Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Numbers Stations Analyzed, Discussed

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the creepy-to-listen-to dept.

Encryption 224

GMontag wrote to mention a Washington Post article about the always-intriguing 'number' radio broadcasts. The numbers stations, as they are known, are 'hiding in plain sight' spycraft. Random digits broadcast at little-used frequencies are known to be intelligence agencies broadcasting their secrets in encrypted form. The Post article gives a nice run-down on the truth behind the transmissions, and touches a bit on the odd community that has grown fascinated by them. From the article: "On 6840 kHz, you may hear a voice reading groups of letters. That's a station nicknamed 'E10,' thought to be Israel's Mossad intelligence. Chris Smolinski runs SpyNumbers.com and the 'Spooks' e-mail list, where 'number stations' hobbyists log hundreds of shortwave messages transmitted every month. 'It's like a puzzle. They're mystery stations,' explained Smolinski, who has tracked the spy broadcasts for 30 years." This article made me recall a great All Things Considered story from a few years back about Akin Fernandez's 'Numbers' CD, a CD compilation of some of the most interesting strings of randomly read numbers reaching out across the airwaves.

cancel ×

224 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

1258965 (4, Informative)

TechnoLust (528463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400656)

1258965

1258965

1258965

Re:1258965 (1)

Servo (9177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17402294)

5 035 860

Re:1258965 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404412)

understood. 6120 8396 8227 9241

Re:1258965 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17405322)

303 862 681
101 287 560
50 643 780.2

Re:1258965 (4, Funny)

Servo (9177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405344)

42

Re:1258965 (0, Offtopic)

wurp (51446) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403828)

Unless my crappy college german is much mistaken, "There is" is "Es gibt" in german, not "Da ist".

Of course, often the very charm of "Tengo gato loco in mis pantalones" style sayings is the wrongness of them, but I still can't resist pointing it out...

Re:1258965 (1)

redalien (711170) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404572)

Not to mention that two of the words don't exist, and even if they did they'd have to have some very odd irregularities for the sentence to make sense.


Oh crap, I mentioned it. Sorry guys.

Re:1258965 (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403886)


1258965

1258965

1258965


19574811 227958 31819326 you insensitive clod!

Re:1258965 (5, Funny)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403956)

In Soviet Russia, this would be modded "Informative".

Re:1258965 (4, Insightful)

Mozk (844858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405062)

Oh my god... The single funniest and most fitting Soviet Russia joke I have ever seen. People looked at me weird because I was laughing at a computer.

Re:1258965 (4, Funny)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404280)

8675309

Re:1258965 (2, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404502)

You have just illegally transmitted the first 10 bytes of Britney Spears' new album. The RIAA will be contacting you shortly.

EIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404856)

271828 459 04 5314 15926 53 58979 323 84!
62643 38 32795 028841 97169399 3751058?

Slash has its own numbers station (4, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403614)

It was discussed on slash previously in the following article:

Numbers Stations Move From Shortwave To VoIP [slashdot.org] .

Porcupine tree (1)

stoneymonster (668767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403816)

I first heard one of these broadcasts at the end of 'Even Less' by Porcupine Tree. Very weird stuff.

-C

Re:Porcupine tree (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404092)

How did you tell that the song was over?

Re:Porcupine tree (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404288)

I first heard one of these broadcasts at the end of 'Even Less' by Porcupine Tree. Very weird stuff.

Makes you wonder who will come out of the woodwork to sue them for the copyright violation.

© 2006 MillionthMonkey

Re:Porcupine tree (1)

justinlindh (1016121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404690)

Made even slightly more applicable to Slashdot as Steven Wilson, lead of Porcupine Tree, was a computer programmer before becoming a musician. 'Even Less' is track 1 off of 'Stupid Dream', in case anybody wants to check it out. They even play the numbers during their concerts. I'm kind of a PT junkie, in case you couldn't tell.

IP Addresses (1)

inKubus (199753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403818)

What if they were IP addresses?

207 46 225 60 207 46 18 30 ;)

Re:IP Addresses (4, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403898)

Actually no, it's spies reading the content of a suspicious #chatzone IRC log file, only they don't quite get it. See for example this transcript:


C0016UY: 1337641: 69?
1337641: 637 1057!

Re:IP Addresses (1)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404294)

What's 1057?

Re:IP Addresses (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404324)

lost

Re:IP Addresses (1)

brain159 (113897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404574)

I just lost the game, you insensitive clod!

Re:IP Addresses (5, Funny)

Xaroth (67516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404668)

A translation for the weak of leet:

A fine, upstanding gentleman: Dearest, skilled lady... wouldst thou join me in mine bedchambers for some chaste frolicking?
Skilled lady: Alas! No, I must not! For thou art neither truly updstanding, nor the gentleman thou claim'st to be. Now, leav'st me be posthaste!

Re:IP Addresses (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404704)

Actually, if you type the numbers they read out into your calculator and turn it upside down, it spells out "BOOBS".

My Eyes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404484)

207 46 225 60
207 46 18 30

You couldn't have given us a warning before you linked there?

g

I've picked these up on short wave (5, Interesting)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403822)

If you have a cheap short wave radio, even a "radio shack" one, you can pick up voice audio coded messages to spies that the CIA sends to agents. You will only find them by pure chance, but I have managed to find them and record them but I would say that for every 6 or 8 months of listening to short wave radio I will hear only 1 of these broadcasts. It's usually the same female voice. It's great fun when you find one, you feel like you hit the lottery.

Re:I've picked these up on short wave (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403844)

Yes, well ... remember what happened when the fat guy in Lost played the numbers he got from the guy in the psycho ward who heard them on the radio. Well, yeah, he won 68 million dollars or some such, but it was all downhill from there.

Re:I've picked these up on short wave (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403866)

I'm not sure what you are talking about; but yes I understand your cynicism over what I reported. It does seem unlikely but what I reported is accurate. The NPR story is how I figured out where the messages might be coming from.

Re:I've picked these up on short wave (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403858)

I guess it's just a saying, but I take it you have never really hit the lottery? :)

TLF

Re:I've picked these up on short wave (4, Funny)

Konster (252488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403868)

I won the lottery.

Twice.

I spent a lot on booze and whores.

I wasted the rest.

Re:I've picked these up on short wave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404576)

Give Georgie Best his credit for that expression.

Bless him.

Re:I've picked these up on short wave (5, Funny)

lowe0 (136140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404478)

Dude, a slashdotter said he heard a female voice. That's pretty much the same as winning the lottery around here.

CIA? I suspect not. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404208)

I'm not disbelieving you in the slightest; while I haven't heard any numbers stations personally (although actually I have the equipment to do so, I've just never hunted around -- now maybe I will though), it makes sense that they'd be around. As a method of communication it makes quite a bit of sense, particularly given their pre-Internet origins.

However, I'm interested as to why you think it's specifically the CIA? It seems like the CIA would probably have more sophisticated methods of communication, via email or other methods, and would hardly need to rely on numbers stations anymore. Do you have some reason to actually think it's the CIA, or were you just being facetious?

My understanding was that most of the remaining numbers stations are broadcast by countries whose intelligence infrastructures probably are a bit behind the times technologically, and are still using older methods for communicating with their human assets. Given the U.S. focus on sigint and technology (even at the expense of humint) it seems odd that they would still be using numbers stations.

Re:CIA? I suspect not. (4, Insightful)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404256)

You're a spy. You're sent in to infiltrate a terrorist organization in some self sustaining desert town full of impoverished potential recruits for the terrorist organization. Shortwave is a common technology amongst these kinds of towns. Radios have been around for over 100 years now I believe (if not almost 100 years). Your laptop, PDA, or other fancy high tech equipment is going to give you away.

Re:CIA? I suspect not. (5, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404338)

If you are in the US military and go to the language school in Monterey, a big portion of your "lab" training is learning how to transcribe groups of numbers read in your target language. It's a big part of your "grade" in your coursework.

Now, it's hard to say if the US transmits numbers, but it's pretty clear that there appears to be some intelligence value in teaching the electronic warfare people how to listen to streams of numbers in other languages.

It's probably a great way to send one-way messages to the field. A simple AM radio can be modified work in different frequencies. With that and a normal-looking one-time-pad code book can go a long way to providing secure communication that is inconspicuous.

So, the CIA might not do it, but other countries and services probably do.

Re:CIA? I suspect not. (3, Interesting)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404370)

the main reason they still use short wave is the that some of "short wave" isn't so short... the frequencies that they use are the ones that carry long distances so that the origin of broadcast can be very far away from the agent. Also, the devices required to listen to particular frequencies can be made very small so that agents in difficult places can hide the devices. Finally and most importantly, the broadcast voice of the coded messages is distinctly American. Maybe another country could use the voice with an American accent but I don't see why it would be necessary. I think that the agency has faith in the quality of the method used to code the message. Voice messages were used throughout WWII without any enemy getting anywhere near breaking the codes.

Computer data requires equipment to receive and decode, even if it just a laptop. Short wave requires only a receiver that can be made almost arbitrarily small and can therefore be ditched or hidden in an emergency.

Re:CIA? I suspect not. (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404410)

I'll just add to my previous comment that it was once widely believed that long wave radio signals propagate the longest distance, then for a while that idea was less well believed. But currently most ham radio guys will tell you that in fact this is the case (that long wave radio signals are less attenuated and are better for long distance communication.)

HF, VHF, UHF... (5, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404644)

You're correct, but just in the interests of preventing confusion, the idea of what was a "long wave" in the early 20th century was very different from what an electrical engineer might think of today. What are today rather low frequencies for radio communication were at the time rather high, hence the term 'short waves.' The preferred frequencies for communication at the time are now barely used by anyone, with the possible exception of naval communication with submarines and the like. Their data-carrying capacity is just too low, and the antennas they require are obnoxiously large.

Of course, by calling things in the 1-30 MHz range "high frequency," those engineers forced us to use such terms as "very high frequency," and "ultra high frequency" when equipment finally became capable of transmitting at those wavelengths.

Re:CIA? I suspect not. (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404424)

Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne

Blessent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone...

rj

Re:CIA? I suspect not. (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404530)

I've read that some of the numbers stations have been confirmed to originate from transmitters located at federal communications centers in the USA.

One of the advantages of using numbers stations is that your agent only needs an ordinary short-wave radio, a one-time pad, and minimal training. That's safer than giving them some widget that can't pass as a normal piece of electronics.

4 8 15 16 23 42 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17403834)

4 8 15 16 23 42

There was a BBC radio programme about this... (4, Informative)

terrencefw (605681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403860)

There was a BBC radio programme about this a few months ago:

http://jamesholden.net/2005/04/23/the-lincolnshire -poacher/ [jamesholden.net]

Re:There was a BBC radio programme about this... (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405054)

Direct link to the BBC programme is here [bbc.co.uk] . And very good it is too.

Re:There was a BBC radio programme about this... (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405092)

Hmmm, looks like the BBC has screwed up the link.

Why not just use spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17403870)

Coded spam must be easier to send/receive.

Re:Why not just use spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404064)

With SPAM you need a computer. The article talked about how they can drop operatives into a 3rd world hell hole and they can construct a shortwave radio out of tinfoil, duct tape, and other locally obtainable parts.

Re:Why not just use spam (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404776)

Perhaps they do use spam. I've received a number of cryptic junk e-mails recently — not selling anything, just (mis)quoting Shakespeare or some random numbers. Though I figure it's more likely related to criminality than covert intelligence.

Re:Why not just use spam (2, Informative)

slicenglide (735363) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404874)

That's actually spammer's trying to mess with any bayesian filtering you have so that more of their viagra ads get through.
I've seen an article on it, here or on digg.
-Interesting.

Re:Why not just use spam (1)

finalbroadcast (1030452) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405150)

I've gotten a lot of one word emails and whatnot, still caught by spam filters. It is an intiguing idea though. Howver what is more likely is that spyign will take tactics from Al-Qaeda, encrypting messages inside images, and media files. In fact it would make sense if the entirety of U.S. intelligence operates through encoded message within Fox News broadcasts.

Re:Why not just use spam (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405318)

In fact it would make sense if the entirety of U.S. intelligence operates through encoded message within Fox News broadcasts.
That ROT-26 works wonders, doesn't it?!

Re:Why not just use spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17405224)

That's not that bad an idea for sending covert messages. There's so much that it'd be hard to filter an actual encrypted message from some noise. Yet if that text would cross index to the key and form correct syntax, the reciever would be able to get his message with little suspicion.

Also why the numbers? One would think that VOIP, geocached USB sticks, and using open wireless networks as drops/pickups for encrypted files would be more effective and specific.

Also I haven't heard much in the way of numbers stations (no shortwave here), but does anyone know what that blipping is that can be found around 108 or so on FM? And no, it's not tied to noise from any computers or electronics in the house. What is that?

Oooo, just heard a broadcast (1, Funny)

neuro.slug (628600) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403880)

Radio: 1... 2... 3... 4... 5!

1 2 3 4 5? That's amazing! I've got the same combination on my luggage!

Re:Oooo, just heard a broadcast (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403912)

You and President Skroob.

Re:Oooo, just heard a broadcast (1)

monotony (999416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404454)

i wish i had modpoints left, i think it's funnier than a 2.

i guess not everybody enjoyed spaceballs =/

free 4 cd album of number stations recordings (1)

mr_angry (668532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403916)

http://www.archive.org/details/ird059 [archive.org]

It's not music, it's numbers stations. You can take a listen at just a few mp3s to check what a number station sounds like.

That explains it... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403930)

So the little voices I been hearing is from the spooks instead of the green little men. Maybe I been watching too much X-Files.

Re:That explains it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17405252)

Actually the voices you have been hearing are a hallucination caused by spores from underground roots that are simultaneously devouring you with their digestive acids. You are in reality beneath the earth being eaten by a giant plant. Wake up now! [computer screen melts into green goo.....]

I suppose your questions have been answered... (1)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403976)

... when you hear:

Forty Two.

Re:I suppose your questions have been answered... (1)

greenguy (162630) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404800)

What was that question again?

Ob Penny Arcade (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403980)

link [penny-arcade.com]

Shortwave (5, Interesting)

finalbroadcast (1030452) | more than 7 years ago | (#17403984)

As an avid Shortwave fan, there are less and less clear stations broadcasting to NA, as more and more world service broadcasts move to the Internet. (YEAH I'm talking about you BBC) I wonder how long until the only people who own shortwave radios are spies? Although propaganda stations are well worth the price of the radio. Listen to Cuba's hour loop of things we blame on the US today, and keep a straight face, I dare you.

Re:Shortwave (2, Informative)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404040)

Ham radio builders and ham radio operators are very numerous and short wave will always be their domain.
http://www.arrl.org/ [arrl.org]

locating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404036)

shouldn't it be fairly straightforward to locate the origin of these transmissions?

Re:locating (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404292)

For those few still using actual radio, rather than just the broadcaster metaphor, sure. But, if you don't mind my asking, to what end? What good would it do you to know the site of origin?

Re:locating (3, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404334)

shouldn't it be fairly straightforward to locate the origin of these transmissions?

Yes. Automatic radio direction finding is common and was often used in the cold war. The spectrum is constantly monitored and when a new broadcast pops up, it is automaticaly DF'ed and logged. When several DF sites pickup the same broadcast, triangulation to the source is a simple task.

Here is what a typical DF site looks like. Both the US and Russia have them.

http://www1.shore.net/~mfoster/FLA_Wullen.htm [shore.net]

Source code (5, Funny)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404056)

I don't know if I should do this - releasing secrets from the FBI like this commonly leads to life in Gitmo Bay - but information wants to be free!

The "numbers" stations only exist to confuse people. On Wednesdays, we have "beer" day, where you are entitled to a beer from the cooler if the number 12725 comes out.

So we had one day, last year, where somebody (I think it was the Chinese) hacked our main server, and made it broadcast 12725 continuously all day. So there we were, plastered out of our mind, when 270 Lbs of fissionable material was stolen from our floor. The investigation is due to be completed sometime around 2021 - we don't talk about that very much.

Anyway, here's the source code:

#! /bin/sh
cat /dev/urandom > /dev/bcast;
Information wants to be free!

Neat (2, Interesting)

Perseid (660451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404102)

I remember when I was 12 or so and heard one of these for the first time. A woman reading numbers in Spanish. Damned if I didn't feel like James Bond sitting there listening to it. I still have that radio, too. Too bad it doesn't pick up anything besides evangelical stations now. Yes, technology has advanced and the world has moved on. So have I. I accept that. But there was a certain thrill of finding that clandestine guerrilla propaganda station that just can't be replaced with web surfing.

Ad revenue (3, Interesting)

Kennric (22093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404120)

With these stations becoming so popular, isn't it time to sell ads? After all, spy agencies can always use the extra cash, and the people who listen to these things probably constitute a solid geek demographic.

Or worse:

1) Create personal numbers station with especially intriguing sequences to draw audience
2) Sell ads on your personal number station
3) Profit! ... why do I feel like I've missed a step there?

Re:Ad revenue (2, Insightful)

xs650 (741277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404242)

You missed numbers porn

Re:Ad revenue (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404826)

I swear, one of these days I'm going to set up a premium-rate phone number that just spits back random numbers.

Interesting but moot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404166)

The big boys can afford one time pads. Transmit only what is really important to decrease the amount of codes required. A little piece of paper carried by operative is reliable. Forget the spy movies and gadgets. Listen to the radio, know what parts to XOR on paper (or whatever) and you got the data. It's 100% moot that people record those number series since they have absolutely zero chance ever revealing a thing.

Re:Interesting but moot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404686)

The NSA has decoded one-time pads before though. Look up Venona.

Used properly, a One-time-pad is perfectly and provably secure. Used improperly and it almost trivial to break.

So in Venona, clandestine operators were out in the field so long that they ran out of pad, so they reused it. I wouldn't know how to hazard a guess as to how often that happens but if you're using shortwave broadcasts like that, I'd assume that it's still a risk.

Compared to using a Thuraya or Inmarsat phone or even Irridium (they're still kicking, if I'm not mistaken, is Globalstar still in business?) that can be used just about anywhere, connecting it to a computer and doing an TLS handshake or whatever crypto you wish and sending your digital data that way, the numbers thing seems like kind of a last resort. If you had enough electric power to keep a laptop going, you had a laptop and one of these phones, you're looking at a bi-directional communication system which if you had prepared messages and such could be very very short and quick. Probably untracable by all but the most sophisticated governments and even then they'd have to get a little lucky. Take that a step further and if you invested any time at all in minimizing the hardware and hiding it within some normal looking things and it's a no brainer.

Re:Interesting but moot (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405392)

The big boys can afford one time pads.

Er, afford a one-time pad? All you need to do is cat /dev/random, or if you're without a computer, spend an hour or two rolling polyhedral dice. Make two copies of your set of random numbers.

4 8 15 16 23 42 (5, Funny)

GaelTadh (916987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404186)

four eight fifteen sixteen twentythree fortytwo

Re:4 8 15 16 23 42 (3, Funny)

currivan (654314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404258)

Great, now we have to post this every 108 minutes.

Broadcasting From Here (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404244)

British Intelligence broadcasting from Cyprus

It's quite likely they're broadcasting from here Google Satellite [google.com]

That's Ayios Nikolaos [wikipedia.org] . Supposedly part of the Echelon network. If you look to the north of the building, there's a large mast that might easily be a short-wave antenna.

Next: Numbers Websites / Numbers IRC Channels (1)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404252)

Awaiting the follow-up Slashdot article about Numbers Websites and Numbers IRC Channels ... are there any known ones?

Ron

Time Bomb. (0, Offtopic)

headkase (533448) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404322)

In ten years someone who has been recording them for thirty years will have quantum breakers to decode them with. Once this first layer of protection is broken - and it will be - then I hope our information inside of that is also semantically encoded (Windtalkers) to give it a few more years after that before someone else knows our old secrets.

Re:Time Bomb. (5, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404392)

A quantum computer is useless against a message encrypted with a properly constructed one-time pad.

Re:Time Bomb. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404434)

In ten years someone who has been recording them for thirty years will have quantum breakers to decode them with.
Uhm, if these stations are being used for message dispersal, chances are good that they are using a one-time pad [wikipedia.org] to encrypt the data. This isn't public-key cryptography: it's actually impossible to decrypt one of these without information about the original encrypting pad - not just practically impossible, theoretically impossible too, and no amount of processing power, classical or quantum, will ever make it otherwise: the encryption is random (real random, as in, determined with radioactive decay and thermal noise and radio waves from space, not invented by some silly computer program) and changes with each character.

Re:Time Bomb. (3, Informative)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404550)

In ten years someone who has been recording them for thirty years will have quantum breakers to decode them with.

No.

Decrypting one-time pads isn't hard because there isn't enough compute power to throw at it. It's hard because it can't be broken, no matter what you do to it. Given a message to decrypt, the best an enemy cryptanalyst can do is random chance. There are better ways of compromising secrets.

This is a well-established result in encryption and there is no point in arguing about it. The only time one-time pad encryption has ever been broken was when the agents misused their one-time pads. The Venona [nsa.gov] decrypts are a good example of this.

(Wow! First time I've ever linked to the NSA!)

...laura

Re:Time Bomb. (2)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404804)

>This is a well-established result in encryption and there is no point in arguing about it. The only time one-time
> pad encryption has ever been broken was when the agents misused their one-time pads. The Venona decrypts are a good example of this.

Yep, that's the more fascinating part - who is generating the pads, HOW are they being generated and distributed? This has been going on for soooo long it's hard to believe that someone hasn't broken it from that end.

Al

Re:Time Bomb. (4, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404970)

There's a couple ways to generate one-time pads. The first I read was described at HotBits [fourmilab.ch] . They take a little radioactive bit of cesium, and a radiation detector which can detect atomic decay:
What we do, then, is measure a pair of these intervals, and emit a zero or one bit based on the relative length of the two intervals. If we measure the same interval for the two decays, we discard the measurement and try again, to avoid the risk of inducing bias due to the resolution of our clock.
You can find more at Wikipedia's article on hardware random number generators [wikipedia.org] :
There are two fundamental sources of practical quantum mechanical physical randomness: quantum mechanics at the atomic or sub-atomic level and thermal noise [wikipeda.org] (some of which is quantum mechanical in origin). Quantum mechanics predicts that certain physical phenomena, such as the nuclear decay [wikipeda.org] of atoms, are fundamentally random and cannot, in principle, be predicted. (For a discussion of empirical verification of quantum unpredictability, see Bell test experiments [wikipeda.org] .) And, because we live at a finite, non-zero temperature, every system has some random variation in its state; for instance, molecules of air are constantly bouncing off each other in a random way. (See statistical mechanics [wikipeda.org] .) This randomness is a quantum phenomenon as well. (See phonon [wikipeda.org] .)

Because the outcome of quantum-mechanical events cannot in principle be predicted, they are the 'gold standard' for random number generation. Some quantum phenomena used for random number generation include:

  • Shot noise [wikipeda.org] , a quantum mechanical noise source in electronic circuits. A simple example is a lamp shining on a photodiode. Due to the uncertainty principle [wikipeda.org] , arriving photons create noise in the circuit. Collecting the noise for use poses some problems, but this is an especially simple random noise source.
  • Photons [wikipeda.org] travelling through a semi-transparent mirror [wikipeda.org] , as in the commercial product, Quantis from id Quantique SA. The mutually exclusive events [wikipeda.org] (reflection -- transmission) are detected and associated to "0" or "1" bit values respectively.

Thermal phenomena are easier to detect. They are (somewhat) vulnerable to attack by lowering the temperature of the system, though most systems will stop operating at temperatures (e.g., ~150 K) low enough to reduce noise by a factor of two. Some of the thermal phenomena used include:

  • thermal noise [wikipeda.org] from a resistor [wikipeda.org] , amplified to provide a random voltage source.
  • Atmospheric noise [wikipeda.org] , detected by a radio receiver attached to a PC (though much of it, such as lightning noise, is not properly thermal noise, but most likely a chaotic [wikipeda.org] phenomenon).
So you generate these pads, and two copies are made of each - one you give to your spy, one you keep. Sometimes they might be on CD, sometimes on paper. And when you're done with it, both of you destroy them.

Re:Time Bomb. (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405046)

The interesting question is, how do you know whether you're listening to the message or the pad? What if one station's bunch of random numbers is broadcasting the one time pad, which is then later used by the other station to broadcast other numbers that are the actual message?

Re:Time Bomb. (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405118)

You want your one-time pads to be very, very secret; that's why you can spread the actual cryptotext anywhere and not have to worry about a thing. If it were as simple as comparing one numbers station to another, any intelligence agency with a few computers to throw at the problem could check the numbers against each other and look for meaningful messages. While you might think that's oh-so-slightly unlikely, is it something you're willing to bet your security as an intelligence agency on?

Try cracking a "numbers station" on your own (5, Interesting)

chrisgagne (605844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404344)

For those of you who like this sort of thing, check out 202-386-6909 and http://code-cracker.cerbumi.org [cerbumi.org] . This is a test project that I developed for Cerbumi.org, a new and entirely non-commercial (no ads, fees, etc) website designed to help with real-world problem solving. (Think of it as a "Sourceforge.net" for projects like the "Open Prosthetics Project." [openprosthetics.org] ) The first person to solve the puzzle and post the answer to the code-breaker project can choose where the Cerbumi.org team will make a $100 donation on their behalf.

If this sounds like fun, please consider signing up for the Cerbumi.org site at http://public.cerbumi.org/goons [cerbumi.org] (a "secret back door for a site that normally requires registration) and try to crack the code. Also, please consider checking out the main planning project at http://cerbumi.cerbumi.org [cerbumi.org] and our Flash-based demo at http://cerbumi.org/flash [cerbumi.org] . I'd love to hear your thoughts, too... just reply. :)

Jenny, don't change your number (1)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404426)

8-6-7-5-3-0-9

Numbers stations freak me out (1)

AdmNaismith (937672) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404474)

I'm surprised there has not been a J-Horror movie about this. I'm am not easily scared by anything, but listening to these stations seriously freaks me out.

Top Of The Pops! (2, Interesting)

qengho (54305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404544)

Yankee [wikipedia.org]
Hotel [archive.org]
Foxtrot [wilcoworld.net]

"Most interesting strings...?" (1)

colinbrash (938368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404546)

This article made me recall a great All Things Considered story from a few years back about Akin Fernandez's 'Numbers' CD, a CD compilation of some of the most interesting strings of randomly read numbers reaching out across the airwaves.

So... who's the guy that determines which strings are more interesting than others? That's what I want to know...

"Most interesting silly strings...?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17404808)

"So... who's the guy that determines which strings are more interesting than others? That's what I want to know..."

The guy who invented string theory.

Re:"Most interesting strings...?" (1)

finalbroadcast (1030452) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405100)

Test Audiences. Comprised entirley of math fetishists, whichever numbers turn them on the most, are on the CD.

boring! (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404588)

i been a shortwave lister for over 20 years with a high quality R.L. Drake, i listened to number stations and after listening to them for a moment i spun the dial in search of something more interesting...

i miss the weekend evenings of listening to Pirate radio - Captain Eddie & his Radio Airplane, Dr. Tornado and Joe Mamma, frequencies like 7385KHz & 6955KHz have not had any good listening lately, i sure wish i knew of some other frequencies to monitor because dialing thru 30 megahertz of bandwidth is just too much to search thru in a single evening...

HELLO WORLD (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404756)

Um, hello? Typical bloody troll. Now it's appropriate, it sods off.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17404956)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I try so hard... (3, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 7 years ago | (#17405038)

I am a habitual NPR listener, but everyone I know finds it slow, uninteresting, easily dismissed radio. I try to expose them to intriguing news material that's delivered spin free and very palatable, but have not yet impressed a single person. It's times like these that I just shake my head and sigh.

"a great All Things Considered story from a few years back about Akin Fernandez's 'Numbers' CD, a CD compilation of some of the most interesting strings of randomly read numbers"

Interesting... random numbers... Ok, so my friends were right.

How to be an effective spy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17405094)

First of all, you should immediately refocus all of your thoughts on "How to pretend to be a spy". The number one thing you should be doing, in the first few hundred hours you invest in pretending to be a spy, is lining up a good reward for successfully pretending. What use is someone who's an expert at pretending to be a spy? First of all, they become an immediate hot ticket for top corporate positions; their social skills lead to immediate pay and romantic benefits; as effective human beings, they lead more meaningful lives. These are just a few ideas to get you started.

Next, the number one thing you need to keep in mind all day, every day, is "How does this look?" For example, right now, I am trolling slashdot. This is the most important word for me, in my life as a pretend spy: trolling. It explains, in a heartbeat, everything less than literally so that a person might say or lead another person to perceive. Trolling. Trolling is its own reward, and one of the main reasons for pretending to be a spy. Wikipedia's article on trolling [wikipedia.org] is a good starting resource.

Long-term possibilities after effectively pretending to be a spy include:
- Book-writing
- Screenplay-writing
- Consultancy

What are you pretending to do?
You are pretending to be completing actions distinct from those a typically socialized observer would consider you to be doing. Specifically, you are pretending to be gathering and recording information about your surroundings and the people you interact with, without appearing to do so. Thus one of the most effective ways of pretending to be a spy is to do creative work that reworks intelligence gathered. Many professional stand-up comics in fact pretend to be spies, for example Seinfeld. When mentioning "gathering material", they are in fact gathering social intelligence. During the Cold War, Russia trained tens of thousands of spies using networked American television.

Fundamental test. The fundamental test for "appearing to do so" is the sanity-test: is it clear and obvious to you that you are currently gathering intelligence? If so, it is clear and obvious to others. You must instead use tools and methods that leave you in a state of mind such that you only suspect you are doing something as part of pretending to be a spy. For example, using TrueCrypt is a clear and obvious act of inexplicable social deviation: you would have to have a reason for doing so, and you would always have this reason somewhere in your mind. (For example "I'm using TrueCrypt as part of pretending to be a spy, or "I am reading this nonfiction book on espionage as part of my pretending to be a spy" ) On the other hand, there is no clear distinction between using web-mail that happens to be secure for practical reasons, or because the spy you're pretending to be would find it useful also. Similarly, there is no clear distinction between reading a fiction spy thriller for fun, or to be more effective at pretending to be a spy.

Spy gadgets and hardware: This is a tough one. I am still investigating what devices you may use (tentatively, it would appear you may have on your person a mobile phone and car keys, to the exclusion of any other item.) However, you may definitely use any and all web-based applications from Yahoo or Google. However, your best bet is to post in forums. For example, this post is one of the main tools I am using as part of pretending to be a spy. That's right, I am pretending to be a spy (with the below allegience) even as we speak.

Allegience: The primary purpose for pretending to be a spy, as opposed to finding work in actual espionage, is in having an allegience to progress over military advantage. Obviously, it's much cooler to make the world work better and more easily than it is to forward some data to the military. No one pretends to be a spy for military reasons.

Slashdot and The Open Source Community: Unfortunately, this subset of society is too narrow to allow you to pretend effectively to be a spy, and you will have to transition to more traditional outlets to report on your findings effectively. A good example for those of you who follow slashdot closely is "as seen on TV". I am investigating good outlets, but to a first approximation, I would avoid university presses. At the other extreme, Myspace is right out. There seems to be a happy medium in trolling newsgroups. Once you are more serious, a work of fiction is an excellent first step. For example, George Orwell's 1984 was born in this way. A big caution: avoid Wikipedia. Especially, do not write new articles or substantially expand articles. (Of course, you may read it without restriction) Do not host your own web site, or use e.g. pages.google.com. Geocities is right out.

Spy Culture: Mix any reading into spy culture with reading of fringe, lunatic conspiracy theories, etc. A good starting point is Wikipedia's list of conspiracy theories. [wikipedia.org] You should mix spy culture and conspiracy theorists very liberally if it ever comes up, mention tinfoil hats (read the wikipedia article). Obviously you're reading this now because it's on slashdot, and likewise look at the james bond films before googling espionage techniques.

Confusing the issue: I mentioned not using even software tools (truecrypt etc) above -- you shouldn't even have works of fiction you're writing in a journal. It should be anonymously online. And the big, keyword, as I began this post is TROLLING.

The reason for doing anything other than what you're appearing to be doing is to troll. Never forget that.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>