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"Knitted" Wi-Fi Routers Create Failover Network For First Responders 97

Posted by timothy
from the fire-department-do-you-read-me dept.
wiredmikey writes "Wireless Internet routers used in homes and offices could be knitted together to provide a communications system for emergency responders if the mobile phone network fails, German scientists reported on Monday. In many countries, routers are so commonplace that they could be used by police and fire departments if cell towers and networks are down or overwhelmed by people caught up in an emergency, they say. This rich density means that an emergency network could piggyback on nearby routers, giving first responders access to the Internet and contact with their headquarters. The researchers suggest that routers incorporate an emergency 'switch' that responders can activate to set up a backup network, thus giving them a voice and data link through the Internet. This could be done quite easily without impeding users or intruding on their privacy, the study argues. Many routers already have a 'guest' mode, meaning a supplementary channel that allows visitors to use a home's Wi-Fi." This is a cool angle on mesh networking — reminds me of the emergency response capabilities of ham radio; if it sounds intriguing, remember that even sparse networks can make use of this kind of networking with the right antennas. Related: even without touching the hardware on your router, you can do some meshing around with Byzantium.
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"Knitted" Wi-Fi Routers Create Failover Network For First Responders

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  • by heypete (60671) <pete@heypete.com> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @12:29PM (#41069319) Homepage

    Don't emergency services have their own dedicated communications networks?

    Sure, most police departments that I've seen use mobile data terminals for dispatching calls but the dispatcher, officer, and car itself still have two-way radios. They can still communicate among themselves and dispatch calls using radios, albeit slightly less efficiently than they can with mobile data terminals.

    In the US at least, emergency services have priority access to telecommunication networks like mobile and landline phone networks. So long as the network itself is intact (but merely overwhelmed by non-emergency calls) they will be able to get access.

    Why would any emergency service worth their salt even remotely consider using home networks, particularly with no assurance of service quality or availability?

    Lastly, what prevents bad guys from operating this "switch" to gain access to home networks? Even if they can't access the internal network itself, they'd be able to piggyback on the connection to browse the internet (likely for nefarious purposes if they're activating this sort of access switch).

  • Hell no ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @12:30PM (#41069331) Homepage

    This rich density means that an emergency network could piggyback on nearby routers, giving first responders access to the Internet and contact with their headquarters. The researchers suggest that routers incorporate an emergency 'switch' that responders can activate to set up a backup network, thus giving them a voice and data link through the Internet

    As soon as some well meaning person starts suggesting this be built into routers, this opens you up for another vector to be hacked.

    If the routers have such a switch, it won't be long before someone else figures out how to enable it, and essentially turn your router over to them. And, for those of us whose internet usage is metered, we'd end up paying for this.

    This is just a big giant back door which is screaming to be abused.

    This is one of those ideas which sounds kind of nice on the surface, but which would be fraught with really bad implementations and unintended consequences. This researcher is kind of like people who try to pass laws around technology, and utterly fail to comprehend the other related issues.

    You may not open up a communications channel on something I'm legally liable for without my permission. In many places, that is illegal.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @12:47PM (#41069549)
    Yeah, the problem with "what if" is that it dies the minute someone sees a way of making a profit.
  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malluck (413074) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @01:13PM (#41069945)

    A new study has shown that saws are so common place they could be used by lumberjacks in case of emergancy situations. The report suggest putting lumberjack accessable doors on all tool sheds.

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