This is a guest post by Cliff C
[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win - First Prize a 10 Person Deluxe Family Survival Kit, Second Prize an Herb Seed Bank or Third Prize a copy of Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat. For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]
I read the story entry “Communication Hi-Jinks” with interest. I feel the need to offer some counterpoints to what the writer stated.
The writer is a big proponent of using HAM Radio or GMRS. Let me give you a small lesson on why these are dangerous modes of communication. I spent many years (23 to be exact) in what was originally USAF Security Service, later to be Electronic Security Command and then later to be Air Force Intelligence Command. One of the side projects, that we started during the Vietnam War and carried through to Iraq and Afghanistan and other target areas was called C3CM (Command Control Communications Counter Measures).
With not a lot of training an operator can listen in on routine HAM communications, GMRS coms, cell phone comms, walkie talkies and just about any other wireless unencrypted communications. Depending on the level of encryption, many of those systems, including frequency hopping and binary codes can be broken in short order.
Now, this is where the counter measures come in. Say you and a few other preppers have established a routine HAM radion check in net on a daily basis where you discuss everything from how much food you have on hand to how much background radiation is going on. An operator may use a variety of means to disrupt your communications.
They may jam the frequency, they may take the frequency away from you but using a strong signal or worse of all, they can intrude on your net. With a little practice I can imitate the chatter of any station or imitate the fist of anyone using Morse code. I can enter your net, take control, issue bogus orders, order all clear when it isn’t all clear or warn of imminent attacks when none are coming. This will confuse and may even cause panic.
With a more powerful transmitter (available to the government) they can block entire frequency spectrums or take over command and control of local resources. During military exercises, it was not uncommon, to enter a net, assume control, either confuse the other users, force them to go to landline coms (which can also be tapped and intruded upon) or even worse, we assume net control and start giving bogus commands.
Call out the crash trucks to the active run way and stop all take offs and landings, during a simulated chemical agent attack, while agents are still present in the air, giving the “all clear” and having people come out of their chemical protective gear into a chemical environment, call out explosive ordnance personnel to defuse a non-existent bomb on a main through fare stopping all traffic for hours at a time, to things as mundane as changing the hours for the dining facilities or grossly over ordering food to be delivered to the control centers.
While these all seem to be military oriented the same thing can happen in a city. Control of storm, hurricane or natural disaster alerting systems can be taken over quite easily and misinformation passed easily. Or worse the entire system can be shut down remotely.
Preppers depending on comms from other preppers will never know if can trust what they are hearing over the radio. They can never be sure that the person on the other end of the radio is actually their friend or backup or instead a stealthy operator feeding misinformation.
How would you feel if you were a prepper and someone you’ve talked to for quite a while tells you that your whole stock of survival food was contaminated before it left the factory and under no circumstances should you eat it? How about if they tell you that the big berky filters are failing and people are becoming ill? How about a meet up being planned to share food or medicine and it leads you right in to a trap.
Bottom line, you have to be suspect of anything you hear coming over the airways. You can develop book codes for authentication and challenge and response identification but even that can be breached. Over the air radio communication is nice to have when you hear news but how reliable is that news? Do you really know who you are talking to? Do you really know who is listening in to your cell phone, radio communications or intercepting your emails?
I just offer this information as a counterpoint. There are ways to protect yourself or to mitigate some of the harm that can be done to you through bogus transmissions but you have to train and be prepared. Trust none of what you hear, less of what you read and listen to only those people you trust completely in face to face situations. Be paranoid. Government, military, invaders, whom ever are not your friends but they’ll be happy to be talking to you on the radios.
Just as an aside, we were able to intrude upon North Vietnamese and Chinese morse nets using regular HF radios and instruct them to turn off their radars prior to an Arc Light mission flying over. We were able to instruct the VC to prepare for site inspections by Chinese officials, taking time away from building defenses by getting ready to greet the brass that isn’t coming.
It can happen to them, it can happen to you. Think about how you will communicate, be aware that nothing is private and no one owns any frequency. There are highly talented operators among the good guys and among the bad guys and you’ll never know which one you are talking to until the crap hits.
Be safe, be aware, be prepared.