CISA at 2019 APCO: Day 1

Author: Ken Bradley, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Office of External Affairs

Association for Public-Safety Officials (APCO) Conference

APCO 2019, APCO International’s Annual Conference and Expo, is the premier event for public safety communications officials, from frontline telecommunicators to communications center managers to public safety communications equipment and services vendors.  Over 5,000 attendees represent a wide range of organizations, including emergency communications centers, law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical services, and government agencies, along with service providers and commercial vendors. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) at Exhibit Hall on Monday and Tuesday in Booth #659, but first CISA partnered with its public safety partners in the session Project 25 for the Future: What’s New Today and What’s Coming Next.

Project 25 for the Future: What’s New Today and What’s Coming Next

This session was hosted by the Project 25 Technology Interest Group (PTIG), which is a forum for users and vendors of the Project 25 (P25) standard that provides resources to include standards updates, case studies, conference presentations, frequently asked questions, and more.  P25 is a living standard that continues to be maintained and expanded as technology evolves and as the communications needs of the public safety community evolve.

The speakers provided a status update regarding updates to various P25 standards and progress toward an interworking function (IWF) linking land mobile radio (LMR) and long-term evolution (LTE) systems, P25 link layer encryption to include key management to improve interoperability, and P25 system and console interoperability including P25 testing updates.

P25 updates for 2019 addressed air interfaces and a revision to the trunking control channel message standard.  The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TR-8 representative provided a summary of the Joint TIA/Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) Working Group on P25/LTE Interworking and a number of updates to the P25 Suite of Standards.  P25 link layer encryptions helps to ensure integrity, confidentiality, and key distribution.  Integrity ensures the message has not been altered, confidentiality ensures the message is only received by the intended parties, and key distribution ensures the receiving parties have the means to securely communicate.   A current challenge is with P25 end-to-end encryption for voice calls and packet data protects the contents of the transmission because end-to-end encryption by itself does not protect against intercepting the identities of the parties involved in a call.  Concepts to understand for key management are the link encryption facility (LEF) securely stores and distributes link layer encryption (LLE) Cyptographic key material and LLE key management provides for a hierarchy of keys and multiple key distribution methods: broadcast key distribution, group key distribution, and individual key distribution.

Jim Downes, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is the current P25 Steering Committee Chair.  Jim addressed P25 system interoperability and current projects the Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications (FPIC) is currently working on to improve interoperability.  Mr. Downes provided an update of the Project 25 Steering Committee activities and summarized the continued progress in maintaining current standards updates and the necessary compliance testing necessary to ensure interoperability. He stressed the importance of continued user involvement and the continued partnership with the TIA TR8 members and the DHS Compliance Assessment Program Office. The importance of the interoperability testing and results was also addressed.

In summary, the state and local public safety community continues to be very connected to and interested in the P25 Standards development process and how user input can affect updates to the current standards.  Additionally, the challenges of encrypted interoperability and how P25 can effectively interface with LTE, both commercial and with FirstNet, are of critical and immediate interest to the public safety community. 

CISA continues tomorrow with a panel entitled Protections, Capabilities, and Real-World Deployments of Encryption Protocols and starts exhibiting with S&T at ACPO 2019. For CISA’s full schedule of events at APCO 2019, please visit the SAFECOM Blog.

Taxonomy Topics