Archive for September, 2013

This article presents an example of how message encryption is done using a one-time pad(OTP).

In cryptography, the OTP is a very simple, yet completely unbreakable, symmetric cipher. The OTP is essentially a pad of papers on which each page has a unique set of random letters. The sender and receiver are given two pads. One half of one set for encipher and one half of another set for decipher goes to each person. Each letter on the pad is used to determine a single letter of the enciphered message. Since the letters on the pad are random, there is no formula that can be determined by studying the letters. Assuming that the pad is not compromised, and each page is used only once, the OTP system is unbreakable. That is why the one time pad is considered to be the holy grail of cryptography.

The rules of OTP use are:

1. The key text code must always be longer than the message to be encrypted.
2. Use each key text one time, then destroy it.
3. The OTP must be kept secure to avoid compromise.

This is an example of a ONE TIME PAD page – The pad page name is the first key group, This would be page “UMAZP”.


The key letters on the pad, and the messages themselves, are typically written in 5-letter groups. This helps the communicators to verify the length of the message, and if something was misunderstood, the receiving person could ask for a certain group to be repeated. When encrypting the message to be sent, the first 5 letter group on the encrypt pad page is sent “in the clear” or not encrypted, in order for the receiving communicator to locate the correct page in the pad to start decrypt from. Numbers are written long hand; “1” is written “one” etc. If the last word group does not equal 5 letters the remaining plain text letters are filled in with the letter(s) x to finish out the message. Each message should end with the letters “BTAR” to signify the end of the message to the receiver. Each page of the pad is sealed and must not be opened until actually enciphering or deciphering. The key text may not be reused and the used pages should be burned with the resulting ashes mixed in water to make a slurry after each use.”

To use the OTP, a method is needed for mixing a letter of plain text with the corresponding letter of the key text (from the pad), to produce a letter of enciphered text. The method used is called a “Vigenere’s Tableau”, or Tri-graph (see the first picture, below). The Tri-graph has the alphabet in the left-most column, and also across the top (printed in black in the picture). For each row, there is a shifted-reverse alphabet (printed in red). So, the “A” row lists the alphabet backwards, beginning with Z and ending with A. The “B” row begins with Y and ends with Z, etc.


Begin message encryption by first removing the top page from the pad. The page is removed so that the plain text message is not impressed into the paper of the page below. The plain text message is written directly under the key text on the removed page starting at the second key text group. The first group is not encrypted in order to identify to the receiving party, the page to start decryption with. To encrypt the first letter in a message, go to the row on the Tri-graph corresponding to the plain-text letter, then go to the column indicated by the first letter on your OTP. The letter at the row-column intersection is the encrypted letter. The Tri-graph does not contain any ‘secret’ information – it simply provides the mechanism for combining plain and key text into enciphered text.

For example, suppose that the message is “AMMO RESUPPLY AT OLD BARN TONIGHT” :

ETDRA NFJEW LKUKK OBWYM XWDKJ BDIZC HAVQC- this is the key text (from example above).
AMMOR ESUPP LYATO LDBAR NTONI GHTBT ARXXX —– this is the plain text written in 5 letter groups directly below the key text.
VUKUI ICWGO DRFWB AVCYW PKICI SPYZE SIKMD—– this is the enciphered text.

“E” from the cipher text, plus “A” from the plain text combined in the trigraph equals “V”. To decrypt a message, combine the Trigraph letter with the decrypt pad letter to break out the plain text message. If your wondering why the first group UMAZP was not used in the example above, remember, it would be sent in the clear, to i.d. the page to start decrypt with. When sending a message with this method, the sender should include a special, pre-arranged word, known only to the sender and receiver, in the same group, say…group 5, of every message. If this word is left out, the receiver would suspect that the pad or sender had been compromised. All computer based encryption methods use a similar type of authentication.

In order to generate your own OTP, you need a True Random Alpha Generator. Beware of any generator listed as a “Pseudo-random Alpha Generator. The pseudo generator uses a computer based mathematical algorithm that can be broken, while a true generator uses the algorithm in combination with some random, chaotic input, such external noise, to accomplish generation. One example of an inexpensive (about $20) true random generator can be found at: . It is listed as a pseudo generator, but note that it will generate true random characters with the addition of a sound card on any computer. Attach any small external microphone to the sound card. The software will inform you if you have an adequate sound level input to randomize. When running the program select True Random, uppercase, length 5, choose the number of groups (I usually select 100), no duplicates, and press generate. Copy and paste to any word processor document and format for 10 groups in each row. Print out your pages, crop and staple into pads. I would seal the edges of each pad with wax. Then the pages must be peeled apart when needed and tampering would be evident. Make two copies of each pad marking one as encrypt and the other decrypt. Send the encrypt pad from one set, and a decrypt pad from another set, to whomever you wish to communicate with. Don’t forget to also send along a Trigraph. Another method would be to copy your key text on to flash drives and distribute them.

This tried and true method of encryption is slow and cumbersome. It can be used for all types of communication; dead letter drops, snail mail, telephone and radio communications. It requires planning, some training and pre-distribution of key. It can, however, be yet another tool for future use.

This is a post I previously submitted to John Mosby’s Mountain Guerilla Blog.

The bottom line up front; these are short range radios that one would use in a platoon or squad size element. You could also use them around the farm, house or neighborhood. If you want radio comms beyond that, you need to get a ham license and join a local Ham club to get some good training and advice. And if you do get a ham license, in SHTF, the repeaters stand a good chance of going the way of the cell towers. So then think HF (still requires a Ham license). But that’s for a future article.

Again, the radios listed herein fall within the category of radios that do not currently require a license that entails a formal written test, such as a ham license, to operate. Some require no license, some require a fee (tax) to operate. I will first go into all the lame, techno-babble, crapola that only us commo geeks care about.

These are the bands that you have available:

GMRS – General Mobil Radio Service 462 – 467 MHz UHF FM 5 to 50 Watts, requires a license, $85.00, good for 5 years. Fork over your hard earned money here:

FRS – Family Radio Service 462 to 467 MHz UHF FM 0.5 Watts, no license required if you keep transmissions at 0.5 watt or under.

Now here’s where it can get stupid. If you have a hybrid GMRS/FRS radio and can set the GMRS freqs to operate at or under the 0.5 watt limit, no license is required. Most cheap handhelds are hybrid radios and power adjustable.

MURS – Multi-use Radio Service 151-154 MHz VHF FM 2 Watts. No license required.

MARINE – 156-162 MHz VHF FM 1-25 watts. No license required for recreational boaters. It is illegal to use Marine band radios on land. When SHTF, who cares.

Citizen’s Band (CB) – 26-27 Mhz HF AM 4 watts SSB 12 watts No license required.

Here’s how I break out the proper use of these radios.

Building operations i.e., CQB – UHF radios such as FRS/GMRS. The higher freqs tend to work better in and around structures. If using one of the hybrid FRS/GMRS radios indoors, and you accidentally set GMRS on the high power setting, you will notice that performance is greatly increased. Just sayin’…..accidentally. Yeah,…. that’s the ticket.

Field operations/SUT – VHF radios such as MURS and Marine. VHF will give you a little longer range when operating outdoors. If you don’t mind the ungodly long, non-tactical antenna, you could use CB. However, CB can have major interference issues with any noisy power source i.e. high power lines, neon signs, periods of high sunspot activity (like were are experiencing now), etc
The following list is not all inclusive. These are radios I would choose to use based on the various levels of purchasing power that I might have. Some folks will say that there are cheaper radios that you can buy tons of, and throw them away when they quit. My advice to them is; have at it Mr. Rocket Surgeon, but carry plenty of spares you can get at easily. When your shit is in the wind and you need a radio, that is not the time to discover it got wet when it rained and it shit the bed. Or you were doing IMT and you smashed it. You want it to work…now! If you have to rely on any piece of equipment, get the best you can afford, be it firearms, knives, rucks, etc. Same goes for radios. I have had $100.000.00 SATCOMs go down at critical times. Read Bravo Two Zero for an example of what happens to professionals when comms fail.

My basic criteria in order of importance are:
1. Is it rugged?
2. Is it waterproof/water resistant ?
3. How long will the batteries last and will it accept both rechargeable and AA or AAA batteries?
4. Is it easy to use, and does it have big buttons for gloved hands?
5. Is it light weight, will it fit in a radio pouch and not get in the way?
6. Does it make farting, beeping sounds, or have display lighting, that can inadvertently be activated, thereupon compromising my patrol?

Now to the red meat boys and girls:

1) I’m so broke I can’t afford a boot to piss in or a window to throw it out of:

Motorola Talkabout MT350R FRS/GMRS Weatherproof Two-Way $65.00 a set.
Motorola Ear Bud with Push to talk mic $10.00 ea
Good, solid radio, so-so ear bud/mic. BTW it’s not weatherproof, it’s IP-67 water resistant, submersible.

2) I’m a working class Schmoe with a wife and six kids, but know I need radios:

Cobra Marine MR-HH425LI-VP GMRS/Marine $135.00 ea with the Cobra GA-EB M2 Ear bud and Compact Microphone $15.00 ea.
Stout little radio, and the only one I’ve found that works on GMRS, FRS & Marine freqs. Very flexible, especially if your working boat ops. I’ve noticed hunters are using the marine freqs in my area and the FCC hasn’t swooped down on them yet. Probably too busy monitoring Janet Jackson in case she has another wardrobe failure on national TV. Waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes, selectable power levels, a little complicated to operate and the buttons are a little small. The earbud/mic combo is a flimsy but it’s the only one I’ve found that will work with this radio at this time.

3) I’m willing to make a few sacrifices to have good gear:
Icom IC-F3021/4021-41-DTC FRS/GMRS/MURS/AMATEUR BANDS $250.00 ea with Impact Platinum PBM-1 Bone Induction Mic $80.00
Great, indestructible radio (MIL-STD & IP-54), programmable freqs, adjustable power level, encryptable, lots of accessories, program software & cable available.


Motorola DTR 550 Digital Radio $279.00 ea with Impact Platinum PBM-1 Bone Induction Mic $80.00
Rugged (MIL-STD) 900 Mhz (no license) radio, programmable, freq hopping, text messaging. There might be some interference in built up areas. We discussed this one ad nauseam in my earlier article.

4) Money is not the issue, it’s just choosing between the different choices, although I’m certainly not King Midas, either.

Thales AN/PRC-6809 MBITR (Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio) Clear (Level III DES Encryption) – Commercial Version of the AN/PRC-148 $7500.00 with Thales Tactical Urban Headset $800.00
The Mac Daddy of all Squad Tactical Radios

Dan Morgan