Homepage
Crypto
Index
Glossary
Enigma
Hagelin
Fialka
Nema
Voice
Hand
OTP
EMU
Mixers
Phones
FILL
Codebooks
Algorithms
USA
USSR
UK
Yugoslavia
Ascom
AT&T
Bosch
Datotek
Gretag
HELL
ITT
Motorola
Mils
OMI
Philips
Racal
Siemens
STK
Tadiran
Telsy
Teltron
Transvertex
TST
Spy radio
Burst encoders
Intercept
Covert
Radio
PC
Telex
People
Agencies
Manufacturers
• • • Donate • • •
Kits
Shop
News
Events
Wanted
Contact
About
Links
   Click for homepage
Crypto
Nokia
EMU
SANLA →
  
Nokia PARSA   Partiosanomalaite M/83
Electronic Message Unit

Partiosanomalaite, commonly abbreviated to PARSA, is a portable military Electronic Messaging Unit (EMU) 1 for use with telephone and radio equipment, developed around 1984 by Nokia in Finland. Messages are encrypted with the Data Encryption Standard (DES) and sent over standard voice channels, using Audio Frequency Shift Keying (AFSK). PARSA was sold by Philips Usfa (NL) as the UA-8296 and by MEL (UK) as the BA-1403 albeit with a different cryptographic algorithm.

The PARSA is the smaller 'brother' of the Nokia Sanomalaite (SANLA) M/90 originally released in 1983. Together with the Keskussanomalaite (KESANLA) these units are part of an integrated reconnaissance and command messaging system (Sanomalaitejärestelmä), that was used during the 1980s by the Finnish Defence Forces.

The image on the right shows a typical PARSA unit, as it was used by both NATO and non-NATO countries. Note that some details of the device have changed over the years. In particular the keys on the keyboard may be rectangular.
  
Nokia PARSA

This particular unit has circular keys that are part of a rubber key pad. It has 33 buttons that hold the letters of the alphabet and some special functions. Some keys, e.g. on the upper row, have double or even tripple functions. The button at the bottom left is used to turn the unit ON.

PARSA has a red alphanumeric 16-character LED display and weights ~1 kg. It is powered by 6 AA-size batteries or by an external 10-30 V DC source, usually supplied by the radio. It interfaces with voice-grade 150 to 600 baud equipment and is suitable for HF, VHF and UHF radio circuits. It and has a 2000 character transmit (TX) memory and a 2000 character receive (RX) memory that can hold up to 8 messages. The terminal is fully shock- and water-proof [1].

Messages are encrypted with the embedded DES algorithm (implemented in software), which was thought to be sufficiently secure at the time. The secret encryption key can be entered directly on the keyboard. Capture of a terminal can not jeopardise the security of a current software key in use by other terminals, nor can it compromise security of the system at a future date. For use by non-NATO countries, Philips Usfa implemented an alternative encryption algorithm that had been supplied by the US National Security Agency (NSA). This algorithm contained a backdoor [2].

  1. As the PARSA sends its messages as a short data burst, the device can also be seen as a Burst Encoder.

Seen from the left Nokia PARSA Front view Control panel Left side Battery compartment and data socket at the left side Display after starting up. Version E33612. NF-07 1:1 cable
A
×
A
1 / 8
Seen from the left
A
2 / 8
Nokia PARSA
A
3 / 8
Front view
A
4 / 8
Control panel
A
5 / 8
Left side
A
6 / 8
Battery compartment and data socket at the left side
A
7 / 8
Display after starting up. Version E33612.
A
8 / 8
NF-07 1:1 cable

Controls
The diagram below shows the layout of the PARSA's front panel. The bottom half is taken by the 33 rubber keys that are arranged in the common QWERTY order. Some keys have more than one function. The key at the bottom left is used to turn the unit ON. This key also functions as the Shift-key when selecting the functions that that are printed above some of the keys. The numbers are shared with the upper row of keys, which are also used to select the desired function.


After switching the unit ON, the display first shows the version number of the firmware. After pressing END you are promted to enter the current time. Once the time is entered, press END and the unit is ready for use. The display now asks to select the desired function. This is done by pressing one of the key of the upper row. When done, press OFF to turn the device off (Shift-Z).

Control panel Left side ON and OFF keys Function keys Display after starting up. Version E33612. Entering the time Selecting the required function Entering a valid key
B
×
B
1 / 8
Control panel
B
2 / 8
Left side
B
3 / 8
ON and OFF keys
B
4 / 8
Function keys
B
5 / 8
Display after starting up. Version E33612.
B
6 / 8
Entering the time
B
7 / 8
Selecting the required function
B
8 / 8
Entering a valid key

Operation
The following functions are available from the top row of keys:

MSG   Message
Start the composition of a message.
DSP   Display
Display a received message to the user.
KEY   Display the current key. Note that only a 4-position hash code (the check group) will be shown. The actual key will never be revealed.
↑ KEY   Change the key (Shift-KEY).
CON   Configure
Initiate the sequence for configuring the terminal.
XMT   Transmit
Transmit a message.
ENC   Encrypt
Off-line encryption of the displayed text.
DEC   Decrypt
Off-line decryption of the displayed text.
CLR   Clear
Delete memory contents.
↑ DEL   Delete
Delete the message that is currently being displayed (Shift-DEL).
·—   Morse code
Enter telegraphy mode.
END   Terminate the current function and prompt a new one.
Philips UA-8296
The Nokia Parsa was also sold as a re-batched device by Philips Usfa in The Netherlands as the UA-8296, in which case the DES encryption algorithm was replaced by a proprietary one. The UA-8296 was sold alongside the much larger UA-8295, which was based on the Nokia SANLA.

The image on the right shows the front cover of the Philips brochure for the UA-8295 and the UA-8296, as it was released in 1984. The front page of the brochure carries the title 'Short Burst Terminals', (i.e. Burst Encoder) [A].

According to the brochure, the unit is intended for short burst messages, in order to minimize the chance of interception and radio direction finding. It also states that it uses encryption for secure communication, but nothing is said about the cryptographic strength of the unit.

The UA-8295 and the UA-8296 are also featured as Philips devices in the 1986 editions of Jane's Military Communication catalogue [1], but Philips never actually built any burst encoders.

 More equipment from Philips

  
Brochure of the Philips UA-8295 and UA-8296. Click here to download.

MEL BA-1403
The Nokia Parsa was also sold by MEL in the UK, which was in fact a rebatched Philips UA-8296 (see above). The unit is mechanically and electronically identical to the Nokia Parsa, but like with the Philips UA-8296, the DES encryption algorithm is replaced by a proprietary one.

 More equipment from MEL



Interior
The Nokia PARSA is housed in a die-cast aluminium enclosure that consists of a rectangular case with a removable front panel. The front panel is attached to the case by means of eight recessed cross head screw around the edges. Remove these screws to get access to the device's interior.

After the screws have been removed, the front panel can be titled away. The interior consists of an interface and power unit, which is housed in the main case, and a processor and I/O board which is mounted to the rear of the front panel.

The two boards are connected via a fixed 20-way ribbon cable. Apart from the analogue audio interface, the main unit also contains the battery compartment that can be accessed via a hinged door at the side. It accepts six AA-size penlight batteries, which are a tight fit. Removing them can be difficult, especially if they are swollen.
  
Large IC in metal packaging

Always remove the batteries when the unit is stored, in order to avoid damage from leakage. Note that all batteries, even professional ones, will eventually start leaking and cause damage. When the unit described here was found in 2009, the batteries were swollen so much, that they had to be removed with force. The corrosion had almost caused damage to the device's interior.

The processor board is built around an Intel P80C31 microprocessor [3], running at 100 kHz. The cryptographic keys are stored in a volatile 8KB CMOS RAM chip, and are retained by a small supercap in combination with the main battery.

Keyboard and display are mounted to the rear side of the board. The firmware is held in an 8KB EPROM that is removable in order to allow for upgrades and software modifications. The image on the right shows the EPROM inside our PARSA unit, which is marked 8296/00, indicating that it was made by Philips Usfa in the Netherlands. 1
  
EPROM with 8296/00 software version BD/B5

This also means that the unit described here probably does not contain DES, but a different NSA-supplied algorithm that was easier to break. Details about this algorithm will follow as and when they become available.

  1. Philips Usfa sold the PARSA to non-NATO countries under its own name: UA-8296. Ther extension 00 denotes a specific variant. At the request of the NSA, DES was replaced by a government friendly algorithm.

Interior Interior - top view Interface and power board Processor board Large IC in metal packaging Detail Processor EPROM with 8296/00 software version BD/B5
C
×
C
1 / 8
Interior
C
2 / 8
Interior - top view
C
3 / 8
Interface and power board
C
4 / 8
Processor board
C
5 / 8
Large IC in metal packaging
C
6 / 8
Detail
C
7 / 8
Processor
C
8 / 8
EPROM with 8296/00 software version BD/B5

Documentation
  1. Philips Usfa BV, UA 8295 and UA 8296 Short Burst Terminals
    8-page full-colour brochure. Document No. 20.0058/E/0984, 1984.

  2. Patrol Message Terminal US-8296/00, User's manual
    June 1984. Preliminary version (English).

  3. Patrol Message Terminal US-8296/00, System description
    Philips Usfa, June 1984.

  4. Terminal de Transmission de Message de Patrouille, UA-8296/00
    September 1984. System description (French).
References
  1. Jane's Military Communication 1986
    Netherlands, Philips Usfa BV, UA 8296 Hand-held Patrol Terminal. p. 445.
    ISBN: 0-7106-0824-1

  2. Anonymous, Former Philips employee about UA-8296 algorithm
    Crypto Museum, March 2017.

  3. Philips Semiconductors, P80C31 datasheet
    20 January 2000.
Further information
Any links shown in red are currently unavailable. If you like the information on this website, why not make a donation?
Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 15 October 2009. Last changed: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 - 16:04 CET.
Click for homepage