Sent while I was out West training Patriots, the following is an interesting take on out-of-the-box thinking when applied to urban communications using SDR as a backbone. Phones, as a rule, ALWAYS TRANSMIT LOCATION DATA WHETHER ACTIVATED OR NOT. A better option is a WiFi tablet. I don’t suggest this as a standalone means of communication- folks from class know better and can tell you why- but it is an option. Further, check out this AAR on CrimethInc of the first battle of the color revolution in Minneapolis. Its a coordinated machine. They have a goal. Better make damn sure you know where you stand in the coming days. Meanwhile, I’m training. Come join me.
Mike Hotel and I both read your article this weekend on the Antifa Command and Control structure. As you can imagine, a large part of our discussion about the article focused on the smartphone/SDR comms they were using. I wanted to share some of our thoughts since there seemed to be some confusion in the comments section about what was actually being done.
Our focus was on the SDR, not the smartphone. We believe the smartphones are simply being used as small computers not as phones. They are being used to interface with the SDR which is then used for transmitting and receiving digitally encoded voice communication.
A couple of options that we found for commercially available SDR transceivers that would fit the description given are the LimeSDR, LimeSDR mini and PlutoSDR.
Each of these SDR transceivers can interface with software for Android phones that allow them to send and receive voice communications using digital modes. QRadioLink is just one example of a software package that appears to be able to do this.
The SDR transceivers can operate on a very wide range of frequencies which would allow selecting a frequency best suited for the operation without having to change gear each time they wanted to move to another part of the radio spectrum.
The comment in the article about the weak encryption also makes sense. Since these are tactical comms they only have to remain secure for a short period of time. Strong encryption isn’t necessary. The encryption only needs to protect the communication long enough for the command to be carried out. Would it be best if the encryption was never broken? Yes, but once the command given in the communication has been carried out the value of the decrypted communication drops exponentially especially if it contains little information about the sending and receiving parties.
We have not spent a lot of time on this yet, but it looks like you could provide 2 way secure comms to a company commander at a total cost of about $250 – a $150 SDR transceiver, $100 (or less) Android pre-paid phone (no service needed or wanted), a set of earbuds with a microphone (probably came with the phone) and a free software package.
Once you standardized on the hardware and software, setting up duplicate units could be done quickly by following a checklist. Copies of the software package could be kept locally and transferred by USB or an isolated network so the phone never touches the internet. Take a pre-paid phone that was bought with cash more than 30 days ago, turn it on, install the SDR software from a USB, set up the SDR software and send it out the door with a company commander. If it looks like he/she will be arrested then they can dispose of the phone and SDR. Breaking the SDR is not necessary. Breaking the phone is preferred, but the actual value of breaking the screen on a cell phone in hindering a forensic examination is highly over rated. Even if the phone is not broken, the use of some basic security precautions on the front end will make accessing any data on the phone very difficult. Even if the data is accessed linking it to a specific person or group will be difficult because of the lack of cell service and internet activity. Plus, the encryption was on the voice transmission not on text. My guess is little if any data is left from the SDR application that could be recovered even if the forensic investigator knew what to look for.
The frequencies chosen for their communications could be anywhere in the radio spectrum but are probably VHF or higher. Personally, I would look at options around 400 MHz and 900 MHz. Both seem to work well in urban environments, have ranges of license free frequencies, industrial/business frequencies and amateur frequencies. Plus, repeater equipment is readily available for those portions of the spectrum that is relatively low cost and portable. With a repeater on a high building, the low power SDR transceivers have a much greater coverage area.
Looking for their communications only requires an SDR receiver and a laptop. It could possibly be done with a phone or tablet, but I think a serious effort to find and decode these communications is well beyond the capabilities of that hardware. A couple of laptops listening to and recording sections of the radio spectrum, especially in the UHF section, would be ideal. SDRConsole and QRadioLink are the software packages I would try first for decoding based on the short amount of research we have done so far.
Here are some articles and videos I found that help show some example of what they may be doing:
Sorry for the long email, but I wanted to share our thoughts in case they maybe of some benefit to you or others. We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please let us know if you think we are off base on this – given our proximity to Asheville the possibility of a real life test in the future is very real to us.
On another note, this highlights how different the left and the right have approached comms. They have focused on radio comms for tactical communications when the internet and cell towers are shut down, but rely on the internet for strategic comms. We have done just the opposite – we can send messages across the country and within regions of the country on HF 24/7 regardless of band conditions, but we can’t seem to coordinate anything local without cell phone service for calls, text and email. You have been one of the lone voices in promoting tactical comms using RF. Please know that what you are doing is needed and appreciated even more than we can express.