Encryption Resources


Encryption ensures effective security where information cannot be intercepted and used to hinder emergency response or endanger responders and the public.  The public safety community increasingly needs to protect critical information and sensitive data, particularly within land mobile radio (LMR) communications, and encryption is the best available tool to achieve that security. The resources below provide best practices and considerations for planning, implementing, and securely operating encryption with public safety communications.

Encryption in Three Minutes Video
Drawn from interviews with emergency communications practitioners nationwide, “Encryption in Three Minutes” presents an overview of LMR encryption in public safety operations. The video outlines encryption’s role in protecting sensitive tactical and operational communications as well as the personal identifiable information and medical status of civilian patients during emergencies. Discussion focuses on implementing a practical, reliable encryption system while preserving interoperability with mutual aid partners and outside agencies. Special attention is given to selecting the most secure encryption algorithm. It is an ideal brief overview of LMR encryption aimed at community leaders and public safety administrators, officials, and responders.

Guidelines for Encryption in Land Mobile Radio Systems
As a result from a number of security risk and vulnerability assessments, the public safety community has recognized the increasing effort to protect sensitive information transmitted over its wireless communications systems. The purpose of this document is to provide information that should be considered when evaluating encryption solutions to minimize the possibility of sensitive information being monitored, but are concerned with the cost of standards compliant encryption.

Best Practices for Encryption in P25 Public Safety Land Mobile Radio Systems
This document addresses methods to improve cross-agency coordination and emphasizes the use of standards-based encryption to enhance secure interoperability and minimize the risk of compromising sensitive information.

Best Practices for Encryption in P25 Public Safety Land Mobile Radio Systems - Developing Methods to Improve Encrypted Interoperability in Public Safety (Fact Sheet)
This document highlights best practices of key management necessary to allow encrypted operability and interoperability. These best practices are important in developing system security where encrypted interoperability is realizable. Additionally, significant planning and coordination must be undertaken to achieve encrypted interoperability on a national scale.

Considerations for Encryption in Public Safety Radio Systems
This document examines the complex issues of why encryption may be needed during critical operations of an urgent or time-sensitive nature or when open communications may not be sufficient to protect personally identifiable and/or sensitive information. This document provides guidance to public safety users through a process to assess the need for encryption as well as the questions that must be considered.

Considerations for Encryption in Public Safety Radio Systems - Determining the Need for Encryption in Public Safety Radios (Fact Sheet)
This document provides a high-level overview of all the factors public safety agencies and departments should thoroughly discuss and carefully considered before reaching a decision to encrypt their public safety radio systems.

Encryption Key Management Fact Sheet
Developed by SAFECOM and NCSWIC, in collaboration with the Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications (FPIC), this fact sheet educates public safety organizations on how to effectively manage cryptographic keys for their radio systems. The ability for unauthorized persons to listen in on confidential and tactical information in radio transmissions has led many of these agencies to encrypt some or all radio transmissions. The document provides an overview of the various considerations for agencies desiring to encrypt their radios; summarizes what is involved in encryption and encryption key management; specifies which types of encryption are safest for use; and outlines why encryption key management is important.

Guidelines for Encryption in Land Mobile Radio Systems - Determining what Encryption Method to Use for Public Safety Radios
This document discusses methods that may be used to ensure the privacy of sensitive public safety LMR communications. These methods mainly involve the use of a variety of encryption techniques.

Operational Best Practices for Encryption Key Management 
Developed by the FPIC, in collaboration with SAFECOM and NCSWIC, this document provides public safety organizations that have chosen to encrypt their radio transmissions with information on how to effectively obtain, distribute, and manage cryptographic keys. The document discusses the various types of encryption, how to obtain encryption keys, how to store them, and why it is important to periodically change encryption keys while still maintaining interoperability with partner agencies. This document, and the accompanying Encryption Key Management Fact Sheet, were published to guide public safety communications professionals on effectively managing encryption keys.

Communications Security – Protecting Critical Information, Personnel, and Operations White Paper
Communications Security (COMSEC) is an integrated set of policies, procedures, and technologies for protecting sensitive and confidential information, which, if compromised, could put responders’ and citizens’ safety and privacy at risk. This white paper summarizes the threats and draws on established COMSEC principles to describe reliable approaches to secure information. It highlights encryption of message traffic, with special emphasis on maintaining interoperability through careful planning, coordination, and selection of a standard encryption algorithm.

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