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SANS: Calling all ham radio operators
From: William Knowles <wk () c4i org>
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2001 02:59:19 -0500 (CDT)
By DAN VERTON
July 06, 2001
The System Administration Networking and Security (SANS) Institute is
recruiting amateur radio operators to take part in an emergency
communications network that it said could be used by disaster relief
personnel in the event of a catastrophic failure of telecommunications
systems, including the Internet.
In its weekly newsletter this week, Bethesda, Md.-based SANS asked all
interested ham and packet radio operators "to take a leadership role
to help establish and maintain" such an emergency backup
communications network. SANS is a research organization for systems
administrators and security managers.
There are approximately 600,000 amateur radio operators in the U.S.
and 2.5 million around the world. Ham radio operators, as amateur
radio operators are popularly known, must obtain a license from the
U.S. Federal Communications Commission and are encouraged to provide
emergency communications during natural disasters and national
Jim Haynie, president of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a
Newington, Conn.-based organization that supports the interests of ham
radio operators in dealings with the government, said the SANS
proposal is a good one and in many ways similar to what amateur radio
operators have been doing since the first licenses were issued in
"There is a network that can be marshaled if needed," said Haynie,
referring to the potential of a terrorist attack or natural disaster
to cripple large portions of the Internet and the telecommunications
grid. "If the Internet went down today, it wouldn't change my life one
bit," he added. "It's nothing for me to go in my ham shack and flip
one switch and talk to New York or Bulgaria or Ukraine."
The ARRL estimates that there are about 275,000 "hardcore operators"
who could swing into action if needed, Haynie said. "But to back up
the entire infrastructure is a pretty tall order," he cautioned,
noting that the use of ham radio operators in this fashion wouldn't
mean the instant restoration of Web browsing capabilities or Internet
Instead, Haynie said, the ham radio network would be strictly used for
passing emergency voice and data communications between government
officials at the local, state and federal levels and the public.
The ARRL is a signatory to several memorandums of understanding with
various federal and private relief agencies, including the Federal
Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. In fact, many of the
ARRL's 175,000 members have actively supported federal emergency
response operations during many of the most recent disasters and
During the flooding that ravaged parts of Texas last month, for
example, the FCC set aside a band of frequencies for use by ham radio
operators to support federal relief efforts, Haynie said. Likewise,
the radio operators were called into action after the 1995 blast that
destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City led
to an overload of the cell phone network.
Alan Fedeli, director of emergency response services at Atlanta-based
security software vendor Internet Security Systems Inc. (ISS),
applauded the approach suggested by SANS and said any attempt to
establish alternate communications channels should be supported.
David Curry, manager of business strategies at ISS, pointed to
outbreaks of Internet and e-mail worms as prime examples of the need
for such an alternate network. Many companies simply pull their
systems off the Internet when that happens in order to prevent the
worms from reaching them, according to Curry.
"People's reaction was to unplug the network," he said, referring to
several such incidents. "The problem is that the people disconnected
themselves from the source of information about the problem."
"Communications without intelligence is noise; Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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- SANS: Calling all ham radio operators William Knowles (Jul 09)