12.29.20

Nashville

I’m going to start by saying I don’t give a fuck about who the guy was, or why he chose to park his VBIED in front of an AT&T Switching Center. I am glad he at least had the decency to warn people that he was about to blow himself up, and while I have no love for the phone company, there are, if the reviews have any credence, a lot of decent restaurants that were caught in the blast zone who now have yet more bullshit to deal with besides COVID-19. So, in my opinion “Anthony Quinn Warner” was an asshole just for the fact that he fucked with the livelihoods of a bunch of people who provide folks with good food and good times when they take their family or significant other out for a nice evening. He might have been an asshole with some morals, but he was still an asshole.

The one piece of truth that did come out of this incident is the necessity for having some back-up communications capability on hand for when your phones and Internet stop working. We recently had some typical winter weather in New England, and Nashville just had someone set off a bomb in front of the phone company. Both incidents had the same effect.

Have your family members get their Technician class ham license. Put a 2 meter (or 2 meter/440) base in your house with a decent antenna. Install a mobile rig in your cars. Toss an HT in your day bag with extra batteries. Figure out what repeaters you can hit from both home and work, and if you can communicate along your commute on simplex. Now when your phone stops working you have a way to let your spouse know that 1. You’re OK, and 2. You’re on your way home and should be expected within NN minutes.

The next thing your should do is get a police scanner and program in whatever local public safety communications systems are monitorable in your locale. Now you are set to know what’s going on whether it’s a blizzard or a bombing without having to deal with the establishment mass media talking heads.

You don’t have to believe in Civil War 2, TEOTWAWKI, QAnon conspiracies, or any other nonsense like that, because anyone with a whit of common sense is able to easily observe first hand that things break, and that it’s a good idea to have a few things in place for when they do. As far as the nonsense goes, if you’ve read, practiced, and applied the material in those intelligence manuals I shared earlier, you should be on your way to building up a rather nice bullshit filter.

In the meantime, here are some sites to help you out:

http://www.arrl.org/exam-practice

http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session

12.27.20

Saturday Night’s All Right For Scanning

I reported two weeks ago about the loss of my primary VHF/UHF communications monitoring antenna after almost 20 years of yeoman service. Despite being a unity-gain, albeit wide-spectrum, antenna, the Diamond discone performed well, and monitoring distances out to 60 miles in certain directions were possible, allowing us to hear as far as Long Island and the Catskills.

Last night I decided to make two determinations. The first was to see how far one might possibly listen with an inside antenna, and the second was to see what one could listen to in this locale that was not P25 Phase II or encrypted. I listened for one hour (2100-2200 EST) yesterday evening monitoring the VHF & UHF public safety, and VHF aircraft bands. Listening location was Plymouth, CT ( Maidenhead Grid FN31lq). Elevation was ~800′ ASL which is maybe a little higher than average terrain in the area. Equipment was a whistler WS1040 handheld scanner with a 22″ telescoping whip antenna (approx resonant frequency 130 MHz.).

In the course of one hour I logged 28 frequencies. Six of those frequencies were VHF aircraft band. One was VHF-low band. Four were P25. None were encrypted. Overall it was a quiet evening. Longest distance received on public safety bands was 35 miles. Not surprisingly this distance was achieved with the aid of terrain as Stratford, CT is right down the Naugatuck River valley on the Long Island Sound shore, and Clove Mountain, NY is at 1400′ ASL giving it a decided height advantage being 600 feet above us, and 200 feet above the next highest elevation on the RF path. Being that the frequency was on VHF-low band didn’t hurt either. VHF Aeronautical band reception was typical, and >100 Mile reception range of in-flight aircraft is to be expected when the transmitter is up at >30,000′ ASL. Being snuggled up against TRACON N90 ensures that there is always plenty of radio traffic to be heard from 118-137 MHz., and plenty of it can be heard with just a rubber duck antenna indoors.

The following frequencies were logged during this exercise:

  • 46.360 – FM – CSQ – Dutchess County, NY FD
  • 118.475 – AM – Waterbury/Oxford TWR
  • 132.175 – AM – ZNY Elk Mountain
  • 132.825 – AM – Albany (NY) APP/DEP
  • 133.425 – AM – ZBW Woodstock
  • 134.3000 – AM – ZBW Kingston
  • 135.800 – AM – ZBW Islip
  • 151.0325 – NFM – PL 67.0 – Beacon Falls, CT FD
  • 151.3700 – NFM – PL 82.5 – Seymour, CT FD
  • 152.3225 – P25 – NAC 033 – Torrington, CT PD
  • 153.1250 – NFM – PL 179.9 – Tolland County, CT Dispatch “TN”, West/Vernon (FD/EMS)
  • 154.1300 – NFM – PL 74.4 – Meriden, CT FD
  • 154.1900 – NFM – DPL 205 – Farmington, CT FD
  • 154.3100 – NFM – PL 167.9 – Hartford, CT FD
  • 154.3100 – P25 – NAC FD2 – Stratford, CT FD
  • 155.1075 – PL 82.5 – Litchfield County, CT Dispatch “LCD” (FD/EMS)
  • 155.2275 – NFM – PL 179.9 – Vernon, CT FD
  • 155.2350 – NFM – PL 97.4 – American Medical Response (AMR), Bridgeport, CT
  • 155.4900 – NFM – PL 162.2 – East Hampton, CT PD
  • 158.7750 – NFM – DPL 343 – Washington, CT “town channel”
  • 158.7825 – NFM – PL 186.2 – Oxford, CT FD
  • 158.9775 – NFM – PL 162.2 – Oxford, CT EMS
  • 159.0300 – P25 – NAC 110 – Plainville, CT PD
  • 453.1875 – NFM – DPL 743 – Tolland County, CT Dispatch “TN”, West/Vernon (FD/EMS)
  • 460.3250 – NFM – PL 203.5 – Watertown, CT PD
  • 460.6000 – P25 – NAC 293 – Thomaston, CT PD
  • 462.9500 – NFM – PL 192.8 – Northwest CT C-MED
  • 462.9750 – NFM – PL 118.8 – North Central CT C-MED

Connecticut has a bit of a reputation in the scanning community with the recent upgrade of the state’s trunked system to P25 Phase II and the widespread use of encryption on public safety radio systems. It has led many to claim that communications monitoring with low to mid-tier equipment is difficult to impossible in this state. Yet, at present there is still plenty of COMINT potential with a simple P25 Phase I capable unit monitoring conventional (non-trunked) radio systems in the state.

Like many other matters dystonautic, when it comes to local COMINT it is important for you to do your own independent research and not reply on the often incorrect information found online.

12.20.20

Hal Turner – China, Fact & Fantasy

A receiver at Cyber-Tek/Dystonaut Labs Radio Monitoring Post & SIGINT Facility

Unlike many writers affiliated with the self-reliance and preparedness scene, Cyber-Tek/Dystonaut Labs and most of our affiliates maintain communications listening posts to collect and process Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), and specifically COMINT (Communications Intelligence). Since for the majority of our 30 year existence we and most of our people have been located in the Northeast, it’s safe to say that we have this region covered pretty well. Well enough that we can hear the proverbial flea fart in a windstorm, especially if the flea is in New England.

Considering this capability, it came as a surprise to discover we might have missed hearing and noticing two Chinese Divisions coming into Maine, particularly the 200-plus transport flights that would have been required just for the personnel, not to mention all their gear and provisions. Having had a front row seat for the Desert Shield deployment at Ft. Sill, and then later having to get a reserve component Field Artillery unit ready for activation, I can tell you from personal experience that the preparations for invading a country are very noticeable even to someone who is not paying attention.

Upon hearing that this bit of fake news came from Hal Turner, we considered his past as an FBI informant, and figured it was just a bit of creative fiction to make a little money and get a few of his more stupid, gullible, or unstable listeners to go do something that will get them arrested.

We’ve talked about Honey Pots and Wire-Jiggling in a previous blog entry. That’s when a someone tries to get their opposition to do something stupid, in the hopes they get busted or are otherwise neutralized. A lot of Maine is rural with small towns where everybody knows one another. Some batshit crazy conspiracy theorist from New Jersey going up there to do something about a fake Chinese invasion would stand out as much as a division of PLA, and would be easy to identify, isolate, and incarcerate.

With that said, pundits such as Hal Turner serve a useful purpose for several private groups that are loosely affiliated with Dystonaut Labs. They are used as a filter in part of the process to disqualify prospects who might cause the group problems later. If your group is smart it will do the same.

And now it’s the time for facts instead of fantasy.

Those of you looking for accurate information of Chinese military capability can consult the following links:

https://media.defense.gov/2020/Sep/01/2002488689/-1/-1/1/2020-DOD-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT-FINAL.PDF

https://www.dia.mil/FOIA/FOIA-Electronic-Reading-Room/FOIA-Reading-Room-China/

https://news.usni.org/2019/01/15/dia-chinese-military-power-report

Readers on the West Coast who are into hobbyist SIGINT and COMINT would find China to be a worthy target, and have a better chance of successful collection efforts. For starters, refer to the following links:

http://chinesemilitaryradio.blogspot.com/

http://www.numbersoddities.nl/Chinese-military-nets.pdf

Unlike conspiracy theory informant assholes such as Hal Turner, we would rather not feed bullshit to, nor see our readers go to jail for doing stupid shit, and instead would rather provide factual information to help our readers conduct proper OSINT and SIGINT operations so they can know what’s really going on in the world around them. Hopefully the background information we’ve provided to you gets your off to a good start.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a donation to help offset our costs for research and development.

Click here to donate.


11.26.20

Part 95 (and bootleg VHF/UHF) Surveys (aka Point Search) with Whistler WS1040

The WS1040 and scanners with similar architecture are easy and ideal for this as frequency and service searches can be chained together as objects all in a single bank. In this case you would start by programming the following objects into their own bank:

  • MURS/FRS/GMRS Service search
  • CB service search
  • Sweeper search for VHF-High and UHF bands (2, 5, 6)

The biggest performance obstacle with this arrangement is the difference in antenna size (and resonance) between VHF-high and UHF bands used by the more common Part 95 services, and CB which is technically down in the HF band. If you want to have peak performance on one, there will be degraded reception on the other. Still, however, using a common 2m/70cm ham antenna will still let you hear CB units within a mile or so. Using a resonant antenna (or even one that is close to resonant such as a 10 meter ham antenna) will extend that CB monitoring range out quite a bit. Similarly, the more gain your antenna has on VHF and UHF will equal better detection range on those bands. With that said, on Thanksgiving, 2020 I heard “Radio Roadkill 252” from Amarillo, Texas on CB Channel 3, AM mode, with nothing more than a 22” whip antenna at a distance of 1600 miles. Admittedly though, he’s probably running a lot more than 3 watts.

MURS and FRS are the VHF and UHF free parking spaces on the RF Monopoly board and even if the users of those frequencies aren’t quite operating within FCC Regs, the chances of legal hassles are minimal so it gives all the Baofeng buyers a “safe” place to go play. CB has a bit of a reputation that keeps a lot of people away, despite the fact that you almost never hear anything on the 40 channels except for Channels 6, 19 near highways, and 38 during a band opening. Sad, because a properly installed CB station will always out perform MURS and FRS. You just need to use a proper antenna. However, those Baofeng (and other model) radios can run from 136-174 and 400-520 MHz. Some semi-clever types might consider just playing dial roulette with their transceivers. A normal sector search for those two frequencies would take a while, but using Spectrum Sweeper will decrease that time significantly, along with a decrease in receive sensitivity. Still, the Spectrum Sweeper function will in a matter of seconds detect an HT signal within a quarter-mile.

So what this setup gets you is a means to detect nearby portable and mobile radio activity on the most common frequencies used by non-government actors. Whether are they are good actors or bad actors is either irrelevant, or depends on who and what you are. Either way, a bunch of rando people playing with radios in your neighborhood is something you want to know about.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a donation to help offset our costs for research and development.

 

 

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10.17.20

The Harry Caul Files

Harry Caul was the name of Gene Hackman’s character in The Conversation. It was later adopted as a pen name by the founder and first editor of Popular Communications, the late Tom Kneitel. He wrote a few articles under the name, but the first three were considered by many in the know to be among the best, and remained relevant over the years. In fact, perhaps even more relevant with the availability of $23 handheld radios on Amazon with frequency coverage of 136-174 & 400-479.995 MHz.

So without further ado, here is a PDF for you to download:

10.4.20

Radio Research

Pictures from today’s radio research activity:

09.16.20

Build It

From a fellow hobbyist we are reminded that BIY (Build It Yourself) is not dead.

https://swling.com/blog/2020/09/ron-reminds-us-that-mfj-still-offers-a-shortwave-radio-kit/

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0289/7782/3843/files/MFJ-8100K_Manual.pdf

MFJ has been around forever, and has helped get many a ham radio operator get on the air.

09.14.20

Eton Grundig FR200 Emergency Radio (Shortwave Receiver)

This radio came out in 2002, and was marketed for use in blackouts and other disasters. It covers AM, FM, and shortwave broadcast bands. They were about $40 back in the day. It’s been discontinued, but you can find one on Ebay for $25-$30.

The main useful feature of this radio is a hand-crank battery charger for the radio’s replaceable NiMh battery pack. Turn the crank for a couple minutes, and you’ll get about an hour’s worth of listening. You can also run it off regular AA batteries or an AC adapter. This is a cheap portable with very good sensitivity that is simple to use, and has longer battery life than many other portables.

Before you buy that Baofeng that everyone except the guy who’s been writing about radio and self-reliance for 30+ years (me) says you should get, you should buy an FR200 or something similar. Scratch that. Go on Ebay and buy an FR200. When you as a beginner buy a Baofeng, or any other ham rig for that matter, unless you have a ham license and a local segment of the community to talk with, the thing will get placed on a shelf and never used. Unless there’s some ARES, RACES, or Skywarn activity going on, Amateur Radio conversations on FM VHF and UHF are pretty boring, and nothing most people will want to hear. You might have a local police or fire department that still uses an analog VHF-high band or UHF communications system, and can use that Baofeng as a scanner, but otherwise it’ll just sit there unused. The FR200 is something that you will be able to use every day to get broadcasts from around the globe, and expand the variety of your information collection (intelligence) activities to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on out there.

I recommend the FR200 over other receivers in its class for a couple reasons. It’s simple to operate. Turn it on, adjust the volume, select the band, and start spinning the dial until you hear something. Anyone, not just a radio communications hobbyist, can use the thing. Other radios are more complicated. It also can be just left on a shelf until needed, and still be operational. If the AA batteries in the unit are dead, turn the hand crank for a couple minutes and you’ll be up and running. Not that you should just leave it on a shelf in the first place. You should spend a little time each evening cruising the bands and getting information regardless of what’s going on outside.

08.9.20

Sunday Dispatch For August 9th, 2020 – 0x6715A74

Good morning. On this day in 1892, Thomas Edison received a patent for a two-way telegraph, and in 1944 the United States Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council released posters featuring Smokey Bear for the first time.

Our Youtube Recommendation for the week is here:

Tropical Storm Isaiah breezed through here last Tuesday, leaving a heck of a lot of damage, and a four-day grid outage in the neighborhood. The biggest take-aways from this one are:

  1. You can never have enough water, and really should have a generator big enough to run your well pump or a gravity-fed cistern as back-up water source.
  2. You can never have enough batteries.
  3. You need to be able to navigate around multiple obstacles to get home.

COMINT collection was successful overall, as many rural town public works/highway departments in the area are still running analog conventional radio systems on VHF and occasionally UHF. Surprisingly enough, the local electrical utility still uses VHF low-band, although a conventional UHF repeater system was also discovered.

One of the better sources of local information was on Facebook “town talks” group pages. Our town pages had all sorts of OSINT on road and business closures, item availability, and grid conditions.

The local power company’s website was totally useless, as the sheer number outage reports broke it. Many people reported that their neighborhood was still being listed as “evaluating outage” after power was restored.

Internet connectivity was and always will be dependent on electrical power availability. Reports showed Telco-provided ADSL lasted longer after the power outage than CATV Internet. Wireless common carrier Internet stayed up, but became overwhelmed as hardwired systems started failing. Complicating matters were issues from a network merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.

We have always said that if you want reliable comms, never trust someone else’s infrastructure. While Amateur Radio SKYWARN and ARES operations were active, disaster radio comms still remain a niche thing, especially in short term disasters where people have enough wireless common carrier connectivity to reach Facebook and make phone calls. It is what it is.

There is a saying, “If the map doesn’t match the terrain, change the map.” We can wax poetic about grid-down communications using Amateur Radio, CB, FRS, et al, but the reality showed that the future is going to be Part 15-based wireless data infrastructure since that’s what everyone has.

07.19.20

Covert Antenna Placement In Residential Radio Communications Stations or Listening Posts #sigint #comint #diy

If you already haven’t been there, check out our social media presences on Twitter and Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/cybertekzine/
https://www.facebook.com/cybertekzine/

You can also get a look at the history of Cybertek and read some of the earlier issues at http://67.225.133.110/~gbpprorg/2600/TAP/cybertek/index.html. I don’t run that site, and the guy that did is an idiot despite his high technical skill level, but it’s still nice to see someone decided to put it all online. All of that material is now public domain. Copy, fold, spindle, mutilate, make derivatives, write fanfic, set up a mirror, have fun, enjoy!

The site was hosted by Joe Loritz/GBPPR who I have no connection with, and with whom I disagree with sociopolitically. Considering his legal issues, it won’t be up forever and I’m surprised this mirror still exists. Anyway, please do what you will with it, and tell me about any derivatives which I’ll then promote and mention on cybertekzine.com.


In a previous post, I mentioned how good intelligence collection and analysis can help you with ferreting out deceptive information whether it’s from some some troll living in his friend’s basement, or a professional operation setting up a honeypot, perhaps in the hopes of catching a bunch of a particular special interest group with something like an IMSI catcher. To that end, links to a couple of nice intelligence and counterintelligence manuals from archive.org were posted up.

One of the nicer means of collecting information to be turned into intelligence is communications monitoring. The discipline is broadly known as Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), and for our purposes we concentrate on a subset of SIGINT known as COMINT or Communications Intelligence. COMINT can help confirm or deny a lot of data you come across on the internet.

DIY hobbyist COMINT has been a thing since the 1990s, and there is a plethoria of information out there. I first wrote about it in 1991, and have since written many subsequent articles. This article puts a more covert, security-oriented spin on things.

In the United States, it is currently legal to monitor non-broadcast radio communications as long as they are not encrypted. Other countries are less fortunate in this regard. However, even in this country you might decide to enhance your level of discretion.

In this picture, there are two antennas on the roof of this house. The lower one is a VHF vertical dipole element often used for land mobile radio stations. When mounted on a mast like this, it is broadly directional in the direction the antenna is pointing. The antenna on top is a 2 Meter Amateur Radio horizontal loop used in VHF weak signal (SSB/CW as opposed to FM) operations. It is obvious looking at this installation that the resident is a ham radio operator with more than a casual interest in VHF operation. A discone antenna would present a different appearance and send a different message to an observer, as they are often used by individuals engaged in communications monitoring due to their broadband non-directional characteristics. In certain situations this level of advertising may not be optimal for some people. More realistically speaking, mounting a mast on the roof with antennas is a bit of an undertaking some may not be quite up to accomplishing yet (if at all).

Here is the same antenna mounted in an attic. To simulate a mast and put the signal lobe in the desired direction, it was mounted on a piece of scrap 1/2″ copper pipe. Functionality is not seriously compromised compared to a rooftop installation. From a security standpoint, there is no external indication of a communications station in the structure, and also no way an observer can determine the frequency band in use by estimating the length of the antenna.

Lest anyone think that using antennas is anything new, here is an example on HF (Shortwave) from the communications chapter of the old US Army Special Forces Field Manual. It’s just easier to do on VHF and UHF.

From a communications monitoring standpoint, you might have multiple receivers to hook up to a single antenna. In that case, you will need a signal splitter. Consumer grade TV splitters will work fine. You just need adapters to go from the F connector to whatever your receiver uses. You may also come across an LMR grade splitter. This one splits the input into four outputs. It’s spec’d for VHF high-band, but works fine elsewhere in the bands too.

By getting a proper antenna in your attic, you’ll see increased signal gain from the added elevation and noise reduction from getting away from all those consumer electronic devices on the same floor as you. You can also enjoy the fact of having a super secret squirrel listening post that your neighbors and random people passing by are unaware of. Extra style points if you have a Brill Lyle lab tucked away in a closet.

Mucho bonus points if you have one of these in there.

https://watkins-johnson.terryo.org/