By Adrian Addison and Angus Stickler BBC Radio 4's Today programme
It's hard to believe, especially post 11 September, that a radio enthusiast with a £200 handheld scanner can be a potentially lethal threat to national security.
But there is little doubt that the information Paul Wey, who lives with his parents in Hertfordshire, gleans from his hobby could be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.
The Today programme heard of Mr Wey and his radio hobby through a "well placed source" and asked him to come into our studios and show us exactly how to go about listening to people who don't want to be listened to.
It could be used by terrorists to perpetrate serious atrocities
With great surprise, he arrived the next day with a smile on his face and a scanner in his hand.
He followed us up on the car park roof at the BBC's HQ and - within seconds - a crackling signal burst out of the receiver: a Special Branch man began to tell colleagues the best way out of Kensington Palace, advising that the royal car steer clear of a burst water main holding up traffic.
Wey told us the codename used was for the Duke of Kent.
On the way to the roof, he had listened across moves to protect a visiting head of state, saying it was the President of Indonesia.
Earlier that week, Wey boasted, he had listened to the security services protecting another visiting head of state.
Paul Wey - Paul Wey runs an internet newsgroup
It turned out to be Ariel Sharon - the Prime Minister of Israel and probably the biggest terrorist target in the world after George W Bush.
To be fair to Mr Wey, he may be a threat to national security, but he is also exposing a potentially lethal flaw in the protection of potential terrorist targets.
He puts the information on an internet newsgroup and has no real way of knowing exactly who is receiving it.
We secretly recorded him claiming to be able to access the frequencies used by the Prime Minister's protection team, bodyguards of foreign heads of state visiting London, and police and military communications.
He told us: "It amazes me that our close protection boys still mainly use this stuff. In every other country in the world, even the smallest countries, their channels are secure."
Mr Wey admits to putting national security at risk "to a limited degree", but said terrorists or criminals "would be aware of this sort of thing whether I published them or not".
An intelligence officer told us Mr Wey's newsgroup was "basically an ex-directory publication of radio frequencies used by government security services, military and police and other emergency services throughout the UK".
Ariel Sharon - Security details on Ariel Sharon's movements were picked up
"The frequencies and information published on the site, particularly the files published, contain highly restricted information which in the wrong hands could be used to the detriment of the Crown and the government.
"It could be used by terrorists to perpetrate fairly serious atrocities. He is a menace, a severe danger to the public and to national security.
"Our personal view is the site should be closed down.
"We would like to see scanners and their possession made illegal. They can only be used for illegal activities.
"It is similar to saying it's OK to possess a gun as long as you don't put bullets in it."
Yes I am not a big fan of the government either but his rants did get too much at the end and he should have let others run scanproma and started up another yahoo group for his rants instead of going on one and closing the group but when all is said and done he did a lot for the hobby and it was his group to close as he saw fit so if he reads this I wish him all the best
Staffs Paul wrote:when all is said and done he did a lot for the hobby
I'll second that & I think it's a great pity things ended the way they did, as I would guess he has lost a big part of his world as a result & we have all lost a great site & someone valuable to the hobby.
there are a few things about this report that dont make any sense. 1) THE POLICE: they have used a digital system called 'Airwave' since the early 00's which relies on Tetra radio technology. it is not possible to receive their transmissions on any analogue scanner or even on Britain's only digital scanner on the market the AOR DV1 which currently retails at £1,100 (as of september 2015) and although its possible to modify analogue scanners for digital reception that wouldnt allow you to access the Police radio system. 2) the Airwave system operates on the 02 mobile network and also uses a high level of encryption. and because it uses a mobile network every Airwave handset is registered on the system in the same fashion as a mobile phone. therefore in order to monitor the Police you would have to register your tetra device onto their network, but because every approved handset is logged your registration would fail. infact it would be like trying to use a stolen mobile phone thats been blocked by the mobile networks. 3) even if you somehow managed to trick the system and force a registration, which is extremely unlikely, Airwave would automatically flag the unauthorised handset and block it. your location would also be detected, so the authorities would be aware that you were monitoring. therefore it is certainly not a straightforward task to monitor the Police in this country, despite what they may claim on this Television programme. Tetra radios for sale on ebay cannot be used to monitor the Police either, despite what some people may think, and thats because they have been decomissioned, and disconnected from Airwave, therefore they are about as usefull for listening to the Police as a chocolate teapot! stolen Police radios are also unregistered from the system in the same manner, just like a stolen mobile phone. 4) something big has been hidden from this report, because it gives you the impression that all you need to do in order to monitor the Police is to go out and buy a £200 scanner and thats it bum bum! not the case! infact this reminds me of a News article from the 1980's rather than from the 21st century! if this bloke really managed to listen to the Police, he is either a policeman himself, or has worked in the force in the past, or he's worked for 02 at some point, and even then access to the system would still present a lot of difficulties. 5) the Police Airwave system is very very secure and almost impossible to access, which is precisely why the Police chose it in the first place. however, because its very costly to run the Police are now looking for an alternative system. 6) CONCLUSION: the chances of a third party cracking the system is about one out of a thousand and even that would be pushing it! and even if you did they would know you are listening.
Last edited by T2tim on Sat Sep 12, 2015 11:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The news article dates from 2002 & they are talking about the pre airwaves days. And airwave is not as secure as it was when it was first introduced. Technology moves on & encrypted Airwave was breeched a few years after it's introduction by a university team from outside of the UK. Dutch I believe. You are right in saying that it is not a simple as going out & buying a scanner now, but at the point that Paul did the interview, it was. Currently it involves knowing the right people, as the ability to decrypt is still far from common, but possible for a very small minority & I believe, the logging into the system block has a major flaw. It only applies if you want to be part of the system & not just a listener. If you remain outside of the system & manually flip through the few channels the police use, then decryption is possible.
Just to add, a known individual has posted several videos online of him listening to Tetra Airwave, it is not just rumour, evidence exists of people doing it. BUT very few people have access to the decryption software, so the system is not exactly breeched, just not as safe as some would have you believe.
2002? that explains a great deal! I thought it was 2012 because thats the date of the news article on youtube! so I guess 2012 must be when he uploaded the video then? in 2002 some Police forces were still using analogue anyway cos the switchover took a long time. iam not saying its impossible to access Airwave, iam just saying its far from easy. thats an Alinco scanner paul was using by the way.
Earlier that week, Wey boasted, he had listened to the security services protecting another visiting head of state. It turned out to be Ariel Sharon - the Prime Minister of Israel and probably the biggest terrorist target in the world after George W Bush
And I seem to remember there being a story behind that Alinco too. Paul swapped it with someone & did not loose on the deal. Far from it. I never met Paul but believe he had what are called in the caring professions as "Issues."