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  • Writer's pictureSpecial to the Journal

Law enforcement radio broadcasts soon to be encrypted

The change from analog to digital radios for law enforcement agencies in Linn County means that soon all broadcasts by sheriff's deputies and police departments will be encrypted, according the Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend. (Journal photo file)

By Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend, Special to the Journal

MOUND CITY – Citizens should be aware of somewhat new federal guidelines that must be implemented in the next year regarding the radio traffic at the sheriff’s office.

Since 2017, law enforcement has been made aware that new guidelines and directives will be put into place regarding Personal Identifiable Information (PII). This is information that is contained in driver’s license and vehicle registration files.

Many other types of PII information are applicable, but these two items are the biggest types of data that will be precluded from being broadcast on public air waves.

What does this mean for the law enforcement radio system? The only persons who will hear the channel with PII will be law enforcement personnel who are certified and meet the criteria of security awareness training. This means that the channel used for PII will be totally encrypted and no listeners outside of law enforcement will have access to hear the channel. These changes will take place before 2025.

Currently, Linn County law enforcement channels are available to the public through “Broadcastify” and other similar resources. Because of the regulation, this will no longer exist.

This regulation only applies to law enforcement who would broadcast data with PII within. This regulation applies to all law enforcement channels nationwide.

Since 2017, Linn County has been working on this project, we procured radios that will be compatible with encryption of the PII data. This project has required Linn County to reach the ability to be digital in radio transmission as it was not feasible to make only VHF and UHF frequencies encrypted.

Nearly a year ago we were able to reach the digital component and began transmitting digitally. This was a large-scale project with replacing all Linn County radios and engineering the system to comply with this upcoming regulation.

Municipal police departments have become digitally compatible with the system as well. We did not know to what level of encryption we would have to comply with at first, but now we do know. We must achieve Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) compatibility and Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2.

Knowing what we know now we will be able to update or upgrade our digital system now to become compliant with the standards or regulations as written in the policy passed down to us. This process will cost Linn County around $50,000 to complete our system. This cost should include all law enforcement radios currently in Linn County.

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