Airchat, The Wireless Mesh Network From Lulzlabs

Airchat

With the lessons learned from the Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian revolutions, a few hardware and software hackers over at Lulzlabs have taken it upon themselves to create a free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech digital communications protocol that doesn’t deal with expensive, highly-surveilled commercial and government controlled infrastructure. They call it Airchat, and it’s an impressive piece of work if you don’t care about silly things like ‘laws’.

Before going any further, we have to say yes, this does use amateur radio bands, and yes, they’re using (optional) encryption, and no, the team behind Airchat isn’t complying with all FCC and other amateur radio rules and regulations. Officially, we have to say the FCC (and similar agencies in other countries) have been granted the power – by the people – to regulate the radio spectrum, and you really shouldn’t disobey them. Notice the phrasing in that last sentence, and draw your own philosophical conclusions.

Airchat uses an off the shelf amateur transmitter, a Yaesu 897D in the example video below although a $30 Chinese handheld radio will do, to create a mesh network between other Airchat users running the same software. The protocol is based on the Lulzpacket, a few bits of information that give the message error correction and a random code to identify the packet. Each node in this mesh network is defined by it’s ability to decrypt messages. There’s no hardware ID, and no plain text transmitter identification. It’s the mesh network you want if you’re under the thumb of an oppressive government.

Airchat has already been used to play chess with people 180 miles away, controlled a 3D printer over 80 miles, and has been used to share pictures and voice chats. It’s still a proof of concept, and the example use cases – NGOs working in Africa, disaster response, and expedition base camps – are noble enough to not dismiss this entirely.

Comments

  1. Waterjet says:

    Pretty sure there is no FCC in Egypt?

  2. dave says:

    the reason encryption is not permitted in the amateur bands is because if it was, commercial operations would quickly take over the bands and there’d not be and bandwidth available for amateur use. that said, enforcement in the USA is virtually nonexistant, but if you get caught it’ll cost you a bunch. doing this on 6m or longer is going to potentially cause problems with other legitimate operators for many hundreds or thousands of miles from the transmitter’s location. I suspect most will opt for the cheap handheld radios and work on 2m or 70cm bands which are line of sight which will be less of a problem.

    in a war zone, feel free to use any means necessary.

    • dave says:

      also, just transmitting in all directions with a low gain antenna is a pretty good way to get spotted/located. better would be to use a directional/high gain antenna and only transmit to your preferred receiver’s location.

    • vpoko says:

      Also the reason encryption is not allowed (IMO, I have no evidence of this) is that by preserving the open nature of the communications, governments won’t get suspicious and ban amateur radio. Amateur radio is non-political and exists for the advancement of the art of radio. If it starts being used for things that governments perceive as subversive, there could be a push to make it illegal in at least some countries. That all said, when a situation is serious enough, people are going to do what they have to do, and I’m not going to judge them… despite being a licensed ham and having a vested interest in keeping it legal.

      • Truth says:

        Yes but encryption can be evil, and be hidden as noise on on top of a normal innocuous boring everyday transmission, just at a very low bit rate :)

      • efahrenholz says:

        Encryption is forbidden because the FCC reserves the right to spot check all bands for compliance with the rules and regulations. As well, hams share the bandwidth. Encrypting the voice and data is an active form of take-over, since other hams can’t openly communicate on the frequency without the encryption key.

  3. Tibz says:
  4. IjonTichi DM9MS says:

    i apreciate the background of this stuff but I have 2 things to say:

    PLEASE do not use our ham radio bands… there is so much space on the spectrum,
    nearly every ham radio tranciever will work on the PMR band or some other parts of the spectrum like ISM and souch.
    So please stay away from our bands and use the “cheap handheld-radio” frequencys with your ham tranciever.

    second:
    there is already a mesh networking infrastructure made by hams, which takes care of all these propagation and error correction stuff, its called APRS and will work with a 9.6kBaud on most trancievers (if they have an discriminator input/output, but even my 100€ crappy kenwood device has one)

    so in fact the only thing they had to to do is pouring encription over this system…

    so have fun with hacking but please dont disturb others while they have thier fun…

    –Ijon Tichi
    DM9MS

  5. Rob Thomas says:

    “granted the power – by the people”: really? Is that like the NSA being granted power to snoop everyone because they are a part of a government that was elected by the people?

    • inske says:

      Yeah. Same thing. It is the social contract. We are bound to it because we were born into a society. Long ago some people that we call ‘the people’ wrote some stuff that ‘the people’ (see it keeps coming up) in power at the time liked. Ever since there has been other people that have been trying to use it for their own purposes. Hacking the documents as it were. And now we are in an odd situation where there is no way to opt-out of the social contract that has been so bastardized that there is not much left aside from moving to another social contract system. Of course after all this time it is like noncompete agreements of BS EULAs, you are just trading one devil for another. But don’t fret! You are still part of the people, just not ‘the people’.

      In other words, when someone says the phrase ‘the people’ your immediate reaction should be to ask, ‘Which people?’

      Woo seems like a higher education with some emphasis on history, governance, law, and the like came in handy after all! Nevermid that, just like the social contract, I had no real choice other than to take classes on that stuff. Now excuse me I have 20k in debt to pay off, because the people says making more than subsistence wages requires me to live in subsistence.

      • Ren says:

        succinct!

      • krb686 says:

        “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

        Alexis de Tocqueville

        Or as an extension of that, until the executive branch discovers that it can capitalize upon the the uneducated mass, and that mass of “the people” who cannot think deeper than the surface level, who cannot lift a finger or read more than a sentence or two to discover the truth, in spite of their laziness and apathy, becomes ‘supercritical’, at which point uncontrolled fission occurs.

      • Hirudinea says:

        “It is the social contract. We are bound to it because we were born into a society.”

        Just like slavery!

  6. alfred says:

    I already tried it a few days ago and have to warn you: it’s VERY slow. But It works great, I really like it!

  7. DainBramage1991 says:

    The sad thing is that this exact thing could be accomplished 100% legally (under US law, anyway). They would have to give up the encryption (perish the thought anyone else intercepts your remote 3D print), and the operators might have to spend a whopping $15 to acquire a license. This might also work legally on other parts of the spectrum and/or other parts of the world, I only know about US amateur radio regulations.

    That being said, using amateur radio bands is a sure-fire way to get caught. The FCC might be a bit slow on prosecution, but the amateurs themselves are extremely good at locating illegal signals, usually right down to the exact address. Use the ham bands in the US illegally, and it will be found out. Period.

    One more thing, directional antennas transmit in all directions, there’s just a larger portion of the sign going forward, hence the gain. I can work repeaters 75 miles away on the back side of my directional yagi antenna.

    • dave says:

      use higher frequencies and a parabolic antenna or a patch antenna.

    • Randy says:

      Thinking about setting up a 2 watt setup on MURS channels to try it out. The only interesting thing to me is the mesh implementation, and it looks pretty poor. Burst digital modes at QRP power aren’t that hard to set up, and still hard to track.

    • NsN says:

      I think those two conditions (acquire a HAM license and skip encryption) conflict with some important use cases.

      I’ve been thinking about the idea of an anonymized wireless mesh network for a while. One major use case for me would be demonstrations / revolutions. In Egypt and Turkey the government shut down cell phone towers to keep protesters from effectively communicating. In Libya the rebels build up their own cell phone network to coordinate their actions.

      A cheap, easy to deploy network using COTS hardware would be very useful in those situations. But you can’t give every user a HAM course first, and encryption would also be nice to have.

      Ideally you could build up a neat WIFI mesh network, using existing phones and routers. This way you would comply with the FCC (or whatever the equivalent is in the respective countries) and deploy very quickly. But unitl that works, I applaud any effort, whether they comply with the FCC rules or not.

      • Me says:

        The people developing this are not at the front lines of a revolution nor are they demonstrating. Even if they were demonstrating, they live in a location where demonstrations are for the most part allowed.

        They could have been licensed and kept the encryption turned off while developing their mesh protocol. They could always substitute a part 15 radio or even a wired link to test the encryption.

        Then, yes, if people in a revolution ever used the thing they would be going against the established law anyway and so would definitely be using encryption and not identifying themselves.

        It’s one thing to hide from the authorities when a totalitarian government is out to get you. It is another to just ignore the rules which were meant to help people share a limited resource just because you think your cause entitles you.

        • Jon says:

          You never know when you are going to be in those shoes. Yes, the U.S. maybe to decentralize for something like that to happen, but it is nice to have options. I personally am getting sick on how our isp regulates what we do on the internet.

    • Dai Pole says:

      Well it’s not ‘this exact thing’ if the persons using it are unable to use encryption, AND have to obtain a licence – forgoing their anonymity. They would no doubt be able to communicate only with other “hams”, the closest of whom will ever get to a revolution is spinning their chair around to get another sip of “soda”.

      • rj says:

        Thing is, they could have done the encryption at a higher level, and then the only difference between “not pissing off hams” mode and warzone mode is whether you transmit your callsign.

        • Dai Pole says:

          Quite frankly, I see pissing off hams as a feature not a bug, but really it is irrelevant as this program is not intended for hams anyway. Amateur radio enthusiasts already have their own established protocols, and have little use for this program.

      • Me says:

        And how close are the developers to a revolution? People who actually NEED that anonymity can always use PGP or some other application over an unencrypted mesh network.

        OR

        The authors could have used Part 15 equipment. Even if the actual end users ended up using Ham, Commercial or other equipment which does require a license (due to range requirements i guess) They can do that in the areas where the protests/revolution/civil war/etc.. is ocurring. There is no need to do that here! It’s not like sending data over a ham radio is some new, untested idea and you need to see if it works before you need it!

        OR

        They could have left software ‘hooks’ in their code where an extra ‘filter’ layer can be inserted. Then it woudl be a simple matter of plugging in an encryption layer IF you are in a position that it is needed.

        • Dai Pole says:

          OR

          They could have shipped something now, get the ball rolling and people talking about creating their own mesh networks, rather than gazing at their navels pontificating how.

          Perhaps the creators get a cruel pleasure from hearing all the hams bleating “why, oh why” – who knows? You’d have to ask them yourself to answer that question.

  8. Dorl says:

    Why not just get basic packet radio over these things, throw cjdns over it, and use whatever messaging protocol you like?

    • Ben Mendis says:

      Project Byzantium tested that out. Latency is high, throughput is very very low, and the collision domain is huge. Even under ideal conditions, you’re talking about well over an hour to transfer about 1M of data. It’s barely practical for simple messaging, let alone a protocol like cjdns.

      But don’t take my word for it. You can buy a couple of Baofengs and try it out for yourself. (We also tested with a pair of Kenwood TH72d radios, which have a built-in TNC that can do 9600 baud.)

  9. Ren says:

    As an amateur (ham) I agree with DainBramage (gasp!) B^)

  10. fartface says:

    Or you could just use the $30 china radio and talk into it. There are $60 china radios that have encryption built in if you think you really need it.

  11. Pusalieth says:

    Just piggy back the signal on an existing channel, dial in the same frequency and amplitude of an already legit signal, but change the modulation. Only the person with the prerequisite modulation would know it exists?

  12. Me says:

    It wouldn’t be difficult at all to create a system using the ham bands which makes your cellphone (for both voice and internet) pretty much obsolete. Why pay some company (who is probably sharing everything you do with your nation’s version of the NSA) all this money when it is so simple to just set up a radio link yourself? All the pieces have been available for decades now. In the last few years the price of equipment has dropped way down too!

    This would be great! Of course lots of people would agree it is great! So great that in no time at all the bandwidth would be all used up! That’s why we have thinks like licensing and rules against encryption. Hams will protect their bands.

    I bet 10s of reports of their signal had already been sent to the FCC. Now that it’s been on HaD I’m sure 1000s of links to their website have been sent.

    This was pretty dumb. If they are really concerned about people in opressed lands they could have done their development WITH licenses and WITHOUT the encryption. Encryption could easily be tacked on at the application layer before exporting to wherever without ever broadcasting it on the ham bands.

    That being said this still isn’t a very good system for their stated goals of political dissent. Playing chess over 180 miles?!? So they are using some power. Is that an omnidirectional antenna I see? For a political dissident that is a beacon to the local despot. Even if they can’t crack the encryption, so what? It’s still easy to track! When they find you they have ways to get you to tell them what the conversation was about.

    A system for sending brief signals in a very specific direction at the lowest power necessary would be safer.

    • Dorl says:

      Rules against encryption? What are you talking about?
      Also there’s no different between encrypted application data encapsulated in an unencrypted container and just encrypting everything.

      • DainBramage1991 says:

        Yes, rules against encryption. In the US, and most other places AFIK, encryption is absolutely forbidden on amateur radio bands.

        • rasz_pl says:

          Its not forbidden, AMBE+2 is _practically_ an encryption, and yet it is widely used in US on amateur bands

          • blade says:

            Big difference between Encryption and Encoding technique, which is what AMBE 2+ is; most hams, if they wanted to, could purchase or build the means to decode transmissions using AMBE, but they could not do so with anything that was encrypted.

          • rasz_pl says:

            sure, most could .. except NO ONE did because AMBE+2 is patented and closed = its equal to encrypting

          • blade says:

            I would suggest doing some research before making blanket statements like that; I know of at least 4 current or future sources of devices that will decode AMBE encoded audio streams, all of which were designed by hams.

    • Greenaum says:

      That’d be a good extension to it. Have it periodically assess the signal strength for each of the nodes it’s talking to, and keep it just above the minimum for the signal rate you need. The re-assessment would need doing because of atmospherics, etc.

      Also a “BUSTED!” button would be good, to let nodes know when their neighbours get, well, busted, so depending on the correct level of paranoia one could yank the plug. Obviously build in plug-yankability too, have the nework not mind if a node disappears. IP already does that.

      The antenna directionality is also interesting. Not always easy to do, especially if nodes move about. That might be a really nice use for phased arrays, several virtual antennas constantly keeping track of their neighbour’s direction. Although that, and signal travel time, would give you exact locations of other nodes, which I suppose they don’t want. Still the panic button could kill the RAM with that information in.

      AIU phased arrays they’re not yet cheap and easy. Dish with a motor on is a second-best method.

      There’s also a guy in one of the Baltic countries, or thereabouts, who gets a very nice rate sending Ethernet over custom infra-red transcievers, range of maybe a couple of miles, using telescopes. More safe than radio in some ways, though obviously it’s a giant beacon for someone using night goggles.

  13. William McGree says:

    The HAll MonitorS of the airwaves have certainly proven to be a great help to open and transparent communications in the past. It should come as little surprise that many in that community would run blazing to the Powers That Be complaining of the noisy rude kids.
    But lets face it, are you looking for their approval in something like AirChat? I did not think so. Carry on.

  14. Rick says:

    If you’re gonna give the finger to the FCC, do it in such a way as to not hose those of us who are following the rules? Kicking off HAMs when you can use the commercial bandwidth owned by whichever company paid the most in getting the President elected isn’t gonna win friends. Stick it to The Man if you must, but make sure it’s The Man getting the shaft.

  15. BartGrantham says:

    Just took a quick look at the code review posted above and then looked at the code. This is NOT secure. It uses crypto incorrectly, has bugs in its logic, and also has bugs due to sloppy code style. It’s an ok proof of concept, but don’t use this tool as it is. Another mesh-chat tool will come along that works the same way, probably soon, but will be much more correct in the ways that count.

    • Dorl says:

      That way is cjdns any and protocol you want.

    • Me says:

      Proof of what concept?

      Mesh networks already exist. Data over ham radio already exists. Minus the encryption there are already mesh networks built by hams!

      It should be pretty obvious that any network that can send unencrypted data will also send encrypted data. What the sender sends should be what the receiver receives.

      So what is this supposed to prove?

      • Me says:

        AMPRNet was going stroing in the 80s!

      • Woah. Settle down, dude. I didn’t write the thing, nor did I claim that meshnets or data over the ham bands hadn’t been done before. That stuff is old hat, as you know.

        It does do Diffie-Hellman key exchange, or at least attempts to and does it wrong. That’s also not new, but a bit more than what one finds in APRS. And it puts the whole thing together into a package with very simple instructions that dispense with a lot of the usual amateur radio jargon.

  16. Peter Hanely says:

    A node identified solely by ability to decrypt packets meant for it implies mesh networking. Simple, robust, hides who is talking to who (within the limits of network size), but horridly inefficient use of bandwidth. If a common cheap radio is used for the link, hiding that you’re transmitting something the regulators can’t make sense of is hard to hide.

    If a government is prepared to shut down the cellular network to hamper opposition communication, simply using such a network may make you a target.

  17. Me says:

    This is just a group of kids trying to spite the FCC. It isn’t a tool for disidents. Using this in areas where something like it is needed would likely get disidents killed. What they have ‘built’ (mostly just connected the blocks that others built) is a beacon that gives away their locations the moment they start to use it.

    The encryption rules these guys are breaking are meant to keep amateur radio amateur. As in it’s a tool to be used by people who want to play with radio technology. (hackers!) Otherwise the limited bandwidth which is available would be very quickly filled up with mere consumers who just want to check their email, watch Youtube videos, etc… Not that there is anything wrong with being a consumer but there isn’t enough bandwidth to go around for everyone to do that. It wouldn’t take long and nobody would be able to accomplish anything among all the interference!

    If you want to play with mesh networking go get a license and try this: http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/. Or skip the license and start extending this: http://jeelabs.org/2011/01/16/poor-man%E2%80%99s-mesh-network/

    If you are a dissident in a truly oppressive country then I wish you the best of luck. Please keep in mind that whatever kind of signal you send they are easy to track. These kids played chess from 180 miles apart. And they use omnidirectional antennas. That means that from anywhere within “AT LEAST” a 180 mile radius they could be located. In my part of the world amateurs do that succesfully as a game even using cheap low-tech equipment such as antennas cobled together from old tape measures. With that kind of equipment it only takes a couple of measurements and a map to get a rough idea of where the transmitter is. Narrowing it down to an exact location is mostly a matter of driving to a closer location and measuring again. Authorities with fancier equipment don’t even have to do that. They can locate you almost instantly!

    • qwerty says:

      Exactly. Government monitoring stations measure phase delay between signals using not only antenna arrays in the field but small remotely controlled receivers displaced on city rooftops as well. All it needs is a fraction of a second to spot the transmitter location.
      Today there is no way to be undetectable, therefore you have to be really fast to move in a newer location after each transmission. Just forget your mom’s basement.

      • Me says:

        >> Today there is no way to be undetectable

        I have wondered if it might be possible to illuminate a cloud using a laser on some non-visible wavelength. I assume then that to find the transmitter one would have to get very lucky and actual stumble across the beam.

        Not that I expect such equipment to be available to protesters/rebels/disidents. It’s just a thought.

  18. jpnorair says:

    My RF product, HayTag, uses 433 MHz band at 1mW (legal) in combination with some DSP to deliver ~28kbps at distances over a mile. The HW could be adapted down to 169 MHz and boosted to higher output power without much effort, if you are a so-inclined hacker. I bet it could achieve <20 miles without too much trouble — and still powered by the stock solar panel — if you don't care about the law.

  19. There are a number of ways to avoid RF triangulation by entities in charge of doing this. Some were perfected in WW2 others haven’t been invented yet. But here are some ways to do it:

    1. Spread Spectrum Frequency Hopping (WW2 technology believe it or not). It’s used in the cheap TriSquare walkie-talkies. They have amazing range and are on 800 MHz band. Can not even be heard on a conventional police scanners. And they are legal and license free.

    2. Stay mobile when transmitting. Drive fast and don’t revisit geographic locales too much. Don’t follow predictable paths either.

    3. Using a system of VOIP data/audio site-to-site connections, setup several mesh transmitters across a large geographical area. Have an Arduino (or a conventional PC) randomly poll the transmitter sites at rapid speeds during a audio or data transmission. The direction finders will be totally baffled as to what your radio fix actually is. It will be all over the place. The human operator will assume that their RDF system is broken.

    4. Get a copy of the old MIT PGP-PHONE to encrypt your audio. Not really available any more and you will have to really dig to find it. It uses a modem too just like this Airchat does

    5. An old Mesh Network project that was never explored was the Russian made (in Chicago USA) 900 MHz packet radio toys called CYBIKO. There was hacked software for them that could be hacked into making a mesh network repeating system. These Cybikos could be planted all around a large geographical area or in moving mobile units and a LEGAL mesh network would be possible. The RF power was under the FCC Part 15 rules and totally legal. The range would be very good just like a HAM Packet Radio Network. This toy died out and the hackers eventually lost interest. They never explored Mesh Networking though. Worth a HaD project I think.

    Ideally you need to combine them all and develop a data burst system which is hard to track. The packets are burst in random timing and maybe even disguised in artificial background radio noise. Some HAM technologies to look into is APRS and PACKET RADIO for ideas.

    I’m telling you also to not fool around with HAMS. They are fox hunters and will find you Airchaters and help the authorities to press charges. I don’t recommend fooling around in their bands. They are self-policing. Try FRS or CB radio. Nobody cares about that anymore. Also there are microwave frequencies and even light wave applications that have not been fully explored yet.

    How about a long range omnidirectional laser repeater? Not invented yet? What are you waiting for? :-)

    • Lasers are pretty much jam proof. Watch movie THE OBJECTIVE to get a flavor for how that works.

    • rasz_pl says:

      Your 1-3 methods would work .. during WW2, but not today.
      SSFH is NOT a security feature, and is trivial to separate using modern equipment (3 clicks using something like agilent SA). Times of analog tools are over. Now you can simply click pause/rewind/forward and analyse any signal in frequency, time, temporal and spatial domains.
      Spatial filtering (beam forming) alone will give you direction of all the transmitters on a channel in just few seconds.

      • I agree that no system is foolproof. But some of the simplicity of certain archaic systems is an asset to the one requiring a modicum of stealth. SSFH affords you the ability to not be easily discovered in the first place. If an agency has the financial budget to afford Agilent equipment, and competent technologist to use them then yes they will find you quickly. But it’s not often that a US federal agency or local law enforcement has those resources. Not every agency can have NSA-CSS teams at the ready to go fox hunting an RF signal.

        Most FCC field teams are not very competent and use Doppler RDF to track scoff laws. They don’t have huge budgets like our military and the IC. What you are talking about with beamforming is a technology our US NAVY is familiar with on Aegis boats. Namely Non Steerable Arrays. Simply put phased array antennas that can track any RF target in realtime without moving the array. It also works for its radar too. But FCC does not have that technology nor will they ever.

        #3 has not been invented yet. It works on the principle that only one of the transmitters is radiating at any given point in time. It radiates for a few milliseconds and then goes on to another random transmitter site many miles away. Any modern RDF system will see it as a Christmas Tree of unrelated targets suggesting that the equipment is faulty. A radio listener will have a baffling audio and s-meter experience and the azimuth and elevation on RDF equipment will appear random (which it is). So yes modern equipment will still see them but the operator will not be able to process the data properly and be quite confused. And if they are all mobile (mesh like) then forget about actually catching any of them.

        Of course an Aegis boat or a AWACS will not have any problem doing this. But who has that much of a budget and competent operators like the US military does. I think we also have some DoD (NRO) satellites that can do this too.

        The best encryption I can think of is quite simple. It’s based on old technology dating back to ancient Greece. President Thomas Jefferson used it. It’s called Steganography. If someone could develop a bunch of noun-verb-rich benign sundry paragraphs of spoken or typed words to transmit in the clear, a Steganography program could filter out the meaningless words and only reveal the words that are part of the code in a prearranged sequence. The casual listener or interceptor only hears benign speech or text and gets bored and moves on.

        Example: “Please pick me up a loaf of bread and some milk at the corner store at 639 Meet Street” would translate to: “Meet me at 639 AM at corner of Loaf and Milk Street”.

        • rasz_pl says:

          Im pretty sure I saw #3 in some movies :)
          and who has equipment? you would be surprised (DHS grands and all). Look at Ettus, this company exploded commercially while offering something niche and of limited potential usability. Gues who is their biggest cleint? After Snowden leaks one of the NSA slides boasted biggest USRP deployment ever, recommending particular Ettus SDR model as the official go to hardware for NSA teams and their subcontractors.

          • Wow… I like movies. I wish I knew which one that was! :-) Anyway, my salient point about #3 was that the tracker NEVER finds the end-user as he is sitting on the Internet somewhere in the world VOIPing to the remote Xcvrs. Yes they may find the xcvrs linked to someone’s unsecured wi-fi hotspot and on nano-solar cell, but so what? You can do this now with apps like ZELLO (RF Gateway) an amazing product when it works. The tracker probably has no idea that the end-user is “cheeseboxing” from the Internet. I did see in a recent movie a IC guy cheeseboxing a walkie-talkie to a landline which I thought was quite cool but a bit impractical – for obvious reasons. I’m sure you and I know of many tradecraft methods we wont share here. Because if you do they “dry up” quickly due to “wannabes” (¿¿) ruining it for others.

            I love SDR and I am loading it up right now. I’m using a toy tv dongle too. Amazing technology. Once I saw an amazing HF antenna used by you-know-who. It took up almost an acre of land and was very innovative. They boast that it’s location could never be found easily. But it’s not very portable and is probably only used by fixed “numbers stations” for the IC. All I remember was the words “rhombic” and other memory fragments. It was a huge circle that’s all I can really remember.

            Yes DHS is one of those “high-budget” agencies. But the other “black-budget” types have unlimited cash and deal with James Bond-esque MILINDCMPLX’s like Bechtel. They have gadgets you wont believe. And they do an excellent job keeping stuff off the “Internets” (as Dubya would say) – from nosy types like us. :-)

            I used to know this guy from back in the day, who is now private sector civvie, that was one of those big-budget NSA “RF trackers”. He told me about this one mission to Turkey to track a PRC numbers station that was using a special Yagi-Uda focused at CONUS West. So why Turkey and not Pacific? Actually quite slick. They knew PRC would detect them on the lobe’s front-end so they fly a huge commercial jet to Ankara I think and caught everything on the weaker back-end to be sent back to Puzzle Palace. I don’t get all the details but maybe you get it better than I do.

            Got any recommendations on some genre movies we would like? Some are quite good. I’m Jonesing for another Red October or Crimson Tide. Too bad about Tony Scott. He would have made some really good ones I think.

          • Check out Mr. Obama’s new cell phone. It’s a General Dynamics Secreta Edge. Now that’s a gadget that is a force to be reckoned with for snoops and trackers. Maybe using Google’s new modular cell phone project kit we could develop one of our own. Or maybe the OP should look into that if they need that much OpSec. I personally never say anything “interesting” into a microphone. On a keyboard? Well maybe yes… “I am most like a bunch of birds in the sky connecting together like a string of black dots.”
            Private Key = 01-04-12-19
            (FYI – Not a Kryptos riddle wrapped in an enigma now! :-) )

        • Me says:

          My understanding was that they were claiming their main goal of this is for it to be useful to people in ‘Arab Spring’ type movements. That means they will have millitary types after them, not FCC types.

          Also, during a civil war when the government shuts down most of the civilian radio traffic your signals are going to be a lot easier to find. Especially if they are organised enough to know where all their own signals are. We aren’t talking about a moving target hiding in a sea of cellphones here!

    • Me says:

      Assumption: I think they are meaning for this to be used in ‘Arab Spring’ sort of revolutions

      1) SS would make it a bit harder to track. Now that we have SDRs though a bit of creative coding would take away most of that advantage. Millitaries have been at this stuff for a while, I ‘m sure they have already written that code.

      2) Yes, being mobile is probably the one thing that might help. But… in a front-line situation are the people who need this going to be capable of staying mobile all the time?

      3) Most authoritarian regimes do not allow for amateur radio or if they do it is very limited. They are also prone to turning off cellular networks and usually control the local media. It should be pretty easy for a government listening station to locate the signals that ‘don’t belong’ and start shutting down all your nodes. This will not go well for whoever is hosting them.

      4) Encryption is great but it doesn’t do anything to prevent authorities from locating you. Once you disappear maybe it doesn’t matter any more what you were saying. Then again, if they really want to know once you are in their custody they probably have their ways.

      5) Sounds a lot like the old Metricom modems. I bet there are many old mesh technologies out there. Then again, there are many new ones too!

  20. CorrosiveOne says:

    Impressive lol…..

    Yeah right HAD, don’t report on things you don’t understand please.
    Ugly code, poorly constructed, and basically useless as a tactical system.

    RF is easy to find via Direction Finding (ask any ham), there is the issue of the encryption which lets face it.. if the NSA wanted it.. they’ll have it.

    This is just a bunch of kids screaming hey look! Cheap radio, lets mess with it.
    All this is going to do is damage radio as it is today.

    Last but not least… it’s not like it’d be hard to just encrypt RTTY, why screw with all this bs?

  21. fcc_gMan says:

    Man, I sit here and read all the comments from some of you armchair wannabee 35N’s. From the sounds of it, all of you just read theory and have very little *real world* “HANDS ON” experience in performing the duties of actually prosecuting an emitter to targetable grid coordinates. Hint, it’s not as “point-and-click” as some are suggesting.

    Hopefully the FCC will subject those amateur frequency band squatters with a six figure “forfeiture” notice and make an example of them for thumbing their noses at legitimate authorized users. I’m not a fan of the FCC by any means – (given that they are now more infested with attorneys than actual engineers, and even then, those engineers are puppets told to toe the political line – “BPL” ring a bell ?), but the FCC does serve somewhat of a purpose in avoiding what would otherwise be uncontrolled anarchy and chaos on the frequency spectrum.

    • @fcc_Gman – You may have been a SIGINT engineer at FCC back in the day but that is now ancient history IMO. Like you said an enforcement agent ( a suit?) will drive around in a white van or crown vic with plastic roof and try and pinpoint a RF scoff law with his Doppler RDF. All the while having to contend with RF reflections off buildings, mountains, and other reflection structures. You are right that “point and click” is not the real world as false targets are. But off course you “geeks” (no offense) are really good at getting it right. The lawyerly types (suits) would prefer point-and-click though. The same goes for FBI and some DHS types. If it ain’t in a drop-down menu or clickable icon in their laptop it is way over their heads.

      I’m not saying that NSA and CIA people are any better. But they employ overt “geeks” (I,e, DS&T) to do the geeky stuff. And if you have unlimited cash like Brennan and Alexander do then the sky is the limit on really other-worldly gadgets to track people with. The movie ENEMY OF THE STATE – 1998 (another Tony Scott (the late) masterpiece) took a stab at it but only scratched the surface. Tony predicted the NSA – DHS – TIA debacle decades ago. But why a half-gainer off a San Pedro bridge¿¿¿

    • Josh says:

      FCC enforcement is almost non-existent these days. You really have to create quite a rukus to get the FCC to even take notice. Even getting a “forfeiture” notice is usually a paper tiger unless the FCC can convince the DOJ to take the offender to court.

  22. Jann says:

    did you check it?
    I actually tested and found that encryption is turned off by default and you have the option to transmit your callsign all time.
    Actually don’t know about the coding, but it works pretty much well.

  23. mattadlard says:

    This has interesting possibilities in places like third world countries, where you can carry this over land via a drone or moped, scooter, motorbike, car etc. It also carries well with disaster relief, simple drop em’ off on high places and provide emergency cover, or have volunteers carry them in a back pack.

    • @mattadlard – Already being done in India for decades. It was an initiative to bring Internet messaging to the indigent populous in the out-back regions. Mesh Network nodes in passing vehicles. I also believe US Armed forces in SW Asia use mobile mesh networking MMN as well. Utilizing a MMN message “store and forward” mode is really intriguing as a new business model for someone. Some company was experimenting with MMN on helium balloons in SW USA. I wonder how that’s doing today? I’d like to see an emergency messaging system like this sent aloft in an emergency helium balloon or a small airborne drone; like during a desert, ocean, or mountain survival situation.

  24. Mr. Telecom says:

    Cute and utterly useless. If you can’t stream HD video no one will use it! What else do you do to waste your free time?

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