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POCSAG512, POCSAG1200 and POCSAG2400 is the protocol used by pagers to transmit information to one another. The problem I'm seeing here is that it is not encrypted, only encoded, as any broadcast has to be to be broadcast in the first place.

I decided to build a simple web page that decodes and displays local pager POCSAG transmissions I can pick up (with my $30 of radio receiving equipment and a linux vm) as a show of just how insecure it it.

However, it just feels illegal.

There is stuff here that says it is confidential, and shouldn't be shared. Considering it is a public broadcast that is not encrypted, how is it dissimilar to just yelling, in a public place, "What I'm about to say is confidential and should not be heard by anyone".

Any heads up or pointers? I've already brought this up with a friend of mine studying to be a lawyer, and he gave me an all-encompassing shrug.

(Also I'm Australian)

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It is Illegal

Specifically, it is in breach of s7 of the TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979:

(1) A person shall not:

(a) intercept;

(b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or

(c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept;

a communication passing over a telecommunications system.

"Telecommunications system" is a "telecommunications network" within Australia and a "telecommunications network" is "a system, or series of systems, for carrying communications by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy or both, but does not include a system, or series of systems, for carrying communications solely by means of radiocommunication."

Now, you might think that because the pager message is transmitted by "radiocommunication" its not a "telecommunications network", however, the key word here is "solely" - the initiation of the pager message happens through the telephone system so the message is not sent "solely by means of radiocommunication."

You are free to intercept (and decrypt) as much radio traffic as you like providing that it is initiated at a radio transmitter and terminates at a radio receiver (like CB radio or broadcast radio) - if it touches a telecommunications network its off limits.

The criminal punishment is imprisonment for up to 2 years, "aggrieved persons" can also seek civil remedies.

  • Huh. I was not aware that a pager transmission extends further back than a radio transmitter into a telecommunication network. – zeph Oct 2 at 6:13
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    I thought OP was eavesdropping, not intercepting, as the messages will go though. – paulj Oct 3 at 17:13
  • Wouldn't someone at the telecommunication company be liable if someone intercepted the broadcast due to (b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; and (c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept; By not encrypting it, they are allowing the OP to intercept it with little effort and expense. – B540Glenn Oct 4 at 19:43

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