Cheap gear gives techies ringside seats for Libyan war

Cheap tech gear is making it possible for those with a small bit of knowledge to listen in on the war in Libya.

Information that the military are unhappy for people to know about is turning up online thanks to sniffer software which trawls the airwaves looking for military operations.

According to Wired, one listener known online as “BlackBox” and @FMCNL, manages to combine the global and free information on the internet with local received information from the ether. His main goal is to “listen to ‘the truth,’ without any military or political propaganda.”

Military aircraft have to provide basic information about their position over unencrypted, unclassified UHF and VHF radio networks to avoid hitting civilian jets in mid-air.

Blackbox uses radio frequency scanners, amplifiers, and antennae to capture the communications.

It is not very expensive to do so. One bought his ICOM R20 receiver and the Uniden UBC-785XLT scanner for about $500.

Using it,  he monitors everything from aircraft transponder data to IRC chatrooms to pinpoint his planes.

Wired makes the point that these days it is simple for average folks to gather intelligence in ways once reserved for the spooks.

More recently Blackbox heard the US military has started telling Libyan ships to remain in port or be blown up. The Pentagon has not mentioned it.