AmRRON Dark Labs: ADL-1 OTP Generator

IMG_1284Most of the readership is at least familiar with the American Redoubt Radio Operator’s Network (AmRRON), a radio organization dedicated to communications among operators in the American Redoubt region but also nationwide. They hold several regular exercises and events aimed at getting preppers on the air, networked and using their equipment with a more grid-down focus than most conventional radio operators normally would.

It should come as no surprise that in addition to the ability to communicate off-grid, many desire a need to encode messages and its a frequent question I get in emails. People value their privacy and there’s no simple answer; those of you who’ve asked me know that I always start with, “it depends”. Tactical communications, being local and immediate in nature, have a different focus than longer term situation reports or intelligence cables which deal with regional, infrequent communications. Whether these are over the air or sent by a messenger, one of the older and still most effective forms of encryption for the latter is by the use of a One Time Pad (OTP). One of the ways to do this and guarantee generating truly random numbers is through the use of 10 sided dice, rolling and writing the numbers down on a pad. This is highly time consuming, especially since each series of numbers is only used once and some messages are hundreds of characters long. AmRRON Dark Labs, a type of Skunk Works for the Patriot community, has built a machine which makes the whole process much easier- the OTP generator. How do we use the OTP? Check out this simple practice exercise to get you up to speed.

IMG_1287This is a device designed to be used. Enclosed in a pelican-type case, I have no issue packing this into a ruck and carrying it into an area of operations. There’s no worrying if it gets dinged up. Further, the Dark Labs team have essentially made the device idiot-proof, meaning for most of us we can use it even when we’re running low on caffeine and that’s something I highly appreciate. As you can see in the photo, there’s only four buttons for the controls and the whole system can be up and running in seconds. It uses two 18650 Lithium Ion batteries which provide an incredibly long battery life. I charged these once and have been using it intermittently for over a month and the device shows no signs of dying. So long operation in the field and off-grid is not a problem.


To start the process, hit the switch and press the graph button on the far left to set the number of digits. Next press the gear button to begin the generation of numbers. When you do this the Ready LED will flash orange, then green. Green indicates the pad has been generated and is ready to print. You can press the lined button to the right of the gear button to select whether you want just the Pad, the Pad plus Codex (the conversion table) or just the instructions, which generously print the method to use the OTP. Once you’re ready, hit print.


You can print as many of the same Pads as you need by hitting print repeatedly. The firmware includes a five minute timer on the pad, so that once the time period has expired, the pad is erased and cannot be retrieved. The whole process cannot be simpler or more convenient when equipping groups with pads for use over a period of time.


Now we’ve got three pads- one for the TOC and two our teams, all serial numbered and ready for distribution. Quick, simple, and a heck of a lot faster than generating them by dice.

From using this device I can say it works exactly as advertised. It’s one of the very few pieces of gear that I can honestly say I have no complaints with and its simplicity is its strength. Some of the early concerns on the AmRRON site were questioning the true randomness of the number generation. But the code itself is open source for you to modify and the firmware is easily updated on the machine. They leave it up to you, as you need it. I haven’t made any changes because I don’t think its necessary, especially after seeing the robustness and simplicity of the generator as is. It does indeed generate random numbers- and the better bet for an opposing Intelligence Multi-Function Team (MFT) would be to simply intercept the sender/source then try to break it. It just eats up too much time for too little gain, especially if a group is also using a Brevity Matrix for another layer of security before encoding the message. I highly suggest this device for groups of preppers networked over a region that may be wanting to share sensitive information or if they’re just wanting that old Enigma Machine vibe. Pick up one today and support those that support you- we take care of our own.

A big thanks to AmRRON and the Dark Labs team for asking me to provide an end-user assessment of the machine.



22 thoughts on “AmRRON Dark Labs: ADL-1 OTP Generator

  1. JR

    I also have one of these, and I can 100% whole-heartedly endorse it. My previous method of creating OTPs was using 10 sided dice and a typewriter (so no digital footprint existed on a computer) but I can generate 20 OTPs with the machine in the same time that it took me to create 1 with the dice. Runs forever as well, and it is probably the most idiot proof device I have ever used.

      1. Well I guess you can’t please everyone then.

        If EMP is your hot ticket issue, then you should already know how to mitigate it- which is as simple as pulling the batteries out.

    1. Sprocket

      Sorry to respond to my own post. General rule of thumb, if the paper roll fits in the spare paper holder, it will fit in the printer.

  2. quietsurvivalist

    Nice post brother, its a common problem ” the what if people” and emp being the ultimate problem.

    Really people, put the thing in a box lived with foil, inside a metal garbage can and then wrap foil tightly around your head and then use a tie down strap like you did at band camp

    Thanks for the thermal paper definition, I suspected it from the schematics but its nice for first hand knowlege

    1. PRCD

      Outstanding answer haha!

      I’ve been selling tinfoil like hotcakes to liberals afraid of their version of EMP: 5G base station deployment.

  3. quietsurvivalist

    And sorry for the twin posts

    For the price of this its almost a crime to not have one

  4. quietsurvivalist

    Im cross posting with my thoughts at Really nice piece of gear.

  5. Willy

    “Now we’ve got three pads- one for the TOC and two our teams, all serial numbered and ready for distribution.”

    I know you know this, but you might remind your readers that it is critical that each of your two teams are not issued duplicates of the same OTP. The TOC/Team pairs must be unique for each team. If two teams both have the same set of pads and each team unknowingly use the same serial number to send different messages back to the TOC the security of the OTP is destroyed. One Time Pad means exactly that – One Time only, no reuse permitted.

    1. This is true.

      They may also need to copy one another’s messages and “do not respond”.

      It all depends upon the mission and the plan.

      1. Willy

        Thanks for the reminder about copying each other’s messages. Also, after I made my post last night I realized I hadn’t taken into consideration the possibility of needing one-way broadcast messages, like from the TOC to all field units.

        “It all depends upon the mission and the plan. ”

        Which probably explains why you stress training; so people know what technique is appropriate for which condition..

  6. n2382

    There are a number of robust random number generators commonly available. Most are based upon Monte Carlo simulations. The Excel spreadsheet function: =RAND() * (b−a) + a will return random numbers from the interval [a,b) – greater than or equal to a, and less than b. The period of 2000+ year Excel spreadsheets is supposedly more than 10Exp6000. (RAND function) The Excel EasyFitXL creates a DUniformRand function based upon the Mersenne Twister method for integer random numbers.

    My point is that there a number of robust methods for generating random numbers suitable for OTPs, the Excel spreadsheet being but one. Math wave offers several examples and it is recommended to use a later than 2010 version of Excel.

    Panhandle Rancher

    1. Sprocket

      One of the major features of the ADL-1 is that is has none of the attack surface of that PC and Excel. There is no way to compromise the previously generated pads or the system that created them short of physically compromising the device, unlike that PC running Excel.

      If Excel has a decent random number generator, that has not been compromised, is the computer you are running it on has to be secure? If you connect it to the Internet it’s not. Even if you delete the OTPs once generated or don’t even save them to disk they are still there, There in the print spool ( you did print them, right ? ), they are most likely also in the swap space Windows uses for application and system memory.

      Do you trust Microsoft? Can you audit and rebuild or modify the code if you see something you think is sketchy? Nope. Source code and schematics for the ADL-1 is posted on line and the micro controller is unlocked specifically so you can modify or even directly read the system firmware.

      Use the right tool for the task at hand.

  7. PRCD

    Is there an embedded version of Excel that we are not aware of? How would Excel run on a microcontroller the way this does?

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