$25 toy radio used to knock out feds Secure Comms

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by BTPost, Nov 18, 2011.

  1. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    $25 toy radio used to knock out feds

    Thousand dollar radio can track them too
    By Bill Ray •
    Posted in Policing, 11th August 2011 11:22*GMT

    Researchers looking at the security of the US Project 25 radio network, used by federal agents and local police, have discovered that it's easily jammed, and almost as easily compromised.
    During a two-year study, the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that encryption on the police network was routinely switched off, but also demonstrated how a $25 toy could be reprogrammed to knock out radio transmissions – even being able to exclude specific users or subnets – and how a more-expensive option could track a specific user.

    The GirlTECH IMme: Giving girls access to technology was always going to be dangerous
    Project 25 is the US equivalent to TETRA, a standard radio platform for local and federal police to communicate in groups during operations. But unlike TETRA, which is deployed in green-field radio spectrum, P25 had to be compatible with the existing analogue systems and is thus squeezed into a fixed 12.5kHz channel, though that's not the only thing making it vulnerable.
    The digital system uses fixed-length packets, optionally encrypted using a symmetric key (distributed to handsets manually or over the air). The first problem is that key distribution doesn't always work, so the team found users frequently get cut out and have to ask the rest of the group to switch off encryption for the duration of the operation. Individual users can also, inadvertently, switch off their own encryption without other users being alert enough to notice.
    But even when encryption is being used properly, the packet header is sent in the clear, allowing a well-timed jammer to knock out the encryption keys (thus forcing a team to switch off encryption), or knock out transmissions from a specific user. Worse still, a corrupted message addressed to a user prompts their radio to respond with a resent request, allowing an attacker to triangulate the attacked user's location.
    The ease with which the radios can be knocked out is alarming, though the researchers did have to spend some months (two years in total) monitoring sections of the 2000 frequencies available to the police to identify bands where interesting conversations were taking place. Having done that, they were able to hear names and locations of criminals under investigation, details of surveillance operations, and plans for forthcoming arrests.
    Fortunately, and despite media portrayals, few criminal organisations are quite organised enough to create such an information brokerage.
    The researchers' paper (16-page PDF/9.2MB, nicely written but complicated http://www.usenix.org/events/sec11/tech/full_papers/Clark.pdf) does have practical advice for users of P25 – reprogramming handsets to make switching off encryption less obvious, and reminding users when it has been switched off – but they conclude that fundamentally the P25 system wasn't designed with a properly layered security model, and that this will always leave it more vulnerable than it should be.
    beast and Falcon15 like this.
  2. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Basically a bunch of gum chewing teenage girls can wipe out a robust encrypted network. Classic. The more complex a system the easier it is to break. Going to research more into these GirlTech IMme. Awesome find, Bruce!
    dragonfly likes this.
  3. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama Monkey++

    Just call the donut shop and the cops can be dispached from there
  4. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    Jamming would be a natural counter. :D

    Two years? :D
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Researchers..... Typically Slow Learners.....
  6. gunbunny

    gunbunny Never Trust A Bunny

    You're kidding me, this little thing?
  7. beast

    beast backwoodsman

    the bigger they are, the harder the fall
    and the govt is pretty damned big
    dragonfly likes this.
  8. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Well, with a little help
    We implemented a complete receiver and exciter for an
    effective P25 jammer by installing **custom firmware** in a
    $15 toy “instant messenger” device marketed to pre-teen children.

    In essance, this is a type of 'comb' jammer, timed to put out it's energy at a specific point in the data cycle. Since in jammers, power/BW, or transmitter power per megahertz - it allows a somewhat low power unit pack a 'bigger' punch.

    Farily clever, but overlooks that the P25 transmitter, unless trunked, can easily be tracked with common techniques used by Ham 'fox hunters'
    more comonly, just wait the for the users to break COMSEC. We have DES excrypted channels here in town for the dope cops to use. Monitor the other channels and sure enough, two bulls will be slinging the **** and give a genral location /mission or I have heard transmissions as specific as "ya, they are going to bust a dope house at 47 W Bean Street - in about 20 minutes.
    Yes, they are/can be that stupid.

    Nice catch, I'll send this to my son (Also a ham) he will get a kicj out of it.​
  9. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Yes, It was a very innovative use of a Teenage Girls Christmas Toy... I thought that the Original Devisors we thinking nicely "Out of the Box".... .....
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