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Author Topic: Once again whackers wanna screw up the hobby... Encryption  (Read 127302 times)
KD8DVR
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Posts: 27




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« on: June 26, 2013, 10:55:19 AM »


Cut and paste job from the digitalvoice Yahoo group.  Don't shoot the messenger.


EMERGENCY ‐ AMATEUR RADIO NEEDS YOUR HELP NOW!

Please forward this message to other hams. The most current version of this message is at http://hams.com/encryption/ Please use that version.

FCC is currently processing a request for rule-making, RM-11699, that would allow the use of Amateur frequencies in the U.S. for private, digitally-encrypted messages.

Encryption is a potential disaster for us because it defeats the self-policing nature of ham radio. If hams can't decode messages, we can't identify if the communication is appropriate for ham radio or not. A potentially worse problem is that encryption destroys the harmless nature of Amateur radio. For governments around the world to continue to allow Amateur Radio, it must be percieved as harmless. There's no reason for anyone to believe that encrypted communications are harmless. Foreign governments, and maybe even our own, will start to see hams as more of a threat. This is likely to have a chilling effect upon DXpeditions, which are already often viewed suspiciously by the host nations, and perhaps will even lead some countries to take Amateur Radio off of the air or limit our privileges in some way.

The last day for you to submit a comment opposing this is JULY 8, so it's important for you to act now! Please make a short comment in opposition to the proposal at this link, or use this link to upload longer documents.

We have no way of telling if the content of encrypted messages are appropriate for ham radio. While their senders will identify them as emergency communications drills, they could be used for crime, operating a business, downloading pornography, etc. WiFi-like cards are already available for Amateur frequencies, and while hams can build legitimate networks with them, none of their vendors check for a license before selling them to anyone. Legalizing encryption on the air will make abuse of Amateur frequencies provable only after difficult and potentially illegal code-breaking.

A small group has almost succeeded in sneaking this change past the entire ham community. As I write this, they are almost unopposed, with only one comment against their proposal submitted to FCC. We only have less than two weeks to turn that around!

Unfortunately, ARRL isn't helping. On March 9, the ARRL board of directors moved to explore whether they should ask for rule-changes authorizing encryption, see their meeting minutes at paragraph 4.1.3. Before ARRL was scheduled to consider a report on the issue, an individual ham filed a request for rule-making with FCC. ARRL obviously tracks FCC rule-making and the notices of it in the Federal Register, and yet waited until two weeks before the end of the commenting period to announce on their web site that this was going on.

What could be a plausible excuse for using encryption on the Amateur bands? It's HIPAA, a 1996 law that requires that doctors, hospitals and other medical services providers keep patient data secret. And thus, hospitals have become reluctant to use ham communications in emergencies. We effectively broadcast all of the information we communicate, and they're afraid that we'll get them sued by doing so.

Emergency communications are a critical component of the mission of Amateur Radio, and are one of only four purposes that FCC uses to justify the existence of the Amateur Service. It may be that encryption does become critical to support Amateur emergency services. But that time has not yet come. If we are to allow encryption on the air, that should come only after the entire ham community has discussed it throughly and explored all of the options. And yet, nobody's brought this issue before you, before attempting to change the rules behind your back.

The folks who support the encryption proposal are, as far as I can tell, well-meaning. Many of them are involved in emergency communications. But their methods are inappropriate. If they want this change, they must discuss the issue throughly at ham conferences and in our publications. They must allow hams to become educated about the alternatives and before we decide as a community if a rule change is necessary.

What are the alternatives? One is changing HIPAA to remove liability from the doctors and hospitals for disclosure of information in an amateur emergency transmission. Changing laws is not impossible for Amateurs. Through lobbying congress, we have recently been able to cause changes in ITAR 121, a Department of Defense restriction that made it difficult for us to collaborate with other nations in building microsats. That's changing now as a result of lobbying by ham organizations. If hams can get that done, we can reform HIPAA as well.

Another alternative is to leave the rules as they are today. Many emergency organizations have been able to operate without encryption, despite any reservations by the served organizations regarding HIPAA, which has existed since 1996. And many services other than Amateur Radio, including MARS, Land Mobile, and Part 15 can provide encryption without a rule-change, and might be more appropriate venues for this traffic.

If we end up deciding to have encryption on the Amateur bands, we must do so only after developing a system of controls that prevent its abuse. There is no anti-abuse method sugested in the current request for rule making, but I propose this one: Encryption would only be allowed in tests and drills that would be authorized and publicly announced by accredited ARES or RACES organizations. Logging of encrypted transmissions, including the encryption key, would be mandatory. Stations would be required to disclose their keys to amateur volunteers who would check recorded transmissions for rule-violation, but those volunteers would be required to keep any HIPAA-protected patient data within the transmission private. Stations that repeatedly failed to cooperate in allowing their messages to be decrypted and checked by third parties would be subject to penalties.

But we haven't decided any of this yet. And we shouldn't without your participation. Thus, please comment now in opposition of the proposal.

Again, the last day for you to submit a comment opposing this is JULY 8, so it's important for you to act now! Please make a short comment in opposition to the proposal at this link, or use this link to upload longer documents.

About the Author: Bruce Perens K6BP is one of the founders of the Open Source movement in software. He is also the founder of No-Code International, the organization that successfully lobbied for the global elimination of code testing. More recently, Perens has been a pioneer of digital communications over Ham Radio. He started and evangelized the Codec2 (http://codec2.org/) project, which has developed a fully open and patent-free digital voice codec for Radio Amateurs. That codec is now in use in FreeDV (http://freedv.org/), which provides clear digital voice communications on HF in half the bandwidth of SSB. You can reach him at +1 510-4PERENS (US Pacific time), or email to bruce at perens dot com.

Please forward this message to other hams. The most current version is at http://hams.com/encryption/ Please use that version.
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All items presented here are personal opinion only and may or may not deviate from actual fact.
K1CJS
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Posts: 5809




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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 12:38:42 PM »

Yeah.  This is also in the 'News' section of this site. 

Bad idea--all around.  If the nature of the materials being sent over ham radio are to be kept secret (HIPPA and such) then that material doesn't belong on the ham radio bands at all.
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KG4RUL
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 03:03:10 PM »

Yeah.  This is also in the 'News' section of this site. 

Bad idea--all around.  If the nature of the materials being sent over ham radio are to be kept secret (HIPPA and such) then that material doesn't belong on the ham radio bands at all.

100% agreement with the above!
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LA9XSA
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Posts: 376




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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2013, 03:26:07 PM »

In an emergency where life and limb is at stake, you can already legally encrypt stuff. This is about drills, and I agree that allowing encryption for on-the-air drills is a bad idea. As long as your on-air drills send messages with 100% byte accurate digital messages, they don't need to be encrypted. You can train and practice the actual encryption using different frequencies or even the Internet. After all, you've already proven that your radio transmits data with 100% byte accuracy, so using the Internet as a simulant for radio when training for message encryption is a 1-to-1 substitution.

It's a bit like in the military or police: You don't practice in public with live fire. You practice live fire drills on the range, and practice with blueguns or simulants in public areas. While you keep things as realistic as possible, it's not a good idea to practice both at the same time.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2013, 03:29:16 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
K1CJS
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2013, 03:49:23 AM »

In an emergency where life and limb is at stake, you can already legally encrypt stuff....

Are you going to start with this again?  We've already been through it.  It may be true that encryption is allowable in Norway, but encryption for the purposes of this discussion on rule making on the ham bands in the US is not!  That is the reason for this ill thought request for rule making.

Please qualify your statements so that others who may not have the smarts that they should have don't get themselves in trouble because of following what you said.  73.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 04:08:04 AM by K1CJS » Logged
K5LXP
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2013, 06:15:23 AM »

Encryption is already allowed on commercial and government frequencies.

Instead of using amateur bands, we can short circuit all this crap by allowing emcomm types to use commercial/government bands and licenses to do all this life-saving activity.  Make it like MARS where if you have a ham license you get an "emcomm" license, then you can buy and deploy all the Part 90 compliant equipment you want.

I would offer that even with encryption the usefulness of an emergency plan that involves a bunch of geriatric volunteers running consumer grade equipment on amateur frequencies is still quite limited, and thus this further commercialization encroachment of the ham bands won't likely amount to much.

It might even prove to be entertaining.  If you look at how dysfunctional groups are when it comes to operating packet or digital modes, I can just see what will happen when you introduce an encryption protocol into the mix.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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K1CJS
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2013, 01:31:40 PM »

...Instead of using amateur bands, we can short circuit all this crap by allowing emcomm types to use commercial/government bands and licenses to do all this life-saving activity.  Make it like MARS where if you have a ham license you get an "emcomm" license, then you can buy and deploy all the Part 90 compliant equipment you want....

It can be even simpler than that.  The volunteers can be using the radios under the licenses of the authorities that they're working under.  All that is needed is an identifier code (call) issued by the licensed authority. They don't need their own license at all.  If necessary (or just if the licensing authority wants to) they can even be issued radio sets for use for that purpose.
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LA9XSA
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Posts: 376




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« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2013, 05:02:37 PM »

Are you going to start with this again?  We've already been through it.  It may be true that encryption is allowable in Norway, but encryption for the purposes of this discussion on rule making on the ham bands in the US is not!  That is the reason for this ill thought request for rule making.

FCC rules part 97 says
Quote
No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.
It also allows cross service communications - i.e. communications between the amateur station and another radio service. If you want to say that the amateur station isn't actually working in the amateur service, but is working for a different service in the amateur bands on a secondary basis, you're welcome to define it like that.

The practical implication of this rulemaking request is to allow TRAINING and EXERCISES with encryption on the air, between amateurs in a non-emergency setting. As you may know, there already is an exception written in about letting employees participate in emergency drills for a limited amount of time each week and year - this exception has never been needed to allow employees to use amateur radio on the clock in a real emergency, due to the exception that I quoted above, but it was needed for drills.

If you're wondering about the Norwegian rules, we can talk about those in a different thread.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 05:06:02 PM by LA9XSA » Logged
N9AOP
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« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2013, 06:54:21 PM »

Why would anyone in their right mind, whether an ENCOMM or otherwise, want to send encrypted stuff on the ham bands.  There are other venues available where encryption can be used.
Art
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W7ASA
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« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2013, 07:34:50 PM »

AES256 or other government systems used during a bonafide emergency by specific communicators as needed is not likely to be a significant impediment to our use of the ham bands, certainly miniscule compared to the impact of contesting, which reduces most weekends to radio pandemonium.

On the other hand, I remember these same arguments being used to stop 'the destruction of ham radio' when some forward looking hams with a datacomm background suggested that we should be allowed to transmit ASCII on HF instead of only 5 level Baudot.  Despite all hand-wringing predictions - we survived ASCII and it actually benefited the part 97 radio service.

Globally, we've had full-up, military grade encryption for years - decades- FOR PERSONAL COMMUNICATION on the internet. So what are today's reasons for still prohibiting encryption on ham radio at all? Prohibition of 'obfuscation' and encipherment of ham radio communication goes back to the rum running days where radio was cutting edge communication, and used by bootleggers (that's where we got the term, I bet) to outsmart the government revenuers & later (WW II'ish) was prohibited for national security reasons, which are largely historical now. No present day spook with a desire to live very long, is going to be pounding out 5 digit groups on the ham bands to reach Moscow - or Chicago.




If this is all that we have to be concerned about, life must be pretty easy.  

Now, where did I put my old AN/GRA-71?

MSG 01  GR 05 BT
SECRE TMESS AGESC ANBEF UN!!!
BT AR


>Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._

« Last Edit: June 27, 2013, 07:37:53 PM by W7ASA » Logged
LA9XSA
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Posts: 376




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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2013, 12:04:23 AM »

Why would anyone in their right mind, whether an ENCOMM or otherwise, want to send encrypted stuff on the ham bands.  There are other venues available where encryption can be used.
The whole idea is that, under the present rules, you can encrypt when the other venues are UNavailable. If other avenues are available, such as microwave link, satellite phone, or slow Internet - I would much prefer that my medical record information was transmitted over those than over amateur radio, whether that be encrypted, pseudo-encrypted by use of proprietary modes like D-Star or Pactor III, or in the clear. But when all other avenues are unavailable, then yeah send the essential parts of my medical data in encrypted form, if that benefits my health.

The point is that as long as amateur traffic handlers provide 100% byte accurate end-to-end transmissions with checksums, the amateurs won't have to do the actual encryption. They can just get the encrypted payload from their served agency, put on callsigns, routing and other NTS headers, and send it to its destination. The ham won't even have to look at the contents of the medical data - (s)he knows it was sent 100% accurate to the served agency, and the medical personel there can decrypt and read it.

If hams want to practice encrypted message handling for emergencies, they can just train 100% correct digital transmission of in-the-clear messages on the air, and train the use of encryption off the air or on properly licensed radio services where encryption is allowed.

Allowing encryption on the ham bands in non-emergencies risks putting stuff on there that shouldn't really be there, both for the sake of ham radio, and for the sake of the confidential data.

Globally, we've had full-up, military grade encryption for years - decades- FOR PERSONAL COMMUNICATION on the internet. So what are today's reasons for still prohibiting encryption on ham radio at all? Prohibition of 'obfuscation' and encipherment of ham radio communication goes back to the rum running days where radio was cutting edge communication, and used by bootleggers (that's where we got the term, I bet) to outsmart the government revenuers & later (WW II'ish) was prohibited for national security reasons, which are largely historical now. No present day spook with a desire to live very long, is going to be pounding out 5 digit groups on the ham bands to reach Moscow - or Chicago.
Sure it's still relevant. Look at Syria for example. And numbers stations and obfuscation of messages is still going on. So the reason to disallow nefarious and military use of the bands still is a valid one. I'll give you three more reasons:
- To avoid hiding traffic that should have been sent by phone or other paid service, for pecuniary interest. The FCC has already licensed plenty of common carriers, phone companies and other radio services where encryption is allowed. Only if those are unavailable in an emergency can you send for-profit messages on the ham bands. If this rule didn't exist, the ham band would be full of routine business traffic like taxi services filling the band edge to edge instead of the odd Russian one we get on 10 meters today.
- Short wave listeners and scanner users should still be allowed to listen to you talk. It's both a value in itself that it's open, and the public can verify for themselves that we use the bands properly.
- Ham radio should be based on published and open modes, to allow access to new hams, and contribute to the advancement of technology. I think you'll find that Bruce Perens, the writer of the copy-pasted text in the first post, would prefer to see D-Star, Pactor II/III/IV and other non-free modes banned from ham radio maybe except in bona fide emergencies.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2013, 12:08:39 AM by LA9XSA » Logged
K1CJS
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« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2013, 04:15:27 AM »

FCC rules part 97 says
Quote
No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.

Part 97 rules also state:
§ 97.113 Prohibited transmissions.
(a) No amateur station shall transmit:
(4) ...messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring
their meaning...

This is the part that the rulemaking addresses, simply because this is the part that prohibits encryption.  Your interpretation isn't valid, since any encrypted transmission wouldn't get through anyway if a non-encrypted, regular transmission will not.  

In any event, the plain simple fact of the matter is that the FCC regs PROHIBIT encryption on the ham bands.  Period.  That is the reason that this filing for a rule change is being submitted.

I'm not going to go at it any further with you for two reasons--because you don't know what you're talking about with regards to FCC regs--and because you're on my ignore list from here on.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2013, 04:37:17 AM by K1CJS » Logged
GREGWTH7MMMAG
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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2013, 06:12:38 AM »

I thought I put a few people on ignore after the last ignorant thread, but I guess it didn't take.  Anyone using the term "whacker" is plain ignorant.  Just because you do not share the same interest, no matter how eccentric, does not mean someone is less of a person than you.  The only thing it shows, is that someone has some personal problems, and attempt to lash out at someone in an attempt to make themselves feel better. 
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KD0PWN
N9AOP
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2013, 10:49:27 AM »

I didn't mean to say that in other parts of the world encryption wouldn't have any value but here in the USA I don't see it on the ham bands being of any use.  Anyone thinking of sending medical records over the air via ham radio over here needs to google HIPPA and read the whole thing.  Or go ask some health care worker why some things are not done.

As far as something like pactor 4, that stuff is great.  Low power will allow file transfers in CONUS and overseas on most days.
Art
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W9IQ
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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2013, 12:19:40 PM »

The HIPPA argument is fallacious.

The US Department of Health and Human Service has specifically stated that "The (HIPPA) Privacy Rule does not require the following types of structural or systems changes...encryption of wireless or other emergency medical radio communications which can be intercepted by scanners".

- Glenn W9IQ
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