Thoughts on Security

Currently, our feeds are unfiltered.  Please note that this information is transmitted from each aircraft, in clear text, unencrypted over the air, and participants are merely receiving it. Any concern that “bad guys” might use this information needs to be tempered with the fact that anyone can easily build their own basic receiver that can grab this information for less than $100, and deploy it themselves without any help whatsoever.  The folks over at OpenBARR also know this.

This is by far not the only way to get “unfiltered” aircraft data over the internet.  It is the most user-friendly, however.

Implementing filters would merely be “security theater” at this point.  Such “security theater” is very popular these days, however.

I’m sure this will be a point of discussion going forward, and I welcome comments below.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Security

  1. Full agreement on keeping the data unfiltered. All filters do is deprive law-abiding people of data. When data is outlawed, only outlaws will have data.

    If the aviation authorities really want the data hidden, they can mandate encryption.

    Open flight tracking data gives quite a lot of transparency after accidents: think of the reduction in nonsense after crashes in recent years. We had a good idea of why Germanwings went in after public ADS-B data showed a deliberate descent from cruise alt.

  2. The more aircraft that can be seen in the air, the safer it will be to be up there, which is the whole point surely, as soon as you start to encrypt data you are back to square one.
    As in all walks of life you have a choice, what is more important, making the skies much safer for the millions of people who use it every year, or hiding data on the off chance that someone might be able to use data to cause some kind of problem ?
    At the end of the day, if you are flying over a dangerous part of the world, or on a “sensitive” mission, it can be turned off !

  3. While anyone can indeed build a simple receiver, or buy a more sophisticed one for that matter, you can only track aircraft that transmit a full ADS-B signal. Bizjets, military and others who do not wish to be tracked use Mode-S or Mode-A/B/C. These cannot be tracked with any receiver, as you well know, they can only be tracked by multilateration. By allowing those aircraft tracks to be published on an open website you are putting the hobby in jeopardy.

  4. Concerning displays of Military aircraft traffic . There is no problem of security because what we see about those military aircraft are Non confidential stuff . What is confidential is the liason between Call-sign and mission asssigned . But this mission assigned is not into the information into the ADSB information .
    Every body know what is Air Force >One ……. Prsedent of USA onboard . This information is confidential …. but all the world known that ….. CTM001 Cotam 0001 …… is The President of France this info is Confidential But not find into ADSB . AL01 and AL02 are sepcial Mission for Belgium F16 ….. i can not says what but as i explain all tactical mission information are not found in ADSB ……. all info in ADSB are not confidential …. all the other stuff are added by guys who knows something but surely they are not allowed to says hat on the web ……
    I’m myself working in military air defence . I know what i can do But what i’m sure is that information contained in ADSB = ICAO 24 Bit are not military confidential . Thisis only adding other information in conjunction with ADSB dat who are confidential . Thus please you , user of that Websit DO NOT Link ADSB with ours Info who are surely interresting but confidential .

  5. As with most things in life there is always much more than meets the eye, or that can happen that some people choose not to think of or worry about as it doesn’t directly affect them.

    Sure, anyone can buy the technology cheaply to receive ADS-B, much like anyone can buy a scanner to listen into local Law Dispatch, and that in itself doesn’t usually pose a problem, however when those people then rebroadcast such information making it easier for others to use (or in some cases abuse), as not every criminal is tech savvy or smart, that is when things can take a turn for the worst.

    Point in case, a local Ham Operator worked out how to decode our local Digital (unencrypted) EDACS (Provoice) Law Dispatch channel, which might I add cannot be monitored by any conventional scanners as none can decode the Provoice protocol, it consisted of using an SDR and some readily available software, however 99% of our local population would not have known anything about it, however the Ham Operator decided in his wisdom to post it on his blog explaining how it could be done, within months of his posting crime rates had gone up as people not only now knew it could be done, but some were now ‘streaming’ it over the net live, allowing criminals to make use of the info via mobile phones in real-time and staying one step a head of our local law enforcement agencies, all without spending a thing or being tech savvy.

    However the criminals using it wasn’t the worst part, that was easily countered by our system quickly moving to a more modern network using the encrypted P25 protocol, the actual worst part was it stopped the genuine hobbyists from being able to monitor yet another part of the RF spectrum that they had been able to for quite a while (with no consequences might I add), all due to someone having the need to publicly repeat everything and share info that while it may not be illegal it is at best morally wrong, the difference being the genuine hobbyist knows to keep such things to themselves and doesn’t contribute to the info being shared (leaked) with a wider and unknown (untrusted) audience who for years were blissfully unaware, and this situation is being repeated all over the world with various communications and data mediums, as the old saying goes “lose lips sink ships!”.

    So I’d seriously enjoy plane tracking while you still can, pretty soon Governments and the likes around the world, especially those who are ‘conspiracists’ , will be driving hard for planes (and others) to use encrypted links and keep stuff away from the general public, all due to a small minority who abuse it, and sites like this will only give them more ammunition to achieve it.

    And to those who say “if it’s in the clear is up for grabs, if they encrypt they are hiding something”, well some things are not as plain and as straight forward as that, and I’m sure if one of your loved ones or family members were injured or even killed, caused directly by data or comm’s being ‘shared’ by someone else, you would be the first to jump up and down demanding it be stopped, it’s all to easy to carry on about freedom of speech etc when it doesn’t or hasn’t affected you!

    I’m not biased either, I’m a scanner enthusiast, plane spotter (recreational Pilot too) and retired State Trooper, just calling it as I’ve experienced it.

    So enjoy while you can!

  6. It seems that law enforcement often depends on criminals being “stupid” or “not tech savvy” to maintain an advantage. I’m not sure that is a very good strategy.

    Here in the US, there are all kinds of iPhone apps for listening to emergency services traffic – you don’t even have to buy a scanner. It’s a fact of life.

    Also, there are benefits to being able to monitor this traffic, such as questionable surveillance practices as we’ve seen lately.

  7. For people living under Temporary Reserved Airspaces the unfiltered information is neccesary to make suggestions to their government regarding de-concentration of the noise. For example if squadrons fly little circles in big training air spaces, thus leaving smaller air spaces unused, then people can ask them “why don’t you help us distributing the noise”?

    Thanks to ADSBX we can. Other sites were of no help, hiding informations for no reason.

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