That might be a possible problem?
I’d say let’s just worry about the well-known problems with government before we go off worrying about very speculative possible problems.
First, there is not any single “goTenna radio frequency.” Since it operates in a spread-spectrum frequency-hopping mode, there’s a pool of 50+ freqs in the band it operates in it can choose from. Jamming all is probably not a problem for the gubmint, but why?
Then there is the fact that the GTM shares this band with industrial and other users. Jamming tends to be pretty indiscriminate, so it would be many more than just GTM users affected and raising heck.
It’s possible but it would require a lot of units to cover a large area. The military uses them to protect a moving convoy. You can get them yourself. These are for cell phone frequencies but I’m sure they make them to cover the 900mhz range. The other key thing to know is these jammers are still bound to the same drawbacks of the 900mhz frequency being the LOS (line of sight) if your mesh network is on the other side of a mountain or several miles away it’s not likely these jammers would be effective.
Your points on the problems associated with trying to jam a mesh network are well-taken. It’s inherent redundancy in routing around affected nodes is an important point.
The government can do as it pleases (until changed.)
On the other hand, if YOU used one of those jammers, it would be a criminal matter. It could also interfere with public safety services like fire and police.
Cosign all of this. I like to say that if we are worried about RF jammers, we have much bigger problems to worry about… because for these phantom jammers to be worth worrying about, they’d have to be pretty physically close to you.
In any case, as @MikeL called out, it’d be physically very difficult to jam a decentralized mesh network working on all the frequencies goTenna Mesh operates on.
And what is the best way to make the mesh an even more physically difficult target? Keep adding to the mesh. The bigger and thicker the forest, the harder it become to pick on any single tree.
Sure, there will be hardware and firmware changes as security improvements make them necessary, but the most robust thing we can do is to build mesh networks that take the initiative away from those who believe that modern democracies should be governed instead by top-down, highly centralized media conglomerates who pay to play.
Some more examples of jamming.
Some U.S. gps jamming
If the question was “Is the US capable of engaging in such electronic warfare?” I don’t believe that’s ever been anything but a certainty if you’ve been paying attention to such technology over the last 4 decades since the first GPS sats were launched. The attention being paid to this now suggests they’re interested in letting the public know they’re on it, not that this is some newly realized threat. What has changed is societal dependence on GPS, which has greatly increased, making loss of GPS a political liability, as well as a hit on military capabilities.
Then think about whether a society’s military would use jamming on their own populations? I guess you could blame it on the “enemy” but that would make your military look`awfully weak. If you were doing it to your own folks, that’s right out of dystopian fiction (I still wish that NBC had brought back “Jericho” to tie up all those loose ends, though) in this country. I can’t foresee that happening, except under the most dire conditions.
The same issues just mentioned above. If it happens, whether the gov’t is involved or not in an attack on its own people, it would make them look weak the longer it continued. Not exactly the tool of choice for a government that likely would have to make such a choice precisely because it found itself weak.
What’s this mean for goTenna Mesh?
One of the good things about the GTM is that it’s not a cell phone. Cell towers are fixed structures that are quite obvious and easy to target. In contrast, the GTM is close to organic, moveable, even transient as one person is wont to complain. Hard to target, in other words. As for obscurity, a partial form of security at best, the GTM is more like a curiosity. Being a big target, as the telecoms are, is nonetheless an advantage for the tiny, but significant among us in times of confrontation.
Certainly, if jammers bothered your network, it’s a lot easier to put a goTenna in your pocket and leave than it is to relocate a cell tower.
Something to remember, whatever the relations of our gov’t and the Russians, is that your government really doesn’t want you using a jammer…
The power of a decentralized system is it has no central point of failure — or central point to attack. And it’s as mobile and ephemeral as humans.
The mesh looks better and better every day.
So I thought goTenna was a safe bet with keeping my information “safe” and messages encrypted but I’m not so sure now?
Lots of money coming in from the DOJ (FBI), DOD, DHS?
I don’t recall any assurances about security against nation-state actors. The GTM requires no licensing. If you understand anything about the history and practice of codemaking and codebreaking, you know that agencies of the government make a practice of at least understanding, if not actively working to access various forms of communication. It’s their job, whether you agree with it or not.
Looking through those transactions, the majority aren’t about that sort of spy vs spy stuff anyway. Instead, they’re about various agencies acquiring goTenna Pro deployment kits, in other words using them for comms, not breaking them. To me, this suggests the gov’t is pretty comfortable with the security provided by goTenna products. This also suggests that the gov’t is unlikely to jam frequencies it is using, although it’s quite possible they have that capability like they do across most of the radio spectrum.
As for In-Q-Tel, it’s been a few years since I’ve checked up on what they’ve been up to. They tend to fund things that access and use info that is public in some form. People might assume that because there’s encryption involved, they are “protected” against government efforts to collect such info. Unless that encryption is treated in a manner that suggests its distribution and use is being treated like a weapon (i.e. requiring paperwork to export, etc) you should assume that the government doesn’t regard it as representing a barrier to its efforts to monitor traffic. This assumes it’s interested currently in a subject, but it’s also the case that they record and file virtually all comms traffic they have access for later analysis in case it becomes relevant. Since 9/11, the NSA has built large facilities around the country (in Utah, etc) devoted to such efforts. If your encryption represents a barrier of any sort now, it’s one that tends to fall as time goes on and analytic capacity and capability grow.
Thus my cautions, for all those pecking at whether goTenna encryption is “safe” or not. When it comes to nation-state level actors, one should never presume that what you encrypt today will be secure in the future. Do NOT encrypt today what might cause you a problem when it becomes broken tomorrow, believing that encryption will protect it. Instead, consider whether any encrypted device is the sort of thing that will likely delay such access and instead distribute whatever secrets you want to protect in ways that avoid or make difficult piecing them together.
Bottom Line: Encryption in any form should be considered as only a way to delay access by others. If you have info that requires protection, consider other means to move it around, with encryption being no more than a partial solution for certain, select bits of securing it.
Since the collection of encrypted comms for potential later analysis is a fact, then how is goTenna Mesh useful? First, most people don’t do anything that requires securing against government intrusion. Encryption provides privacy and that is a good thing, in and of itself, against nearly all non-state actors. There, the goTenna Mesh is well-placed to provide that.
More importantly, mesh networks like GTM in general represent a far more difficult collection problem. They operate at short ranges, have unpredictable routing, are often mobile, have very short transmission times, and require listening posts that are numerous and widely dispersed to access. And you can’t analyze what you don’t collect. There are a variety of tactics in using such systems that further reduce the ability to collect that I won’t detail, but which tend to be common sense if you give things a thought from this angle, rather than worrying over whether your encryption is strong enough or not.
All this does suggest again that, as far as this thread is concerned, that it’s generally not in the government’s interest to jam goTenna Mesh or other means of communication in an emergency or otherwise. It would deprive them of access to these networks, presuming they represent a useful source.
Let’s not get all conspiracy-theory here. As @MikeL notes, IQT works with DARPA, public safety, DoD to help get commercial technology into the hands of more public sector users who are a traditionally slow-moving industry – helps turn them into “early adopters” as opposed to “fast/slow followers”. I personally worked at an IQT-associated startup that created improved antenna solutions used by search and rescue professionals in municipal/state emergency management as well as soldiers - all markets that depend on radios every day. goTenna products obviously are not engaged in “social media mining and surveillance” as they have nothing to do with social media or the internet - literally no servers!
That goTenna funding you link to is for product purchases; presumably mostly for goTenna Pro given the company makes a tactical-grade device used by firefighters, defense, and beyond which seems to be very successful. Not sure if you have seen that but here’s the link: http://gotennapro.com. It launched earlier this year and I’ve heard it’s used by FEMA (DHS!) for hurricane response (link #2 below) as well as wildland firefighters out west (link #1 below) and even educators in Puerto Rico (link #3 below).
Some links on this I’ve seen on twitter recently:
Puerto Rico Dept. of Education (I think? Not sure if it’s just emergency services in PR but the use seems to be for comms resiliency among schools): https://twitter.com/SobrevivePR/status/1068556331706195968
I think it’s neat that the company makes both professional and consumer version of their technology.
(Edits due to typo fixes)
Is there any concern that a single un-audited, private, proprietary vendor with closed source hw/sw with non-universal / compatible / or open standards may be a single point of failure? If, for example, you were to one day go bankrupt? Or tire of mesh networks? We would be unable to update software or firmware? Would you ever consider going open source? Or could you deposit your source code in escrow to be automatically released upon condition subsequent like bankruptcy? Or could you fork and release an old version as an open / dev firmware/software? Or could you release whitepaper / documentation on the public shout cleartext emergency function? To help first responders?
Sorry for resurrecting an old post, but I just want to add my take. I am very well versed on RF theory and radio communications.
If you look at the second post, @WVS attached a link to the TSJ 85W Vehicle Jammer. This is meant to be powered and carried in a vehicle. 85Watts is a pretty powerful output, and it can only effectively Jam up to 150m.
With that being said, the government can’t effectively jam the entire United States, because you would have to have a jamming system running 24/7 that is able to cover a large area. The best way would be to jam from an airplane, but that means that the plane would have to be circling over an area 24/7, with a large emitter running.
So… do you think the government can fly planes in every part of the country to jam all of our communications?
Depends on what you mean by “jam all of our communications.” It actually would be possible to jam significant portions of the radio spectrum. The US military has that capability, which is practiced regularly; see the link wvs provided to the yearly RED FLAG exercises.
As I discussed earlier, it’s use domestically would be fraught with issues that might do more to undermine government authority than to support it, including significant impacts on law enforcement and local and state government, as well as industrial uses.
In reference to the TSJ 85W, it’s a device that is something beyond an ordinary jammer. It’s used to defeat the use of cellphones as remote detonation controls. The range cited is the effective range against detonation, which anyone using it would like want to be pretty sure about. The actual effective range against a cellphone being used simply to communicate is likely considerably larger.
Moreover, similar equipment on aircraft would operate at considerably higher power. The output for a ground-based jammer like the TSJ 85W is likely somewhat limited by the relatively close proximity of personnel onboard in a convoy-like situation. In an aircraft, antennas and other arrangements would allow better RF protection for the crew and considerably higher power, plus the overhead nature of the emitter would allow far better coverage of the outputted signal.
That said, while the capability is likely there, the feasibility of such an action seems impractical. Moreover, in terms specifically of mesh networks, their innate redundancy makes them a very difficult target to take out and, even where this might be possible, they would continue service once the jammer signal passed.
At first that Red Flag jamming really threw me off. But they don’t really tell how they are jamming GPS. But it seems to me that they are jamming it from the ground, and the higher you get, the larger the radius is for affected area. So we all know just like a flash light, the light spreads as it gets further away from the light bulb. RF acts very similarly. So they are jamming large portions of the sky. In the sky, there is nothing to absorb or diffract, refract or reflect the RF, so it just keeps going up, and spreading out, thus increasing the range for GPS jamming in the sky. So if you used that piece of equipment in the sky, it will probably have the same effect in range as it correlates to feet AGL. But keep in mind that that piece of equipment is probably a big huge radar truck that is equipped to jam.
As for airborne applications, they would be must smaller, probably putting out less power than those GPS jammers.
As for the small portable jammers, the area it covers for jamming the detonation of IEDs (detonated using DTMF) and cell phone coverage is the same. It doesn’t jam one but not the other, as they’re both the same technology. And now that I think about it, I find it hard to believe that that car jammer is really pumping out 85 watts, so I’m not sure if it’s the model number or power rating. Cause yes, like you said that would be a lot of power to transmit while you’re sitting 5 feet away from it with a omni-directional antenna
I work with military electronic warfare equipment that go on both planes, and cars (for convoys), and I am very experienced on how they work. I am very knowledgeable on cell phone networks and have many DoD certifications that pertain to cell phone network processes and infrastructure.
One thing to remember here is that most references to cellphone and GPS jamming are in regard to it’s illegal use. It’s against federal law to do either. Of course, the military have a big exception to this, but by both tradition and law are typically only used against foreign targets. So most discussion about jammers refer to ground-based jamming.
That said, the military certainly has the means to conduct aerial jamming. Here’s a link to warnings about tests in 2016.
Because of society’s dependence on GPS, simply testing such equipment is a big deal, because it could seriously impact flight safety and commerce. Those are just the start of some of the reasons why the government is very unlikely to attempt to jam radio signals.
But the military has had airborne jamming systems for decades, Mostly, these are directed against threat weapons system and their supporting radio system. However, so are specifically directed at broadcast band signals, with the idea that the US could jam a nation’s own media while broadcasting the US-produced version. And it’s certainly the case that for any radio system likely to be used in a tactical situation, their exists systems to jam or degrade it.
Then there are space-based jamming systems. These can be particularly effective against GPS system by spoofing bad data to send those relying on those systems miles out of their way or even right to where they could most easily be dealt with.
Sure, the signal is the same, but how far it’s considered effective could be vastly different. You need to be absolutely sure a bomb can’t be triggered. On the other hand, degrading a communications signal so it’s not usable can take place at much farther ranges with the same signal.
As for 85 W, yeah, that’s a big RF exposure, but the antenna could be mounted far enough away that this is plausible. Then there’s armor, which can shield humans from RF, plus other factors. Then there’s the case where you’re going to turn that thing up to 11 anyway, because otherwise you just are going to die anyway, so who cares about a little RF? Hard to say what the capabilities are, because if you know anything about this stuff, you know they don’t want such specifics discussed.