Eavesdropping on the Fed’s radios is drop dead simple

Steven Hodson - Author

Jun. 16 2013, Updated 12:09 a.m. ET

You know that for agencies that are so concerned about our security you would think that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice would be more than a little concerned about their own security when it comes to their radio communications.

However it seems that not only is it extremely easy to eavesdrop on their radio communications but with some of the radios they use it takes nothing more than a $30 toy pager to effectively jam their radio traffic.

In a new study released today researchers found that they were able to listen in on sensitive conversations that included things like descriptions of undercover agents and confidential informants as well as plans for forthcoming arrests and surveillance technology being used.

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“We monitored sensitive transmissions about operations by agents in every Federal law enforcement agency in the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security,” wrote the researchers, who were led by computer science professor Matt Blaze and plan to reveal their findings Wednesday in a paper at the Usenix Security Symposium in San Francisco.

Their research also shows that the radios can be effectively jammed using a pink electronic child’s toy and that the standard used by the radios “provides a convenient means for an attacker” to continuously track the location of a radio’s user.

The authors say they are extremely concerned about the security lapses found in the radios, which are used by the FBI and Homeland Security as well as state and local law enforcement. “We strongly urge that a high priority be placed” on a “substantial top-to-bottom redesign” of the system, dubbed P25, they write.

via Wall Street Journal

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The researchers have reached out to the various federal agencies possibly affected as well as creating a website that law enforcement agencies can use to help mitigate the problems.

Apparently the FBI hasn’t responded to to the news at this point.


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