Debate over encrypted ham radio messages intensifies

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Debate over encrypted ham radio messages intensifies

Debate over whether the FCC should tackle violations of private messaging use in amateur radio has heated up following an ex parte case by wireless expert Theodore Rappaport the last year.

The deposit, seconded by a late December submission from Ron Kolarik, said national security is threatened by allowing encrypted messages in the ham strips.

Mission Critical communications received many comments online about the story. Rappaport critics say the FCC can decode any mode currently used on radio amateurs, including Pactor 1, 2, 3, 4. Rappaport disagreed.

In an e-mail to Mission Critical communications, Rappaport stated that only Pactor 1, the original specified and documented open source Pactor that came from Amtor, is decodable by others. Proprietary versions of SCS Pactor 2, 3, 4 cannot be intercepted for service.

“Other members of government and amateur radio have admitted to me privately that Winlink transmissions supported and developed by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation Inc. (ARSFI) are encrypted and not playable in ARQ mode on the bands. shortwave, ”Rappaport said. “This is a desired feature for the commercial Sailmail and Airmail systems (also managed by Associates / Donors / Partners ARSFI / Winlink) but illegal for Amateur Radio, as the FCC only allows such codes not specified above. of 50 MHz. The Winlink / ARSFI user community is clearly doubling down by running a nonprofit email security system on marine frequencies, while illegally using the amateur radio bands for its constituency of users.

Rappaport provided further details in his FCC file, onto which he copied several US lawmakers. FCC Regulatory Proposal Notice (NPRM) 16-239 attempts to remove a baud rate limit for high frequency (HF) shortwave transmissions. He said the FCC should first address violations of the current rules for proper use of the amateur radio service – in particular, the use of obscured private messages, which is prohibited in the Part 97 rules and creates national security concerns, as well as other violations.

AFRSI on Dec. 5 filed a response with the FCC, noting that the group supports NPRM plus an ARRL proposal for a bandwidth cap of 2.8 kilohertz. AFRSI said that for most of Winlink’s stakeholders, the NPRM will license Pactor 4 in the United States. “New, faster and better protocols will be watched closely,” the group said.

AFRSI said that “Rappaport is spreading an unrelated emotional fire…” and urged stakeholders to inquire and file comments with the FCC. AFRSI’s response is here.

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