Category Archives: Thinking Ahead Series

Thinking Ahead – Changing your habits for personal privacy and anonymity as an Amateur Radio Operator

I’m a Ham or am I? When to be noticed and when to be unnoticed, and much much more!

One should always remember that as a ham, you are already “on a list” in an official sense.  It is that “list” that records your callsign.

But there are times when it is useful to have more personal privacy and perhaps a bit of anonymity.

Physical Addresses:

If you look through listings (QRZ.com or FCC searches) you will find plenty of hams who use a either a work address or a Post Office Box address. If you do this out of concern for your privacy consider whether you should use the same addressing for purchases, as

In many areas a tax search on your name can locate your QTH, but again you see people using trusts or LLCs to sort of throw a drop-cloth over their QTH, often followed with using a Post Office Box address or Business Address for official records.

Unless you are willing for forgo your cellphone, drive a pre-OnStar era car, and go to some fairly involved efforts fully shielding your QTH’s location is not going to happen.

What you are targeting instead to make your location less searchable in casual search attempts.

And remember if you start communications from your actual QTH it won’t be an uncompromised “safehouse” anymore!  In most cases that really isn’t a big issue, as long as you remember that your QTH will be a known “Radio Active” place.

Personal Privacy:

You make your choices whether to put your callsign on your license plates, wear “ham radio hats & clothes” or to take a less obvious stance.

One one hand we are enjoined to promote our hobby, offer Elmering tutorship and encourage others, though we seldom pause to think that we lost part of our personal privacy the moment we share our callsign.

It is perhaps impossible to completely maintain personal privacy and be a licensed & active ham.

Anonymity:

This is all about You!

Some personalities end up being standouts and memorable whether intended or not.

People remember extremes and emotional responses.

If your vehicle bristles of antennas you become obvious.

So if you are super tall, you will struggle to maintain anonymity – you can do it but it is hard and requires extra efforts.  Squeaky or kettle-drum voice are ones that get noticed.

Attire can make a difference, as I once knew a salesman who called on me regularly  always wearing a goofy hat, as he was otherwise rather anonymous.  Decades later I remember his hats, but not his face or even his name.

In “Prepper Circles” they speak of become a “Gray Man” as the idea of becoming someone who isn’t seen as a standout externally despite having skills, capabilities and resources that would otherwise be noteworthy.  Usually the prepper-logic is being a Gray Man helps keep troubles from finding you.

All in all maintaining personal privacy and anonymity as an amateur radio operator is challenging and by definition can never be 100%.  But you do not have be totally revealed either!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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

This series started with https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/im-a-ham-or-am-i/

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.

Continue reading

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

The series start with https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/im-a-ham-or-am-i/

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.

Why?

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…

 

73

Steve
K9ZW

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

This series started with https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/im-a-ham-or-am-i/

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,

73

Steve
K9ZW

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

The Thinking Ahead Series started with https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/im-a-ham-or-am-i/

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?

Continue reading

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

Another in the Thinking Ahead series started with https://k9zw.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/im-a-ham-or-am-i/

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.
Continue reading