Girltech toy jams entire US law enforcement radio signals

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If your young daughter owns a Mattel brand Girltech IMME and constantly asks you for extra pocket money to spend at the local hobby store, it might be time to worry. According to a team of research developers from Pennsylvania University, the childrens device can be used to disrupt the signals of radio communications of every major American law enforcement agency.

Matt Blaze, who co-authored the security paper, notes that although it is at the moment beyond the expertise of most common crims, it wouldn’t last long in todays free flow of information. “It’s going to be someone somewhere creating the Project 25 jamming kit and it’ll be something that you download from the net, “ he goes on to add. When referring to Project 25, he is referring to the codename for the wireless standard used in federal, state and local radios. These things don’t come cheap with a handheld P25 selling for just over $3000 and a scanner around the $500 mark.

One of the most alarming findings that came from the study is that officers and Federal agents frequently don’t bother to even turn the encryption on. Here is a section of one of the papers that has now been made public and was first obtained by cnet.

The traffic we monitored routinely disclosed some of the most sensitive law enforcement information that the government holds, including: Names and locations of criminal investigative targets, including those involved in organized crime… Information relayed by Title III wiretap plants…Plans for forthcoming arrests, raids and other confidential operations…

On some days, particularly weekends and holidays, we would capture less than one minute, while on others, we captured several hours. We monitored sensitive transmissions about operations by agents in every Federal law enforcement agency in the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Most traffic was apparently related to criminal law enforcement, but some of the traffic was clearly related to other sensitive operations, including counter- terrorism investigations and executive protection of high ranking officials…

While not getting into the finer details, the researchers used a $1000 high quality receiver but Blaze says it can be done cheaply with hobby grade materials. The department of justice has been made aware of the issue as has the defence department both of which use P25 radios. Either way the general consensus from the team was that it is “strikingly vulnerable to a wide range of attacks”. Not a good sign for radios that are used by every agency across a countries law enforcement team.

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