All cops are broadcasting: TETRA under scrutiny


Carlo Meijer, Wouter Bokslag, and Jos Wetzels, Midnight Blue


This paper presents the first public in-depth security analysis of TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio): a European standard for trunked radio globally used by government agencies, police, prisons, emergency services and military operators. Additionally, it is widely deployed in industrial environments such as factory campuses, harbor container terminals and airports, as well as critical infrastructure such as SCADA telecontrol of oil rigs, pipelines, transportation and electric and water utilities. Authentication and encryption within TETRA are handled by secret, proprietary cryptographic cipher-suites. This secrecy thwarts public security assessments and independent academic scrutiny of the protection that TETRA claims to provide.

The widespread adoption of TETRA, combined with the often sensitive nature of the communications, raises legitimate questions regarding its cryptographic resilience. In this light, we have set out to achieve two main goals. First, we demonstrate the feasibility of obtaining the underlying secret cryptographic primitives through reverse engineering. Second, we provide an initial assessment of the robustness of said primitives in the context of the protocols in which they are used.

We present five serious security vulnerabilities pertaining to TETRA, two of which are deemed critical. Furthermore, we present descriptions and implementations of the primitives, enabling further academic scrutiny. Our findings have been validated in practice using a common-off-the-shelf radio on a TETRA network lab setup.

More than a year ago, we started to communicate our preliminary findings through a coordinated disclosure process with several key stakeholders. During this process we have actively supported these stakeholders in the identification, development and deployment of possible mitigations.

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@inproceedings {291237,
author = {Carlo Meijer and Wouter Bokslag and Jos Wetzels},
title = {All cops are broadcasting: {TETRA} under scrutiny},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {7463--7479},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug