Category Archives: Thinking Ahead Series

Thinking Ahead – Countering the Nefarious as an Amateur Radio Operator – Part I

This series started with

With the recent FCC admonishment to the Amateur Radio community to “not commit crimes using amateur radio” begs first the obvious question asking what is up with the FCC, but it is the second question of “what can we do to help?” that is of more importance to the radio amateur.

How can we “Counter the Nefarious?”

Reality is the segment of society involved in ham radio may share some commonality, but also includes a wide enough swath to have a few bad actors in the bunch.

Some are garden variety troll-type folk who act out on the air, online or are just schadenfreude in real life.  The majority of these folk are pretty easy to identify and not very hard to keep away at arms length or further.

But here and there a few actual nefarious people join the ranks of amateur radio or make it their business to interfere with a ham. Lets call these “In the Ranks” and “External,” and have a look at what a ham can do.

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Thinking Ahead – Active Countermeasures for Security, Privacy, and Anonymity Exposure as an Amateur Radio Operator

The series start with

Okay, active countermeasures are a different level of action intended to enhance your Security, Privacy, and Anonymity Exposure as an Amateur Radio Operator.

Suggestions here are mostly low-tech, as we are not going to pretend we will spoof voice-printing and transmitter-technical-identification.

What the goal is will be to provide served agency services while avoiding compromising your personal and family security, negating your privacy and completely losing your anonymity.


Reasons range from physical security to reducing your personal exposure when the legal (or political) jackals decide to see who they can take a bite out of.

The list is not comprehensive, and is intended to get your thinking down the paths that will preserve your security, privacy and anonymity best.

Your Personal Transponder:

First is almost all of you are carrying a personal transponder. Yes, your cell phone. Having an awareness that if the cell system is up, you are located and identified is important. While not commonplace, it is possible that this information drifts out to where you might not like it.

Your strategy might be to turn off and shield your phone. Or leave you phone at home and use a burner-phone while activated. Or go phoneless.

Your Transport Transponder:

If you vehicle is contemporary it will have one or more transponders active. On-Star is one. Other telemetric systems may be active or it may respond if “pinged.”

Countermeasures include removing the gear (difficult if recently built), shielding the transceiver parts, or feeding the system misinformation.  Easier is to use a pre-transponder vehicle.

Remote Transmissions:

If conditions allow and you have the ability to work remote, your physical presence may be obscured.  In warfare often the transmit antenna or antenna/transceiver for some systems is displaced from the operator for exactly this sort of reason.

Obscured Transmissions:

Going digital comes to mind, as does using a phrase-based system to convey information.  Makes more sense to transmit “Cowboy sees Mouse” – a phrase that is NOT encoded and means exactly what it says, and then have a cheat sheet where you can see that “Cowboy” means a certain operator. “sees” means is nearby or at a location, and “Mouse” means “Main House.”  Sort of like when the XYL says a few words and you “know” the bigger meaning…




Thinking Ahead – Mitigating Security, Privacy, and Anonymity Vulnerabilities as an Amateur Radio Operator

This series started with

This post we are talking about mitigation – the passive reduction of vulnerabilities to your Security, Privacy, and Anonymity as an Amateur Radio Operator.

As previously mentioned avoiding the use of your call sign by using either a club or if appropriate a tactical call sign.

This is more effective if not on phone (SSB/AM/FM) as your voice doesn’t give you away.

In general it may be useful to ID at the legal widest time spacing.

Also a good time to lose your Callsign hats, pins, badges, jackets and maybe pick a vehicle without ham plates. Many EmGov/Emcomm outfits supply credentials – ours hangs around your neck – but there is no emphasis on checking these very closely and the general public or other agencies likely have never seen them.

I know of a ham who if activated for real plans to use his old pickup, while strategically parking his vanity callsign plated daily driver at his home where it can be seen at his QTH, with the idea that it shows the boss is in.

More to follow,



Thinking Ahead – The differences between Security, Privacy, and Anonymity as an Amateur Radio Operator

The Thinking Ahead Series started with

Security, Privacy, and Anonymity in terms of ham radio are interesting concerns.

Anonymity is pretty much a lost cause, unless operating using tactical call signs. These alternative call signs may be authorized in an emergency or may be used less officially in times of duress. Tactical Call Signs aside, if you are using your own call sign every time you identify you lose your anonymity. This may make a case for using say the club station call to remain anonymous. Our local club had W9DK as a call, and perhaps you using W9DK-Tiger and W9DK-Bear for different club activation entities rather than you own call sign.

Why the anonymity?

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Thinking Ahead – When to Put Your Radios Away in preparation for Troubled Times

Another in the Thinking Ahead series started with

Considering “When to Put Your Radios Away in preparation for Troubled Times” one has to recognize that it is the nail standing proud that gets the next hammer blow.

If the situation is such that being on the air can cause trouble for you, it is time to put your radios away.

RDF (Radio Direction Finding) is a mature technology that will pin point your transmitter in situations where their are consequences for being on the air.  The military had Ground Surveillance Radar operators (GSR) who basically had a radar strapped to their chest to look for the enemy.  Well the enemy figured out how to ID the GSR operator and shoot them.  It was said that in the Vietnam War a GSR operator battle lifespan was measured in a few days.

So (surviving) GSR operators learned to displace themselves from their antenna, which seemed to work for a while, until the enemy got wise to the ruse.

RDF of receivers is also a reality.  In countries with TV license taxes their governments include the use of RDF in how they track down unlicensed TV receivers.  The way this work is receivers do emit coherent energy, which can be sensed.
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Thinking Ahead – Will you be White-listed, Black-list or Grey-listed through Emcomm as an Amateur Radio Operator

Another in the Thinking Ahead series started with

It has been a while since I continued this series, but current affairs seem to make it worth exploring again.  Suggest that the reader check out at least some of the initial batch of posts in the “Think Ahead” series.

In previous posts I discussed about “lists.”

Here I’d like to explore what are White, Black and Gray Lists, how you might find yourself on one or more, and what it might mean to you as an amateur radio operator.

Recap, what are lists?  While taught doctrine uses “White, Black and Gray” as labels more exact labels would be “Good Guys,” “Bad Guys,” and the “Unknowns.  Before anyone gets uptight about the taught labels, the were drawn from popular use in Western Movies and Books.

Who maintains the lists? The lists are arbitrary creations by the users.  They create the criteria and place people into their lists.  This means that while you might be “White Listed” for one agency, an agency that doesn’t know you will likely put you into a “Gray List.”

Who can see the lists? They are seldom published, with the exception of public listings that declare a label (“Domestic Terrorist” is one such “Black List” label we are seeing in the news right now).  For the most part you will usually only be able to infer which list you are one unless the list creator tells you or publishes your status.

Recap on what they mean:

White List – “Good Guys” like the cowboys wearing the white hats in the movies.  The ones you believe you can trust.
Black List – “Bad Guys” like the cowboys wearing the black hats in the movies.  The ones you know are untrustworthy.
Gray List – “Everyone Else” like the background people in the cowboy movies.  The people you don’t have enough information to classify into the White or Black List.

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