James Leifer, Ralph Beaver Named SBE Fellows

The Society of Broadcast Engineers has elevated James Leifer, CBPE, and Ralph Beaver, CBT, to the membership rank of Fellow. The SBE Board of Directors elected them at its meeting held April 24.

Jim LeiferJames Leifer, who originally joined the SBE in 1986, is the senior manager of broadcast operations for American Tower Corp. He is based in the Boston area. His broadcast career began in South Florida. From 1987 to 2017, he handled engineering responsibilities for various broadcast groups, including Paxson, Ion, and iHeart Media. In 2017 he moved to Massachusetts to join American Tower in his current role.

Jim’s SBE activities began with SBE Chapter 53 South Florida. He served that chapter as chair from 2008 to 2012. In 2009, he was elected to a seat on the SBE Board of Directors for one term, then elected secretary in 2011 for four terms. He was the vice president for two terms (2015 to 2017) and then president from 2017 to 2019. He continues to serve on the SBE Board of Directors as immediate past president.

Ralph BeaverRalph Beaver originally joined the SBE in 1975. He moved to Tampa in 1973, and he has been an active member of Chapter 39 Tampa Bay Area for many years, including work on the chapter’s annual Chapter 39 Broadcast Engineering Symposium. He served on the SBE Board of Directors from 2002 until 2012. During that time, he chaired the EAS Committee for one year, and then chaired the SBE Frequency Coordination Committee, where he worked extensively with the SBE/NFL Game-Day Coordinator program when the two groups worked together. He started working with the NFL in 1999 as the Tampa game-day coordinator and Super Bowl coordinator in 1999. He was named NFL general manager of frequency coordination in 2011. In addition, he is the CEO of Media Alert LLC, a company he founded in 1994.

In the letters supporting Leifer’s nomination, there are several references to him being a talented, competent and technically capable broadcast engineer. More recently, Jim has been involved with projects relating to the TV repack, and nomination supports note that he goes beyond the technical duties of the project with his willingness to help in any way he can. One nomination also noted that Jim is “brilliant in the area of technical regulatory advocacy work involving the FCC.”

Several nomination endorsement letters for Ralph Beaver cite his work on EAS alerting, working with Florida on creating the state’s Child Abduction Alert system, and his extensive work in frequency coordination, first around the Tampa area and then with the National Football League. Among the nomination endorsements, one letter stated that Ralph is “not only an expert at radio broadcasting technology, [but] also a master of spectrum allocations and spectrum compatibility studies.”

“I have worked directly with Jim and followed Ralph’s accomplishments in their various capacities within the SBE, “said Wayne Pecena, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNE, president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. “They both possess and regularly demonstrate the skill, attitude, professionalism and dedication to broadcast engineering that are the benchmarks of an SBE Fellow.”

The Fellow honor is the highest membership level in the SBE. Members must have made significant contributions to the broadcast engineering field or the SBE. Candidates are nominated by their peers. Since the Society’s founding 56 years ago, 81 members have been honored with the Fellow rank.
Leifer and Beaver will be recognized for their election to Fellow during the SBE National Awards Dinner on Sept. 23, 2020, in Syracuse, NY, during the annual SBE National Meeting, which will be held in conjunction with the SBE 22 Broadcast & Technology Expo.

Security Issues Concerning Operation of EAS Equipment

SBE EAS Advisory Group; Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair

I hope everyone is staying safe and abiding by the guidance concerning COVID-19. With that in mind, most broadcast operations are now being handled off-site, which could create security problems. Hackers know this and can take advantage of these opportunities.

Login and Password
It stands to reason that engineers should review the station security features including firewalls, passwords and any access to the open internet by station equipment. One area of concern is the EAS equipment, including any RBDS encoders. Creating secure login information is vital to blocking hackers from getting to the system. While I visit stations as part of the ABIP program, I still find some that are still using the default password that came with the unit. It is not difficult to create secure passwords and change them regularly.

Thankfully, most EAS devices force you to change your password when you first configure your device. Some EAS devices also periodically remind you to change your passwords. When you first install your EAS device, you need to change that default password. If you haven’t done this since you first installed your device, take this as a reminder to go change it as soon as possible. If your device didn’t prompt you to change your password, that is also probably a clue that you are running old software on the EAS device that needs to be updated.

Other reasons to change your EAS device passwords:

1. When you have changes in personnel. Even when changes in status happen on friendly terms, it is a wise idea to “change the locks” on key station equipment – including EAS equipment – when staff or contractors quit, retire or are terminated.

2. After a security incident, such as evidence of unauthorized access to EAS device (even internally).

3. You suspect someone who should not have access might know the password.

4. You somehow logged into the EAS device from outside your station, or from a shared or public computer. First, you should not access your EAS equipment from outside the station, unless you are using a secure link (such as a virtual private network). Fix that right away. Then change your passwords.

5. It’s been a year or more since you last changed the password.

Network Connections
Although it is tempting to place the EAS equipment on an outside static IP address, this gives an open door to those wishing to do harm. If you don’t have an IT staff or someone who understands IT systems, you might ask, “How can I check to see if my EAS device is directly accessible from the Internet?”

1. The easiest way to see if your EAS device might be directly connected to the Internet is this check: Are you accessing the device from a remote location – from home, or an off-campus hotspot, from your smart phone, etc. If you are, and it always “just works,” then your device is on the internet, and you might not have a firewall. A firewall usually requires you to access the device from a known IP address, or to connect through a VPN or other access limiting system. If you’ve never heard of these, and haven’t spent any time setting it up, you need to investigate if you have a firewall.

2. Check the IP address of your EAS device. This will be the address you use to check your logs. Some EAS devices will display their IP address on their front panel – check with your manufacturer.

Some IP addresses are non-routable, and some are routable. If you have a non-routable address, then you are not directly connected to the internet – but you might still have a problem. Sometimes your network will have a device that is redirecting connections from an external routable address to your non-routable internal address. Such a device will often also have firewall capabilities. The non-routable addresses will always look like one of these: 10.xxx.xxx.xxx, 172.16.xxx.xxx through 172.31.xxx.xxx, and 192.168.xxx.xxx. If you have anything other than these, then you are probably directly connected to the Internet. You NEED A FIREWALL. Find out of you have one.

The firewall will permit only certain IP addresses that you select from getting from the outside internet directly to your EAS device. You usually need to limit such access to just the HTTPS port (443). SSL will add additional protection against outsiders gaining information by watching the flow of data between you and your EAS device. Even if you are going to permit remote access to your EAS device, only give access to just the ports you need; not all the ports, because an IP address can be spoofed.

For the best protection for your EAS device, a firewall should reject any incoming connection to your EAS device it receives from the Internet. If you must permit remote access, the best choice is to only permit a connection to the HTTPS port (443). Some EAS devices will use different ports for different things, and you might want to allow access on these ports, but start with a locked down system, and know what you are doing when opening any other ports.

Software Updates
As with all computer devices that connect to a network, keeping the firmware and software updated is important. EAS device software updates contain modifications to meet FCC rule changes, they also contain critical security patches, functional updates and bug patches.

1. FCC compliance updates. The FCC has modified its rules several times over the past few years, changing the way alert time is handed for national alerts, adding EAS event codes, modifying FIPS names, and other rules. If you are not updating your software, you run the risk of not being compliant with current FCC rules.

2. Security patches. Security patches address vulnerabilities that bad guys might use to gain unauthorized access to your EAS equipment. And, let’s face it, anything connected to the Internet – even behind a firewall – should be treated as vulnerable. It is very wise practice to keep current with these security updates.

3. Bug patches and functional updates. From time to time, EAS manufacturers find a flaw or a bug in their software and issue a software update to address it. They also release helpful improvements and new features.

Should you have questions about the EAS equipment configuration, contact the manufacturer directly. Should you have questions regarding your firewall or network configuration, you may want to consult with an IT consultant or the manufacturer of that equipment.

SBE, Elenos Group, Broadcast Electronics, Wheatstone, Xperi Present NAB Kickoff Webinar

In cooperation with Elenos/Broadcast Electronics, Wheatstone and Xperi, the Society of Broadcast Engineers will participate in a webinar on Saturday, April 18, 2020, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT. Called the NAB Kickoff, these companies will provide a taste of what you would have seen at the NAB Show – a wide ranging look at some key technologies and topics. The Society of Broadcast Engineers is providing three presentations about SBE education, certification and the Mentor Program interspersed throughout the webinar. It’s free.

Register now: elenosgroup.com/webinar/

The webinar is hosted by Chuck Kelly of Elenos/BE, who is also a past president of the SBE. Viewing the webinar qualifies for 1/2 credit for SBE recertification in Category I.

NAB Kickoff Webinar

Slated Presentations

Developments in HD Radio
Elenos Group: Chuck Kelly, Morten Simonsen and Perry Priestley

Get to Know the SBE: Education
Society of Broadcast Engineers: Wayne Pecena

Social Distancing Your Studios
Wheatstone: Robert Ferguson

Get to Know the SBE: Certification
Society of Broadcast Engineers: Wayne Pecena

The Xperi Family of Broadcast Solutions
Xperi: Rick Greenhut

Processing for Today’s Streaming
Wheatstone: Rick Bidlack

Get to Know the SBE: Mentor Program
Society of Broadcast Engineers: Wayne Pecena

Developments in ATSC 1/3
Elenos Group: Chuck Kelly, Morten Simonsen and Perry Priestley