Henry Dalziel | General Hacking Posts | January 31, 2014
Number stations are an equal measure of weird, yet fascinating, definitely scary and, well – just plain cool. Seriously though, this ancient technology is way superior to any Tor Encrypted Internet Protocol – and completely immune to any NSA snooping tactics. However – and trust me on this, before we dive into what Number Stations are, or what we think they are, just listen to this video and tell me in the comments below if it doesn’t send a little chill up your spine?
[Hint: it sounds like an apocalyptic message after a nuclear war]
So, what exactly are Number Stations?
‘Apparently no one knows’ but let’s cut the crap – governments use them to relay secret messages to their spy’s overseas. There are plenty of examples of spies that have been caught (for example the Miami Five) using numbers stations, but the intriguing thing about it is the simplicity. Using the medieval technology of Short Wave Radio, the delivery of encrypted messages is clear and open to all, but the content of the message – and here is the absolutely fascinating bit – is totally undecipherable. That, my friends, is amazing. Keep reading to see why….
Shaving a slave’s head<strong
The world’s oldest encryption message was to write your secret communication on a shaved slaves head and let him or her grow their hair back. When they reach their target they re-shave their hair and ‘low-and-behold’ there is the message – the same thing applies to number station cryptology. Number stations use a one-time pad (OTP) style of encryption that is impossible to crack when used correctly. So, whilst the NSA tries to build quantum computers to crack most types of Internet related encryption, a technology developed in 1882 is still infinitely better than any Quantum Computer.
One Time Pad Encryption
Here’s how it works: each bit or character from a plain text source is encrypted by a ‘modular addition’ with a bit or character from another set of secret random keys (or pads) of the same length as the plain text. The end result is a cipher text. If the key is completely random and is as long as the plain text message and is never reused in whole or in part, and kept top-secret, the cipher text is absolutely impossible to decrypt or crack. In layman’s terms, think of it this way – imagine you and I both have a unique ‘never before’ published book. I tell you to look at the first letter on the second paragraph on page 34, and then the third letter on the fifth paragraph of page 88 and so on – and only you have the other source of this key.
Anyways, back to the cool thing about Number Stations
They are just so simple and unbelievably effective and that is why we love them here at Concise Courses. In fact, when we have the time we want to set up a Short Wave Radio and get tracking – and logging – Number Stations. We have covered encryption before, but by far our favorite is the Lincolnshire Poacher (listen to the above video). We are devastated to find out that the broadcasting has recently stopped…
How can unusual short wave radio broadcasts, created by artificially generated voices spelling out streams of numbers, data, words, nursery rhymes, letters, weird tunes or Morse Code not be cool?
What are your thoughts? Is this the first time you have heard of Numbers Stations? Do you think they are impregnable to surveillance? If you have any inside knowledge on the subject we would especially like to hear from you!