Be careful out there......The Bluefield Daily Telegraph and other media sources in Southwest Virginia are reporting that two members of a local rescue squad in Southwest Virginia were indicted on felony charges of using a computer to convert the property or computer program of another and making an unauthorized copy of a program or property of another. The charges arose from an investigation into the unauthorized use of the Tazewell County sheriff's office radio frequencies on radios belonging to their rescue squad – which is an agency licensed by the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services. Essentially, the two individuals are being accused of downloading encryption keys which then allowed them to listen in on encrypted police communications. It is because the proprietary encryption keys were also downloaded that Tazewell County was able to proceed with these criminal charges. In addition to the Tazewell County issue, authorities are also investigating whether or not frequencies assigned to Russell County Fire and EMS and the Virginia State Police were improperly programmed into the radios.
In addition to criminal action by authorities in Virginia, the FCC could potentially take enforcement action against the rescue squad for this sort of activity, since the FCC's rules require permission from a licensee before their channels can be programmed into another agency's public safety radio system. For this reason, it is critically important that companies ensure that end-users do not have the capability of modifying or otherwise programming their radios, and that these functions be reserved only for authorized maintenance personnel.