The Buzzer, also known as UVB-76 or UZB-76, has been a constant companion to anyone with a shortwave radio tuned to 4625 kHz. However, [Ringway Manchester] notes that there is now a second buzzer operating near in frequency to the original. Of course, like all mysterious stations, people try to track their origin. [Ringway] shows some older sites for the Buzzer and the current speculation on the current transmitter locations.
Of course, the real question is why? The buzzing isn’t quite nonstop. There are occasional voice messages. There are also jamming attempts, including one, apparently, by Pac Man.
Some people think the new buzzer is an image, but it doesn’t seem to be the same signal. The theory is that the buzzing is just to keep the frequency clear in case it is needed. However, we wonder if it isn’t something else. Compressed data would sound like noise. Other theories are that the buzzing studies the ionosphere or that it is part of a doomsday system that would launch nuclear missiles. Given that the signal has broken down numerous times, this doesn’t seem likely.
What’s even stranger is that occasional background voices are audible on the signal. That implies that buzzing noise isn’t generated directly into the transmitter but is a device in front of a microphone.
We’ve speculated on the buzzer and the jamming efforts around it before. Not exactly a numbers station, but the same sort of appeal.
Continue reading “Russia’s New Mystery Shortwave Station”
[Ringway Manchester] has an interest in numbers stations. These mysterious stations send presumably coded numbers or other coded information. However, it is rare that anyone claims credit for these stations. Normally they operate with military-like precision, adhering to strict operating schedules and sending out their messages error-free. [Ringway] looks at five times when things didn’t go as planned for these spy stations.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising, however, as machines have likely replaced human operators. That makes them prone to errors when the computers go awry. Many of the errors are ones of frequency, where two number stations wind up transmitting at once. We suppose spies all use the same few frequencies. Some, however, also had computers go haywire and start going through the alphabet which, of course, could have been part of some secret message protocol, but appeared more likely to be a simple mistake.
We were amused, though, to hear the story of a Czech spy station that not only had a licensed call sign but would send QSL cards to people who reported reception. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo about secrecy!
We’ve listened to a few number stations in our time. If you don’t have a suitable antenna, you can always try hunting them online. But don’t expect to catch them making any mistakes.
Continue reading “Number Stations Gone Wild”
Grab a shortwave radio, go up on your roof at night, turn on the radio, and if the ionosphere is just right, you’ll be able to tune into some very, very strange radio stations. Some of these stations are just a voice — usually a woman’s voice — simply counting. Some are Morse code. All of them are completely unintelligible unless you have a secret code book. These are number stations, or radio stations nobody knows much about, but everyone agrees they’re used to pass messages from intelligence agencies to spies in the field.
A few years ago, we took a look at number stations, their history, and the efforts of people who document and record these mysterious messages used for unknown purposes. These number stations exist for a particular reason: if you’re a spy, you would much rather get caught with an ordinary radio instead of a fancy encryption machine. Passing code through intermediaries or dead drops presents a liability. The solution to both these problems lies in broadcasting messages in code, allowing anyone to receive them. Only the spy who holds a code book — or in the case of the Cuban Five, software designed to decrypt messages from number stations — can decipher the code.
Number stations are a hack, of sorts, of the entire concept of broadcasting. For all but a few, these number stations broadcast complete gibberish. Only to the person holding the code book or the decryption software do these number stations mean anything. However, since the first number stations went on the air over one hundred years ago, broadcasting has changed dramatically. We now have the Internet, and although most web services cannot be considered a one-to-many distribution as how broadcasting is defined, Twitter can. Are there number stations on Twitter? There sure are. Are they used by spies or agents of governments around the world? That’s a little harder to say.
Continue reading “Number Twitters”