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Author Topic: is secret codes and/or encryption illegal on ham radio?  (Read 5292 times)
LB5KE
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Posts: 141




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« on: December 16, 2011, 05:52:12 PM »

?   Grin
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W5FYI
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Posts: 1045




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« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 06:56:02 AM »

Yes. This, from the FCC Rules:

Sec. 97.113  Prohibited transmissions.

    (a) No amateur station shall transmit:
   
    (4) ... messages in codes or ciphers intended to obscure the
meaning thereof, except as otherwise provided herein; ....
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KE4ZHN
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Posts: 139




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« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2011, 07:41:51 AM »

Its not secret, but CW is a code that 3/4 of the hams today cant copy so just use it.
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ONAIR
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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2011, 10:14:58 AM »

Its not secret, but CW is a code that 3/4 of the hams today cant copy so just use it.
    Yep, as long as you don't use code to transmit coded messages! Smiley
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AA4PB
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2011, 11:52:14 AM »

Of course FCC rules don't apply to you if you are not under their juristiction.

Also note that the prohibition is against codes and ciphers "intended to obscure the meaning" of the transmission. It does not include codes intended to facilitate digital transmissions (PSK31, RTTY, packet, pactor, digital voice, etc).

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LB5KE
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Posts: 141




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« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2011, 01:15:25 PM »

But in an article in CQ magazine they say it's OK:

http://www.qsl.net/kb9mwr/projects/wireless/Data%20Encryption%20is%20Legal.pdf
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N3OX
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« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2011, 02:46:10 PM »

The CQ article seems to come to the same conclusion that AA4PB just stated.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
AA4PB
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Posts: 12844




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« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2011, 04:41:03 PM »

I think the key to ensuring that a digital code does not "obscure the meaning" of the content is to make sure it is available to any licensed amateurs (or FCC officials) who want it. ARRL publishes information on how the various digital modes are encoded.

The sticky question concerns using 802.11 encryption and keys to prevent access to the node by non-hams who are authorized to utilize the same frequency. IMHO the answer is the same as the above - to make the encryption key available to any licensed amateur who requests it.

Pretty hard to claim that the lock on my house is intended to keep everyone out if I have given copies of the key to everyone in the neighborhood  Grin
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N5RWJ
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Posts: 461




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« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2011, 11:13:11 AM »

Why use Ham radio, when its legal on the internet ?
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AA4PB
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« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2011, 11:31:11 AM »

Why use Ham radio, when its legal on the internet ?

Because with ham radio you can run more power and you can use an external high gain antenna. That translates to a whole lot more coverage than you'll get with standard wifi.

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N5RWJ
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Posts: 461




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« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2011, 12:23:58 AM »

Why use Ham radio, when its legal on the internet ?

Because with ham radio you can run more power and you can use an external high gain antenna. That translates to a whole lot more coverage than you'll get with standard wifi.


Gee I hope you don't work for homeland security.
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2E0OZI
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2011, 05:06:04 AM »

Because ham radio is a lot of fun.  Grin
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
K7RBW
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Posts: 392




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« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2011, 07:14:10 AM »

The problem with the article in CQ is that it's addressing a different point. Yes, you can encode  messages in the amateurs service, but you can't do so to obscure the meaning. The problem with personal information is that to be protected, it must be obscured from everyone but the sender and the receiver. So, almost by definition, you can't use the amateur service to communicate that type of information.

Reading the CQ article, you can have your souped-up WiFi router using WEP, but if you're doing that for the purpose of passing traffic that must be protected for privacy, either you're obscuring it to protect the privacy (in violation of Part 97) or you're not protecting it from inadvertent discovery by other amateurs (in violation of the privacy laws). Either way, you're breaking some law or regulation.

The bottom line is the Amateur service is a shared and open service. If you have private data to pass, you need to use a different service that allows such traffic.
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AK7V
Member

Posts: 250




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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2011, 10:37:36 AM »

What about something like Winlink?  Don't they use a proprietary modem that one has to purchase in order to encode/decode?  Isn't that essentially encryption?
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W6RMK
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Posts: 651




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« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2011, 12:06:12 PM »

What about something like Winlink?  Don't they use a proprietary modem that one has to purchase in order to encode/decode?  Isn't that essentially encryption?

Not exactly.. The Pactor 3 modulation and coding standards are published.  The problem would be if you wanted to go build something to implement them, in which case you'd be violating the patents underlying it.  However, the meaning isn't obscured, which is what encryption is all about.

The same thing applies to D-star voice, which uses a patented voice encoding technique.  The technique is published, but if you were to implement and use it, you'd need a license from the patent assignee, which they're not obligated to sell you.

With WiFi, the algorithms are published, but there's also the secret key, which is not.

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