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Communications Encryption

FCC Considering Proposal For Encrypted Ham Radio 371 371

Bruce Perens writes "FCC is currently processing a request for rule-making, RM-11699 (PDF), that would allow the use of Amateur frequencies in the U.S. for private, digitally-encrypted messages. Encryption is a potential disaster for ham radio because it defeats its self-policing nature. If hams can't decode messages, they can't identify if the communication even belongs on ham radio. A potentially worse problem is that encryption destroys the harmless nature of Amateur radio.There's no reason for governments to believe that encrypted communications are harmless. See hams.com/encryption/ for more information."
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FCC Considering Proposal For Encrypted Ham Radio

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  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @10:27AM (#44112143)

    Because it's a limited resource. There's only so much bandwidth on the air. The equipment is made to work within a specific frequency, (because outside of that band, those frequencies are used for other things). Think of it like a river, it's owned by everyone or no-one, with lots of people wanting to use it. It's a natural monopoly. So it's regulated.

    A lot of really good uses for the airwaves exist and have their sections defined. One of those sections was set aside for the hobbyists to do with as they please. But they still have to play by the rules, because it's still a public place, using a limited resource, with others' rights you have to respect.

    Imagine if your internet connection stopped working whenever someone sent you a packet. You had a single channel for up and down communication, and you didn't have control over when people talked to you. Every time someone sent you an email, your downloads stop. Every time someone pings you, your wabpage stops loading. That's radio. If someone is an asshole, they can barge into your channel and talk over you. If they're malicious they could jam the entire band and DOS everyone.

    And yes, officially you can't swear. Just like you can't pirate movies over the Internet. You also can't sing.

  • A Really Bad Idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jasnw (1913892) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @10:41AM (#44112337)

    I've seen HAM radio at it's best, and how it can be taken out by any idiot with enough broadcast power. I was in Puerto Rico when a bad hurricane hit the island and wiped out all communications over most of the island. A good friend was a HAM operator, and he linked up with a semi-formal network of HAM operators along the east coast that activates whenever there's a hurricane disaster. These people provided the only communications for large numbers of people for several days, and were instrumental in saving lives. At one point, however, one pin-headed yokel got on the frequency the net was using and rebroadcast AM radio music with a lot of watts behind it. They finally got this guy off the air (with some FCC help), but he hindered the net for almost a day.

    The HAM community does a lot for many others who are not HAMs, and to open their bands up to individuals who only see dollar signs everywhere and only think of their own "rights" to do whatever they damn well please would be both a travesty and a serious mistake.

  • Re:packet radio? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @10:42AM (#44112345)

    First, it's "ham", not "HAM" - "HAM" is *NOT* an acronym, but merely a slang expression, short for 'amateur'.

    Second, what's being proposed is to encrypt third-party messages in order to preserve security and privacy.
    An example might be information that's otherwise subject to HIPAA. Another might be a requests/responses
    between governmental (Federal/state/tribal/municipal) emergency management agencies, such as logistics issues,
    that might be sensitive information, but not necessarily "classified" in the traditional military sense.

    Third, this is strictly a *proposal* at this time - this is a Rule Making notice (hence, the RM number) and the FCC
    has now opened the gate for comments. Therefore, if, after reading the RM thoroughly and studying the needs of
    clients (such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and various government agencies that Amateur Radio operators
    in the US serve during times of disaster, etc.), you disagree with the proposal, you're more than welcome to submit
    your own comments.

    Fourth, bear in mind that, at least in the US (and that's what's being discussed here), the originating and receiving stations
    *MUST* keep a copy of all third-party traffic anyway.

    Fifth, all of this traffic, be it encrypted or in the clear, would be sent from one amateur station to another and those stations
    must (continue to) follow the identification rules. So, if you happen to overhear W1XXX sending an encrypted message to
    W2XYZ, don't get your knickers in a twist - it'll be their responsibility to follow the rules. OTOH, if you overheard an encrypted
    message (or even an unencrypted stream of bits/noise) and there was no accompanying identification, then you're free to
    call 1-888-CALL-FCC and notify them, as you might for any other "intruder".

    It wouldn't matter if it's sent by packet (which, BTW, is usually identified under the AX.25 protocol with the callsign embedded
    in the packets) on VHF, or via WINLINK using PACTOR or WinMOR, or PSK31 or RTTY or any of the other digital modes.
    Or, gasp, even CW...

    Now is the time for amateurs to put their thinking caps on, study the current rules, study what's being considered in the RM,
    learn what the local and served agencies need and/or can live with, and file well-reasoned comments and suggestions for
    implementation with the FCC. The idea is to enable amateur radio operators to better serve their communities, after all...

    And, be prepared to do a second round of "Reply Comments" to address the various issues raised in the initial comments.

  • Re:packet radio? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @01:57PM (#44115223) Homepage

    The funny thing is that amateur radios often make better business / public service radios than most commercial units. I can control the output on my Yaesu (Standard / Vertex) 2M rigs much better than the Fire department can do on their super expensive Motorola bricks. For one thing, I don't need a $20,000 (actual cost, complete with high quality Chinese dongle) box to change bandwidth and power parameters. I can do it from the front panel*. The power spectrum looks much cleaner than the Motorola rigs.

    If it weren't blatantly illegal I would rig my HT to broadcast on Fire / Rescue channels and not have to take the overweight FT5000 POS that they dumped on me. **

    * Of course, this is an intellectual exercise. One should never open up the front display unit and unsolder the two jumper wires that are described in many places in the Internet. One should never, ever do that.

    ** I wouldn't even think of it. Especially because opening the transmit frequency of a Yaseau FT-530 requires one to open up the back and remove a jumper. A difficult and dangerous endeavor. Small parts, even.

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.

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