New LMR Encryption Key Management Fact Sheet Available
Tuesday, June 16, 2020 | Comments

A new encryption key management fact sheet is available from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Public-safety voice communications are continually at risk of being intercepted by unauthorized personnel. Vulnerability to radio transmissions can jeopardize tactical operations, put law enforcement officers and other responders at risk, and compromise personal identifiable information (PII), said Jim Downes, CISA section chief, in a blog.

“When public-safety agencies make the decision to encrypt any or all transmissions, effective encryption key management is of paramount importance,” Downes said.

To help agencies understand and effectively manage encryption keys, SAFECOM and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (NCSWIC), in collaboration with the Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications (FPIC), developed the fact sheet.

Specifically, the document provides an overview of different types of encryption and how to obtain encryption keys; guides public-safety organizations on whether to encrypt their LMR systems; and offers information on how public-safety organizations can best manage encryption keys.

“Encryption as a concept, especially interoperable encryption, is relatively new for many,” said Scott Wright, Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, who assisted in the development of the fact sheet. “No longer does encryption need to be an impediment to interoperability. With proper planning and awareness, encryption can be both operable and interoperable. Outreach and education efforts, such as this [fact sheet], will help the public-safety community with their planning efforts.”

The fact sheet is here.

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Comments
On 6/19/20, Dennis Del Grosso said:
As a user of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) over-the-air rekeying (OTAR) system key management facilities (KMF) for 23 years as an active federal law enforcement user and pilot and now 12 years as a support contractor, I can say that those folks are the MOST knowledgeable of any I have ever met on encryption and KMF management issues. I have literally observed them explain how the system works to Motorola Solutions engineers. The single biggest request I would make of state and local system managers is to coordinate your common key reference (CKR) storage location number (SLN) for key assignments in your system with the CBP KMF. I have FREQUENTLY seen where a new system admin simply assigns CKR 1 thru 4 to their in-house keys. This works fine for a system where there is never any potential for outside users to have the keys shared into an outsider radio. Problem is that nationwide these CKRs are assigned to the ALL interoperability and federal interoperability keys, which makes the loading of your key into my radio impossible without some significant manipulation. If, on the other hand, the system admin acquires an unused CKR SLN assignment from the CBP folks, it will be reserved as unique for City X for all time and never conflict with any other key assignments by anyone who affiliates with the CBP system. Further, with minimal coordination, the CBP KMF will even share certain nationwide interoperability keys with appropriate agencies. It is a win-win.


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