Topics

Secure off Grid Coms

whiskeybravo16@...
 
Edited

Some thoughts on secure coms:

1. Purest's argue that HAM radio embracing internet protocols i.e D-Star, System Fusion, DMR, etc is not really HAM radio and should be totally discounted as a valid communication venue. Granted in Grid Down, Ham Radio is the only coms that will reliably work and I totally agree. We should practice our HAM radio skills diligently to keep skills honed, when and if, SHTF happens......HOWEVER....
Home illumination for thousands of years before electricity was the simple candle or lantern. That was the HAM Radio of electricity. That was THE ONLY way to light the way.
Now that electricity is available to us all, do you suppose we are all going to go back to the purest way of illumination and po-po the use of electricity? Of course not.... we all use it ... but will go back to the old reliable lanterns if the grid goes down.

The internet is the same thing. We have it, lets use it when it is available. Integration with HAM Radio is a natural progression of the activity.

2. Digital coms, D-Star, C4FM DMR etc are frequently mis-characterized as internet only protocols. Yes, much of the time they utilize the internet, however, for the group in my valley that use those modes, the vast majority of use is RF SIMPLEX.
No internet what so ever. These digital modes on simplex offer a highly enhanced layer of privacy. Most scanners do not decipher these digital modes and all FM radios will not as well.
Yes, a D-Star radio or a C4FM radio can listen in but your listeners are limited to those who have the equipment. Unless you utilize full blown encryption (illegal on HAM bands) there will be those who can listen in. The goal is to limit those listeners substantially by using higher technology than they have. Picking random frequencies instead of the same frequency day in and day out. Digital D-Star is doable with just a handful of radios on the HF bands. How many frequencies can you hide on with the thousands of choices on the HF bands. Yes, HF is usable locally as well is regionally and World wide. If you have ever monitored a digital signal being transmitted with a regular FM radio, all you hear is a digital buzz and Hash.

3. Apps like ZELLO can be extremely private and it is 100% encrypted.A one on one connection is virtually unheard by anyone else. Groups can be formed with passwords to join the group, however, anyone within the group can monitor what is being transmitted. A good group would be your family. You all join the group with a STRONG password and you should all be able to communicate with no outside monitoring.
This is all while using electricity to light your home instead of candles.....and yes using the internet.

4. What if the electricity DOES go out and there is no internet? EXACTLY!!! That is what we are all eventually asking.
Well, then, we revert to the basics....that which we know works. Candles, lanterns, solar and battery power, PURE RF HAM RADIO.

some pure HF transmissions are better than others for privacy and prying eyes. One that immediately comes to mind is RMS Express or now WINLINK Express. That program is as close to being encrypted as any without crossing the line.
Yes, it does work on the internet but is just as robust using simple RF. It does email, Peer to Peer texting. Sends files etc. Very versatile for both HF and VHF. The WINLINK World Wide Email system is RF only and you can send email to anyone that is registered with the system. It also (during grid up times) has portals to the internet that allow email to be sent to and from regular email servers as well. There is even a proposal into the FCC right now to make such modes illegal as they are so hard to decipher. There is a big stink about this proposal as it would eliminate a significant number of digital coms if initiated.

Other digital modes for HF and VHF that have been long since abandoned like packet, and any one of 3 to 5 dozen other modes that have come and gone through the years Reviving them on random frequencies can really keep the voyeurs hopping!

Food for consideration.....more to come.

73 de
WB-16

randall krippner
 

You have some good points there. One of the things I always found curious is how, in the ARRL/ARES world, and the government emergency services world,  the push is towards ever more complex modes of communications that require ever more complex infrastructure. And while I can see the appeal of that and the usefulness of that, in a genuine disaster communications might come down to one guy running an old 100 watt Icom or Kenwood SSB rig off a battery because all that infrastructure for the mesh networks and internet linked systems, etc. is going to be inoperable. If we ever do come to a SHTF event, one of the first things to come down could be the overly complex communications systems we've been installing in the last decade or two. Yes, I know they have redundant backup systems and alternative power supplies, etc. but how well those are going to work in a real life situation is largely untested. And if the event is widespread enough and serious enough, the backup systems will probably be nonfunctional as well.

I'm not really concerned that the FCC will ban some or most or even all of the digital modes because of the 'encryption' argument. As far as the FCC is concerned, as long as the mode being used can be decoded relatively easily with available software and equipment it isn't "encrypted". By the standards some of the people supporting the proposal are using, even CW could be considered 'encrypted' because it isn't directly understandable to most people

 

100w SSB or 2000W+ performance in JS8Call from the same source.

No backbone, traffic mailboxing. Its literally the only solution on HF that does not require a backbone or operator to be at at the terminal in SHTF.

You dont have to decide your time between the other added work and listening for traffic, just have a solar system that can run your station all day and pickup your mail at the end of it.

SSB will be king for NVIS, but I got better things to do when there is no power than constantly monitor for traffic.

On Fri, Aug 2, 2019, 04:13 randall krippner <randallkrippner@...> wrote:
You have some good points there. One of the things I always found curious is how, in the ARRL/ARES world, and the government emergency services world,  the push is towards ever more complex modes of communications that require ever more complex infrastructure. And while I can see the appeal of that and the usefulness of that, in a genuine disaster communications might come down to one guy running an old 100 watt Icom or Kenwood SSB rig off a battery because all that infrastructure for the mesh networks and internet linked systems, etc. is going to be inoperable. If we ever do come to a SHTF event, one of the first things to come down could be the overly complex communications systems we've been installing in the last decade or two. Yes, I know they have redundant backup systems and alternative power supplies, etc. but how well those are going to work in a real life situation is largely untested. And if the event is widespread enough and serious enough, the backup systems will probably be nonfunctional as well.

I'm not really concerned that the FCC will ban some or most or even all of the digital modes because of the 'encryption' argument. As far as the FCC is concerned, as long as the mode being used can be decoded relatively easily with available software and equipment it isn't "encrypted". By the standards some of the people supporting the proposal are using, even CW could be considered 'encrypted' because it isn't directly understandable to most people

whiskeybravo16@...
 

I just got JS8Call back up and running again since they stopped updating the program every 2.5 minutes and requiring  you to download  a new version each time.
Doesn't seem to be too much activity during the week days. PSK Reporter only shows two or three receptions on any given day throughout the US.
Not familiar with the mailbox portion of the program. I need to dive further into the menu system to find that. Definitely a good feature.

The old packet modems do the same if you still have one of those. I have one running 24/7. Friends are leaving messages for me on that on a sim-regular basis, same freq as Winlink email on VHF here in the Rogue Valley.
It can, of course, be used on HF as well.

 

I think I posted a link to it in another thread, but check out their home page or OH8STN for his NVIS video


On Fri, Aug 2, 2019, 08:54 whiskeybravo16 via Groups.Io <whiskeybravo16=protonmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
I just got JS8Call back up and running again since they stopped updating the program every 2.5 minutes and requiring  you to download  a new version each time.
Doesn't seem to be too much activity during the week days. PSK Reporter only shows two or three receptions on any given day throughout the US.
Not familiar with the mailbox portion of the program. I need to dive further into the menu system to find that. Definitely a good feature.

The old packet modems do the same if you still have one of those. I have one running 24/7. Friends are leaving messages for me on that on a sim-regular basis, same freq as Winlink email on VHF here in the Rogue Valley.
It can, of course, be used on HF as well.

Chris Warren/offgridham.com
 

This is a very relevant topic, so much so that I think I'll do an Off Grid Ham article about it. I had been kicking the idea around for a while, and it's time. 

Thanks for the push. 

randall krippner
 

WB16 - the number of people on the air with JS8 varies a lot. I usually sit on 40 meters (7078 if I remember right) when I have it on and I've rarely seen more than a half dozen different calls popping up, usually the same ones every day or so. I fear I haven't actually done much with it except run it in auto-reply and heartbeat mode. Unfortunately my antenna set up here seems to transmit far better than it receives. When I send out an HB signal I see dozens of people hearing me covering the entire continental US and large parts of Canada on PSK Reporter, but I only hear two or three actual ACKs from people. Like  you I haven't really done much with the software. I really need to set aside some time to work with it.

 

Hoping to get on 40m this weekend JS8Call. Will post to zello channel when on.


On Fri, Aug 2, 2019, 21:04 randall krippner <randallkrippner@...> wrote:
WB16 - the number of people on the air with JS8 varies a lot. I usually sit on 40 meters (7078 if I remember right) when I have it on and I've rarely seen more than a half dozen different calls popping up, usually the same ones every day or so. I fear I haven't actually done much with it except run it in auto-reply and heartbeat mode. Unfortunately my antenna set up here seems to transmit far better than it receives. When I send out an HB signal I see dozens of people hearing me covering the entire continental US and large parts of Canada on PSK Reporter, but I only hear two or three actual ACKs from people. Like  you I haven't really done much with the software. I really need to set aside some time to work with it.

randall krippner
 

I'll be on 40 with JS8 on and off all weekend depending on when I get time. I'll keep an eye out for you :)

KC9YGN
Randy

 

OK, rig up and running on 40M JS8Call.  I have  stored message for KC9YGN and Whiskey-Bravo 16 waiting for pickup with WOD for each.  I Word Of the Day, report back if you get it.

I'm heartbeating every 30 min also, will be away from radio most of day.  Will use zello to update satus if it changes.

Chris Warren/offgridham.com
 

Kind of a noob question, but I could not get a clear answer from google...I'm researching for an Off Grid Ham article. 

Is there a way to set up DSTAR, C4FM, DMR, etc., so that only certain designated people can hear each other and no one else

I understand how talk groups work, but what about the causal eavesdropper or guy who is just spinning his VFO looking for signals? If they stumbled upon a QSO in one of these digital modes could they copy it? 

My gut says yes because the only real way to block all unwanted stations out completely would be with proprietary encryption or codes, which is technically illegal on the ham bands. 

Is it different for repeaters vs. simplex? 

Thanks guys. 

randall krippner
 

That's a good question, actually. The info out there doesn't really make it clear. I'm only familiar with the C4FM system (Yaesu's Fusion system) but I imagine the others work in similar ways.

You're right, of course. Anyone with the right equipment can listen in to any of the digital transmissions. While they are encoded digitally, they are not encrypted. As you said, actual encryption would be illegal under FCC regulations. That would be the same if you're going through a repeater or using simplex. 

Sidenote - I rather wish I hadn't bothered buying Yaesu Fusion gear. Don't get me wrong, it's great equipment, loaded with features and rock solid, but no one around here uses it. Several groups put up Yaesu Fusion repeaters around here and the way things looked it seemed to be the way to go. It wasn't. While the repeaters might be out there, the individual hams haven't bothered, and probably 99% of the transmissions I hear are normal FM. 

randall krippner
 

Jim - Saturday was a bust because something unexpected came up and I had to be gone all day, but I should be on the air on 40M by 10 AM central time Sunday. I hope. 

Hmm, suppose I should try to find the documentation for JS8 and actually read them instead of just trying to wing it, shouldn't I?

whiskeybravo16@...
 

The answer is: if you have the D-Star equipment or C4FM / DMR equipment, then yes a listener can copy your coms. The "casual" listener, however, who does not have the specific equipment and just spinning his VFO, will only hear static and hashing noise when happening upon the frequency being transmitted on. Same with simplex and / or repeaters. As you mentioned, the ONLY way to privacy, is encryption which is illegal on the ham bands.....DURING TIMES OF PEACE AND NO SHTF. During SHTF all rules are out the window. AND, as I understand it, DMR is the only mode that has encryption available, if you choose to use it, as it was originally designed for commercial use.

Chris Warren/offgridham.com
 

Randall and whiskey bravo, thanks for the clarification. Very helpful.