Q at GCHQ has warned that powerline networking might stuff up shedloads of gadgets he has designed. Apparently, the broadband technology that is being used in British homes is hampering the ability of the UK’s spooks to snoop.
A letter penned by GCHQ’s spectrum manager back in March has appeared on the website of the pressure group Ban PLT. For the record, GCHQ denies that the letter was ever written, but then, it would.
The letter said that GCHQ was concerned over the manufacturing, importation and sales of equipment used in powerline technology, as well as the associated home networking kit.
Interference from power line networking is likely to cause a detrimental affect to part of the core business of GCHQ. Apparently, the invisible car’s alarm always goes off, three exploding suitcases failed to detonate and the jam trousers turned sticky too early.
The gear, supplied by Comtrend, is being rolled out to more than 1.5 million UK households via BT.
Q said that he was already seeing an increase in the HF noise floor in the vicinity of the HF receiving stations.
There are wide variations between day time and night time levels. The propagation of noise in this band also varies according to seasonal changes and other natural phenomena.
The MoD, the BBC, RSGB, and other players in the telecommunications industry have also complained about the technology.
However, when Eweek spoke to Ofcom about the problem it was surprised to find that Q might have got it wrong.
According to Ofcom, there are 1.8 million pairs of PLT products in the UK and there have been 272 complaints about the devices since 2008. All the complaints have come from ham radio users.
But what is strange is that the number of complaints has gone down as take up of the technology has increased.
Over the last year complaints have dropped by two thirds.
Eweek started to smell a rat and checked out the letter’s author. Sure, Q might have written the letter, but he also happens to be the chair of a local amateur radio group.
So it is nice to know that British spooks are using their name and letterhead to defend their hobbies.
We can’t mention Q’s name of course. It is illegal to identify a spook or even link to the site where the letter is hosted in the UK. These are the bizzare secrecy laws we have to work with.