first responders alike

Of course, I'm a volunteer firefighter and EMT, so I guess the "specter" of a hacking attack vector kinda pales in my mind to the specter of burning alive, etc., because my "narrow band" radio signal wasn't clear enough.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#41071969)

Unfortunately, your computer is being bombarded by remote attackers, while the likelihood that your residence is about to "burst into flames" is pretty remote. A couple of years ago, it was estimated that the Time to Survive for an unpatched Windows machine [sans.edu] was about four minutes. Yes, four. The specter of network hacking attempts is orders of magnitude larger than you think it is.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

FreshlyShornBalls (849004) | about 2 years ago | (#41072183)

I'm sorry. I was talking about MY LIFE being more valuable than anything on your computer. Give me your address, though, and I'll be sure to let the first responders in your community know that--in your house--you'd prefer they follow the "Property and THEN life" motto, contrary to everywhere else in the free world.

I'm certain they'll be fine with searching for your computer first and then your wife and kids.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

FreshlyShornBalls (849004) | about 2 years ago | (#41072221)

...and I now COMPLETELY understand why volunteer rates across the country are dropping so substantially. Your data is more important than my personal safety. Wow.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

TheRealGrogan (1660825) | about 2 years ago | (#41078203)

You should not try to put words in people's mouths. Your personal safety is important to me, but I am not responsible for it. You are the one who signed up for the dangerous volunteer work. I never did understand why anyone would do that... it seems a lot to expect of anyone. I wouldn't if I were you and besides... it's BECAUSE people volunteer that communities get away with not paying a fire department. This is not to say I don't appreciate that people volunteer for fire fighting services, quite the contrary. I appreciate it so much that I think they shouldn't do it. It's a job that should pay well for the danger as well as for being "on call" in the cases where it's not practical to have a regular shift.

I don't think I'd like having a backdoor in my networking equipment that would allow police and fire etc. to use my network. If they were to mandate it, I would just add it to the long list of laws that I defy on a daily basis. Sorry, but you'll need to find a better way to conduct emergency communications. This idea will not work very well even without public resistance to it. Moreover, the very circumstances you are facing when there's a loss of communications could make it impossible. (Power outages, infrastructure damage etc.)

I guess I'm going a bit off topic here, but what a thankless job it is, being a volunteer fire fighter, too. I live in Canada, and I know some volunteers and despite the fact that they devote their personal time, sleep, sanity and safety, the bureaucracy they have to put up with from ignorant municipal administrators is ridiculous. Sometimes the entire volunteer fire department resigns in some towns and I don't blame them.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#41081811)

No, my freedom and my privacy are more important (to me) than your safety. Similarly, I fully expect you to be responsible for your own safety, just like I am for mine. And to quote Ben Franklin - "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Re:Hell no ... (1)

FreshlyShornBalls (849004) | about 2 years ago | (#41081915)

You guys need to re-read what I said. I suggested that a hardware switch be placed on routers that ALLOWS--at the router owner's discretion--first responders to make use of the equipment in emergency services. I did not say anything about forcing anyone to give up their liberty, etc.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#41098111)

No I read it, and it's a classic slippery-slope scenario. Goes something like this:
- "think-of-the-chldren/policemen/firemen/etc" feature is included on your wireless access point
- coverage is spotty and unreliable; nobody uses it
- politicians mandate feature in all routers to improve coverage (after all, it helps the poor [group])
- end users leave the switch off; nobody uses the spotty system
- politicians mandate the switch ship from the factory in the "on" positon
- end users turn the switch off; nobody uses the still-spotty system
--- Politicians decry "Our [group] would use this system if only it was more reliable!"
- politicians mandate that the switch be removed and the feature enabled always

I know better than to let the camel stick his nose into my tent, [wikipedia.org] even just a little.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

FreshlyShornBalls (849004) | about 2 years ago | (#41098373)

LOL. I thought *I* was a Libertarian. I get your slippery slope argument. But saying that a volunteer firefighter, for example, may park in my driveway while he's across the street putting out the fire in my neighbor's house or rescuing a cat from the tree is not a "slippery slope" to allowing police to search my house whenever they want to. Is it? And if it is, surely there's a better place to draw the line.

Re:Hell no ... (1)

Migraineman (632203) | about 2 years ago | (#41116151)

It's not a political position, but rather one based on experience. Several years ago, I ended up helping a young lady who had been attacked by her boyfriend. I called for an ambulance, and the EMTs promptly called the police. Once the cops arrived, I became the focus of their attention. It didn't matter that both she and I were telling them the same story. They detained me. They searched my home. They questioned me for over an hour. They used my home to treat her on site (i.e. that's the part where they use my resources for whatever emergency is in progress.) Ultimately they did go looking for the douchebag, but he was long gone by then. So you can tell me how this is supposed to work until you're blue in the face. My experience indicates that it won't work out well for me. I decline to participate.

Re:Hell no ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41071545)

What happens if the wireless access point is merely a test device not attached to the Internet? What happens if the admin... plays games [ex-parrot.com] ...

Re:Hell no ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41074777)

You may not open up a communications channel on something I'm legally liable for without my permission. In many places, that is illegal.

Interestingly enough, Germany is one of them. We have a concept called Störerhaftung, which has been talked about in /.s comment section a few times before. Applied to wifi routers, the person operating the router can be held liable for damages caused from his connection, if said router was not properly secured. That includes, among other things, online piracy, which, I'm sure, personnel in emergency services would never ever do.

Fire, Fire! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069355)

So if I'm on comcast and have a data cap, that could potentially be used by our underpaid/volunteer fire department so they don't have to maintain their own internet access? Do I get prorated on the amount of data they use? Would they pay the bill if they use 90% of the bandwidth? Money, money, money. Millions in state and federal grants, but they would use my internet none-the-less.

And if someone browses CP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069513)

So if a random ambulance driver (or an actual bad guy who finds a way to abuse this) browses something illegal (like child porn) with this, then what happens to the person who owns the router? FBI knocking on the door/reputation ruined?

Re:And if someone browses CP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069967)

Depends on country, IF you can prove you didn't download anything by handing over your PC(s) then they probably start telling or ordering people to disable this 'feature' regardless of what the emergency services think or do.

Point of Interest (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41069569)

IMO, cops don't count as emergency responders, as they pretty much always show up far too late to be of any assistance. Plus, (and this pretty much goes without saying) cops cannot, repeat, cannot be trusted with access to the devices and networks of private citizens - they will abuse the privilege, guaranteed.

I don't have a problem allowing EMT's and firefighters to piggyback off my system (with explicit, incidental permission of course), but LEO's can suck hind teet.

Re:Point of Interest (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#41069745)

the very LAST class of people I would give access to my network are cops.

you reap what you sow. and you folks who are part of the 'blue line' don't deserve any favors from citizens. you are not our friends. you stopped being ou friends when you went wholsale corrupt and militarized yourself.

Make the ISPs open their connection! (1)

LSDelirious (1569065) | about 2 years ago | (#41069881)

We could always tell the govt granted monopoly cable isps they need to install a first responder only wifi hotspot at every node... but sure lets burden the public to give up their privacy and security in the name of emergency communication failover, and burden device manufacturers with building these backdoors even if that means they cant sell them in other markets...

Re:Make the ISPs open their connection! (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 years ago | (#41072185)

oh good while we are at it we could also provide free public wifi at them maybe free pubic cell signal. But more likely these would be used as listening posts used to log any wifi signals they can pickup to of course be only used if a crime has been committed really they would never ever dream of trying to use them with something like aircrack and break all of the keys on nearby wifi hotspots and actively listen in in on all your traffic.

WHAT THE FUCK?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069941)

The researchers suggest that routers incorporate an emergency 'switch'

TWO WORDS:
FUCK.
YOU.

In other news... (4, Insightful)

Malluck (413074) | about 2 years ago | (#41069945)

A new study has shown that saws are so common place they could be used by lumberjacks in case of emergancy situations. The report suggest putting lumberjack accessable doors on all tool sheds.

Emcomm is the cancer that is killing ham radio (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#41069975)

Everyone gets excited about using the latest, greatest shiny expensive box to buy so they can play at being police dispatchers, and nobody actually does any radio.

Keep emcomm off the amateur bands. Let them stick to the frequencies allocated to blue-light services, or mobile phones if necessary.

Re:Emcomm is the cancer that is killing ham radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41074305)

One of the reasons we have the Amateur Service in the first place is EMCOMM. The number of hams who contribute to actual research and development of radio today is miniscule.

So what you're effectively saying is, "let's kill off the ham bands entirely, because there would then be no reason hobbyists should be granted primary (or *any*) usage of spectrum that could be auctioned off."

If that doesn't appeal, then don't bitch about we who continue to keep the bands open by volunteering to do emcomm nor gripe about ARES or RACES using the spectrum you don't own anyway.

Re:Emcomm is the cancer that is killing ham radio (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 2 years ago | (#41074741)

The number of hams who contribute to actual research and development of radio today is miniscule.

... and this is a Bad Thing.

The people who do emcomm aren't contributing a damn thing. The reason we have amateur bands is *not* because of emcomm, but because there aren't really any great commercial uses for HF, or even VHF. In most of the world, 70cm is second-user shared with military comms.

All that emcomm does is line the pockets of equipment manufacturers, who can sell the latests greatest box of shiny crap to the CBers.

Many ways to abuse and fix said abuse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41069983)

A few people have already mentioned a few really big drawbacks with such a system, but most of them are easy to fix.

The first and biggest point, the emergency system should have a very visual notice of activation. Optionally even audio alarm since in the case where such a huge scale emergency were to happen, PEOPLE WOULD WANT TO KNOW.
This is one of the best and easiest ways to announce that a settlement-wide or higher emergency event has happened.
2 birds with 1 stone.
This should also never be capable of being disabled, only extended. (so, a different alarm for whatever reason, but never ever be capable of removing the fact that some sort of emergency has happened, no sound means default one plays)
This alarm should also play every minute until it is disabled by button press on the router, or a day has passed. (the likeliness of this being abused is minor)

Two. Completely separate system that handles the basic networking of it.
No signal from the emergency network should ever pass through the hardware that sends the signals to their respective child nodes.
Any message tagged from the emergency system should be intercepted before this part, completely transparent.
This should also work in such a way that neither system can detect each other. 2 separate encryption systems.

Three. At least 1/3 of the throughput should be the default. By default. You can assign a higher percentage if you wish to.
Facts are, most people rarely use even a small percentage of its abilities. Any case where there was a serious emergency level would likely null the need for whatever uses they actually are being used for since THE ALIENS ARE ATTACKING OH GOD THEY ARE RIDING RAPTORS.

Four.
Every design should be completely public knowledge.
You can bet your damn ass some abusive group would backdoor the hell out of this thing if they could.
They already backdoored all mobiles and were found out about it and went through a hell of damage control. They will gladly do it again, they don't need to defend their decisions to us simple peasants.

Five.
Make a system like this in general and allow users to distribute internet access in the case of an emergency.
Just make sure to prevent abuse by people anonymously uploading dodgy content through the network.
Internet should be a basic right in this day. The ability to actually join a distributed network created by the people for the people for very basic access to services would be an ideal world.

Will any of this happen? Hell no.
I hate this world sometimes.

Re:Many ways to abuse and fix said abuse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41072083)

Access to the Internet as a basic right, just like healthcare. Oh wait, we don't have that either.

I'm not hatin', I'm just sayin'.

Edge case (3, Informative)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 2 years ago | (#41070153)

An emergency that takes out cell phone towers / antennas, but leaves the electrical power infrastructure intact to power said routers? Sounds like a rare emergency indeed. I suppose if all your electrics are subterranean, maybe a wind storm sans water would fall into this category. Maybe.

Re:Edge case (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41071757)

a riot could easily bring enough people into an area that the cellphone network is too congested to use.
however, the riot police wouldn't be using that network in the first place(they got their own separate networks).

the article is totally pointless, even more so if you've heard of fonera.

I wouldn't be so hasty to call walking around a city with android phone logging wifi ap's science though...

Re:Edge case (1)

westlake (615356) | about 2 years ago | (#41075737)

An emergency that takes out cell phone towers / antennas, but leaves the electrical power infrastructure intact to power said routers

Not to mention cable and copper. The land lines.

Re:Edge case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41076991)

A small earthquake did it in my home in the middle of Silicon Valley. Not for long, but sure as shit, within a minute of the quake, there was no cell phone service for most people, because the towers were immediately overloaded with people calling to see if their friends/family felt it.

Rare? Not really.

Tell me again why Verizon doesn't do this... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#41070319)

and use a mesh network of small wireless switches with the capability of bypassing the main cell switches if necessary? Wouldn't that solve their capacity problem AND provide emergency networks as part of the bargain? Am I missing something or are they?

Re:Tell me again why Verizon doesn't do this... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41071813)

and use a mesh network of small wireless switches with the capability of bypassing the main cell switches if necessary? Wouldn't that solve their capacity problem AND provide emergency networks as part of the bargain? Am I missing something or are they?

dude, artificial scarcity is how they can keep a transfer limit on your "mobile broadband" and still ask 80 bucks a month for it. just rolling out the network properly would always be cheaper than building microcells or a mess of wifi hotspots, but if they did that and their competitors did that then suddenly you'd be paying just 10 bucks for 3g connection on which you could torrent entire simpsons catalogue within a week if you wished..

the idea isn't new, it's just not very good idea. a better idea is a separate network system for the emergency personnel which has better backup generators, longer range and so forth than the consumer network.

The first thing lost in emergency is power! (1)

kawabago (551139) | about 2 years ago | (#41070539)

You can't make a mesh network when the power goes out and the power always goes out in an emergency.

Re:The first thing lost in emergency is power! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41071665)

You can't make a mesh network when the power goes out and the power always goes out in an emergency.

That's a great point, it's a good reason why we need mesh networking in tomato or dd-wrt or openwrt, and I don't mean WDS. Low-power devices are needed to make the creation of mesh nodes cost-effective. I got 2x10W and 1x5W solar panels at a yard sale for twenty bucks, I had to solder some new leads onto the 10W panels but big whoop. Or you can buy 3x15W from harbor freight quite reasonably, I have a kit already. I have about five APs with external antennas that are linux-based. For just a couple hundred bucks I could build five mesh nodes with what I have on hand plus some more solar controllers and some gel cells and whatever I can find as enclosures (ammo boxes?) I've got two primestar dishes lying around waiting to become long range antennas, which will happen when I find more of the parts cheap.

Re:The first thing lost in emergency is power! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41072553)

I thought hams were supposed to be well behind the bleeding edge these days, yet.. HSMM-MESH.org [hsmm-mesh.org] has the OpenWRT and OLSRd based firmware to build a self-healing self-configurable wireless mesh using off the shelf hardware..

Re:The first thing lost in emergency is power! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41077033)

Interesting stuff. I will keep an eye on it. I have a couple of WRT54Gs but no WRT54GLs.

Wait, let me put some grease on the guillotine! (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | about 2 years ago | (#41070793)

So you want to help them (Big Brother) spy on you even more than they already are?
Nothing is what it seems, think (we are only killing you for your own good), as a simile.

back door? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41071061)

So, the man can activate your router and access it. Warrant-less search? Nahh, we trust them to have our best interest at heart, right?

Not very bright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41072047)

Personally, I think this idea is silly. Almost every router out there relies on power from the grid. You lose that, and you lose your connectivity to the Internet. First responders should not be outsourcing their critical communications needs to cellular providers or local wifi hotspots. If they are, it's hard to argue their communications needs are critical. Yes, dedicated, secure networks are expensive, but they are dedicated and secure, which means it's less likely they are going to get overwhelmed, overloaded, or hacked.

WiFi Spectrum Overused (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41072363)

The WiFi spectrum is highly saturated already with WiFi netowrks. Yet so many projects continue to utilize the WiFi spectrum for stuff other than traditional WiFi uses.

Here we have an article about a mesh WiFi network(unreliable) for first responders! Let's hope that first responders are going to use a frequency that is reserved fro their sole use, mesh or otherwise and that they will not be trying to shoehorn themselves into the already overcrowded WiFi spectrum.

Also today, I saw an article about WiFi connected car crash avoidance. [networkworld.com]

Using WiFi for these functions is inherently stupid!

Does anyone else think this idea is flawed? (2)

Kaptain Kruton (854928) | about 2 years ago | (#41072397)

Besides the obvious tin-foil hat, privacy, and security concerns that people are going to mention, the people that created this idea overlook something fairly important. In my area, if something was severe enough to knock out all of the cell phone towers within range of a cell phone, then the power grid and/or internet connections are almost certainly down in that area. Without power, the routers are not going to be on. The Internet connection may or may not be important, depending on how they want the communication to reach the headquarters.. if they intend on using voip over the Internet from the router, then it will fail. These concerns may or may not be an issue in other areas. In large cities, cellphone towers may be overworked in an emergency... but the likelihood of the towers in my area becoming overworked is quite small.

I think the better idea would be to either find a way to give first-responder/emergency workers a way to gain priority on the towers, instead forcing router manufacturers to waste time and money to incorporate something that will not only be fairly useless in most cases, but will also open a number of other concerns.

Mesh Networks Are More Important to Citizens (1)

DaKong (150846) | about 2 years ago | (#41072881)

The cops and firefighters have their own dedicated coms. So why do they need another? Citizens, however, do need an emergency system if the government decides it wants to begin censoring communications, monitoring them, or shutting them down. Having a mesh network that could spontaneously form would be especially useful in that case. Rather makes the prospect of cops being able to confiscate cameras and other devices recording their misconduct rather futile, doesn't it? As in, sure, take the guy in the front's phone or camera, but all the thousand people in back already have the footage and are uploading it to the broader internet, plus they have footage of the exact officers who are confiscating the guy in front's camera.

What about latency? (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 years ago | (#41073899)

The range of wifi is usually less than 100 meters, so to send a message across town it would have to go through hundreds of routers. Wouldn't that create enormous latency for things like voice? Sending messages would of course be perfectly possible, but something like a phone call would seem wildly optimistic. Or am I completely wrong?

Why have ISPs then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41074627)

I have been saying this for years. There are enough routers and cell phones that if every device was wired or wirelessly connected to every other one, you could create a massive mesh network. It couldn't be controlled or have a fee, so it won't happen though. It would just be a one time cost to buy the hardware and the fiber optics, it would also connect wirelessly for long distance runs or for simple installs.

Or, and you would have to talk to your neighbors about stringing a fiber line from your house to the next one. And 90% of the population would want to do it.

ham radio has been doing this for some time (2)

LodCrappo (705968) | about 2 years ago | (#41074839)

with specialized antennas, routers, and the additional transmitter power allowed by a ham radio license it is possible to quickly create a mesh network in the event of an emergency. http://hsmm-mesh.org/ [hsmm-mesh.org]

there are also the data services provided by d-star, and much of our country is already covered by dstar repeaters, many with backup power etc. i have heard of some joint operation with first responders using these.

failing data, there is always the worldwide and local voice communication network provided by hams in times of emergency.

Crazy pricing (1)

mattr (78516) | about 2 years ago | (#41077643)

This is wierd. Not the concept, after all this has been around for a while.
The idea that to make a windows version costs $50K but a mac version costs $1,750K according to their kickstarter.

Cool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41081031)

"This is a cool angle on mesh networking " And an H-bomb is a cool angle on nuclear physics.

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