Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Lights Out! Guerrilla Radio! Turn That Shit Up!

From Diebold voting machines to OS X viruses, people like to think that, yeah, they can be exploited, but no one will think to do it.  "Protection through obscurity."  And every once in a while, members of the counterculture who actually know what the fuck they are doing come along, bite them in the ass, and provide a very entertaining show for the rest of us.  Today, we must tip our hats to another group of brave anons.  They who decided to use a simple vunerability to turn things on their ear.  As usual, it's actually been around for a while, it's just that no one's thought to do anything with it yet, and as a result, no one tried to close it off before it was too late.

So, let's talk about a little something called Low Power FM.  This starts with the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The first, and at the time, only act regulating communications, such as phones and broadcasting, was the Communications Act of 1934 (colloquially known simply as "the 1934 Act").  Between the rise of cell phones, which meant phone companies could compete with AT&T without having to pay for using their phone lines, the spread of cable TV wanting to make inroads in Internet and phone service, and media on the Internet itself, there were concerns that the 1934 Act was outdated.  Given all these new avenues, the Telecommunications Act was supposed to help encourage competition in these emerging markets by eliminating barriers to entry, primarily by easing restrictions on the industry.  It was passed by the 104th Congress on January 3, 1996, and Slick Willie Clinton signed it into law on February 8.

And how did that go?  Well, mergers and acquisitions skyrocketed.  Now that several radio and TV stations in the same market could be owned, they became less local and more market driven.  The power to shape agendas and control information appeared as big companies with more money bought their way in while everyone else was shut out.  It's the ciiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiife.

This did not sit well who saw broadcast technology as a way to inform and engage people, not create a protected marketplace.  Progressives of the time began mobilizing for a new class of radio to do just that.  Among those backing for opening the airwaves were musician Bonnie Raitt, the Communication Workers Of America, the National League Of Cities, the American Library Association, the United Church Of Christ, and various other religious and educational groups.  In a relatively short time, they had gotten the attention of the FCC.  In January 2000, they created a new radio station class called Low Power FM.  In order to run a commercial FM radio station, you have to broadcast at at least 100 watts of power.  LPFM was allowed to operate truly local stations -- they could broadcast at between 1 and 10 watts of power or 50 and 100 watts of power.

(Side note:  lots of my readers are very keen on political discussion and activism, especially now that Agent Orange is in charge of the White House.  This LPFM thing probably sounds like a good idea to you, doesn't it?  Well, my little anchovies, if you are really that interested in what it takes to set up and run an LPFM, hie yourselves on over to the Prometheus Radio Project.  It's pretty much a one-stop shop for anything you could possibly want to know about LPFM.  And the pedigree is good -- in 2003, they took on the FCC over further relaxing ownership restrictions and won.  They also provide workshops on things like broadcast law and regulations and how to start your own LPFM.  Stop on over.  You'll be glad you did.)

Well, this didn't sit well with the National Association Of Broadcasters, who didn't like this area they couldn't play in and control.  NAB President Edward O. Fritts complained that LPFM shouldn't be allowed because they needed to "maintain spectrum integrity" for commercial stations.  So they did what any industry with money and political ties do when faced with loss of control -- they turned to their pets in Congress.  The 2000 spending bill that went through Congress had a cute little rider called the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000.  Basically, it sought to kneecap the expansion of LPFM, and it did so by removing regulatory authority from the FCC and giving it to Congress instead.    Slick Willie signed it into law in December 2000.  Since then, studies and activism and appreciative audiences have forced several revisions and improved laws to be passed for the benefit of LPFM.  One of which, in 2005, was co-sponsored by Constitutional traitor John McCain.

Everybody still with me so far?  That's good!

So, what is going on?  Well, as you may have guessed, LPFM uses a lot of Internet connections for everything from live events to remote broadcasts to whatever.  And one of the most popular pieces of software for doing this is the Barix Exstreamer, which is used to decode various file format and send them down the pipe for transmission.  In April 2016, Ars Technica, one of those tech web sites that actually knows what it's talking about, discovered a vulnerability in the software that left it open to exploitation.  Barix immediately began contacting its customers, telling them to update their software, use a 24-character password, and not to connect any live streams directly to the Internet, put them behind a firewall or VPN first.

If you know anything about people and technology, you won't be surprised that lots of people just never got around to it -- one station manager told Heat Street that her transmitter was connected directly to the Internet with no password enabled at all.  And here comes Anonymous.  Hackers are targeting LPFM stations using Barix to hijack their signals and broadcast a little protest song.  That song?  "Fuck Donald Trump" by YG and Nipsey Hussle.  The exploits started shortly after Trump's inauguration on January 20th.  It's only been spreading since.

Broadcast power to the people.

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