In 2023, an incident of radio frequency takeover occurred at a school during dismissal. The jammer broadcasted music, spouted antisemitic slurs, and chanted “Allah hu Akbar”. Despite attempts by staff to switch channels, the intruder persistently pursued them to the new frequency. The matter was promptly reported to the LAPD. The person has not been identified, but the ability to take over the frequency would indicate that they were close to the school, possibly with a higher-powered radio. The incident raises questions of how malicious their intent might have been. Of course, even a prank can be serious if it blocks vital or emergency communication.
There are a number of security concerns that should be addressed for critical communications:
- Intercepted information – Either personal or tactical information that may be of use to an outside party
- Interruption of communication – A break in communication at a critical time such as a medical or other emergency could result in serious consequences. Even if someone can’t decode the information it is still possible to disrupt the transmission if they know what frequency is being used.
- False information – Staff could be redirected to the advantage of the outside person.
While nothing is 100 percent secure there are things that can be done to improve the situation:
- Type of radio – The common FRS radios are one of the least secure. They can be purchased in many local stores, and there are only 22 frequencies to scan through. MURS may be slightly better since they are less common but once and outsider had determined what band is in use the frequency is easily located by tuning through the channels. Licensed LMR radios will be another improvement. There is a larger number of LMR frequencies so more sophisticated equipment would be needed to locate the frequency. A trunking system or networked trunking would be best since the outside person would have a difficult time determining what frequency and even which repeater was in use at a particular time. The frequencies can rotate on each transmission confusing someone without a more advanced understanding of radio systems. Modern trunking systems authenticate the radios in use so that random outside radios can’t access the system.
- Control of your radios – For any system if a malicious person is assigned or steals one of your radios other security precautions are compromised.
- Encryption – This will prevent monitoring and malicious transmissions. While it won’t stop someone from jamming a frequency it will limit their ability to collect information or surveil your facility
People frequently undervalue the necessity of security measures and the significance of their daily information. The gravity of the situation typically surfaces only following a security breach.