Tag Archives: David Goren

Radio Waves: More RCI Services Come To An End, Pirate Radio Sound Tour, Shortwave Guitar Pedal, and Voyager 1 Detects Plasma “Hum”

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Marty, Richard Cuff, David Iurescia, and Doug Katz for the following tips:


RCI English section: goodbye (Radio Canada International)

Canada’s international broadcast service from the English language team of Radio Canada International has come to an end.

RCI, (originally the International Service, CBC-IS) was initially created towards the end of the Second World War. The purpose was to broadcast news and information from home via shortwave to Canadian military personnel fighting in Europe. It also began providing reliable news and information to recently liberated countries and to Germans still in the war.

That reliable news and information was considered of great value during the subsequent Cold War years, as several more languages were added to the service such as Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Hungarian and Polish. Other languages sections included as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese. With 14 language sections in 1990, and some 200 staff, the full English and French newsroom provided news of interest and importance for each language section specifically targeted to each of the various broadcast regions around the world.

Following a major budget cut of some 80 per cent in 2012, the shortwave and satellite service was terminated along with the majority of staff including the newsroom and some language sections. In recent years, only Chinese (Mandarin), Arabic, and Spanish remained along with English and French. RCI was transformed into a much smaller internet-based operation consisting of three people per language section.

In December 2020, the domestic public broadcaster CBC / Radio-Canada announced that the English and French sections of RCI would close for good in May. In their place curated stories from the domestic English and French public broadcaster will be provided.

A manager will now oversee the staff of eight who will adapt curated stories from the CBC and Radio-Canada into Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish, along with Punjabi and Tagalog.

An effort was and is being made by the RCI Action Committee to preserve and even expand the service which has garnered great support from a former prime minister, former diplomats and many academics, but the end date has come. This is the last entry by the RCI English section.

From the English Section consisting of Lynn, Marc, and Levon, faithful and long-time popular replacement Terry Haig, and recently also Vincenzo Morello, and the many others over the all those years, we thank you for having shared our stories over these many years.[]


The Pirate Radio Capital: A sound tour with David Goren, radio producer and audio archivist (CRJ.org)

In 2018, David Goren, a radio producer and audio archivist, created the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map to collect the sounds of dozens of pirated broadcasts from across the borough. Pirate stations earn their name by hitching a ride on already licensed radio frequencies that typically cost commercial stations millions of dollars to acquire and set up. Nowhere in the country are there more pirate radio stations than in New York, where they provide a vital service to immigrant populations.

Goren estimates that New York has about a hundred pirate stations, transmitting from rooftops and attics to listeners seeking news from around the city and back home, as well as

entertainment and religious programming. The broadcasts bypass socioeconomic barriers and provide a means to seize control of the flow of information. But they are now at risk of extinction: Before Donald Trump left the White House, he signed the Pirate Act, which increased the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to fight pirate operations through mandatory sweeps in cities with high concentrations of pirate radio use. Pirate stations today face fines of up to two million dollars. “The people running these stations, they don’t have two million dollars,” Goren said. Broadcasters that don’t make it onto his sound map could be lost forever.

Click here to read the full story and listen to the audio tour with David Goren.


Shortwave effects pedal (Recovery Effects)

Inspired by espionage devices used during World War II and the Cold War, Shortwave transforms audio into clandestine operations of the past; Russian number stations, mysterious sounds transmitted by radio, and eerie sounds stored on early portable recorders.

Choose between 2 types of noise and interference, and control it with the Exposure parameter. Velocity and Focus control the amount of pitch stabilization. Shortwave will add an interesting emotional response and atmosphere to dry, simple sounds, or destroy a signal like no other fuzz pedal can.

Hand-made in Seattle, WA. Shortwave operates on a standard “Boss” style 9vdc power supply (not included), but can also run at 18vdc for additional headroom. True bypass switching. Included a limited-lifetime warranty.

Enclosure size: 4.77″ x 2.6″ x 1.39″


In the emptiness of space, Voyager 1 detects plasma ‘hum’ (Cornell.edu)

Voyager 1 – one of two sibling NASA spacecraft launched 44 years ago and now the most distant human-made object in space – still works and zooms toward infinity.

As the craft toils, it has long since zipped past the edge of the solar system through the heliopause – the solar system’s border with interstellar space – into the interstellar medium. Now, its instruments have detected the constant drone of interstellar gas (plasma waves), according to Cornell-led research published May 10 in Nature Astronomy.

Examining data slowly sent back from more than 14 billion miles away, Stella Koch Ocker, a Cornell doctoral student in astronomy, has uncovered the emission. “It’s very faint and monotone, because it is in a narrow frequency bandwidth,” Ocker said. “We’re detecting the faint, persistent hum of interstellar gas.”

This work allows scientists to understand how the interstellar medium interacts with the solar wind, Ocker said, and how the protective bubble of the solar system’s heliosphere is shaped and modified by the interstellar environment.

Launched in September 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft flew by Jupiter in 1979 and then Saturn in late 1980. Travelling at about 38,000 mph, Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause in August 2012.

After entering interstellar space, the spacecraft’s Plasma Wave System detected perturbations in the gas. But, in between those eruptions – caused by our own roiling sun – researchers have uncovered a steady, persistent signature produced by the tenuous near-vacuum of space.

“The interstellar medium is like a quiet or gentle rain,” said senior author James Cordes, the George Feldstein Professor of Astronomy (A&S). “In the case of a solar outburst, it’s like detecting a lightning burst in a thunderstorm and then it’s back to a gentle rain.”

Ocker believes there is more low-level activity in the interstellar gas than scientists had previously thought, which allows researchers to track the spatial distribution of plasma – that is, when it’s not being perturbed by solar flares.[]


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Radio Waves: DIY Internet Radio With Real Buttons, Armed Forces Day Cross-Band Test, Tokyo Rose, Shortwave Collective, and RAC Portable Operations Challenge

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul, Dennis Dura, and David Goren for the following tips:


Internet radio with real buttons using Stream Deck (Bjørn Erling Fløtten)

How I used a Stream Deck Mini from Elgato in order to give my mother-in-law a super easy Internet radio experience.

By Bjørn Erling Fløtten, Trondheim, Norway. April 2021.

See also comments on Hacker News

Background

My mother-in-law is from Poland. When she stays in Norway in order to help us with babysitting she misses Polish radio. In principle this is easily accessible through the Internet now from all kind of devices.

BUT, my mother-in-law is not PC-literate, nor does she use a so called ‘smart’-phone. With my long experience in teaching people far younger than her simple mouse and keyboard techniques, I knew that operating Windows and finding Internet radio stations on her own would just be too cumbersome. I therefore had to create a super simple setup for her, and my hacker mind started to think.

(I did of course consider special purpose Internet radios. They should in theory be quite simple to operate, but they all have som kind of quirks that I did not like. And besides, constructing something of your own is of course always more satisfying.)

I want Real Buttons!

What I really wanted was big buttons with tactile feedback. I had earlier experienced with some Behringer products (sound mixing board) in order to demonstrate mathematical functions. The idea then was to use turning knobs and sliders in order to see how changing parameters changed the outcome of the function, especially graphs in 2D and 3D.

I thought this would be useful also for an Internet radio, but then I remembered having read about the Optimus Maximus keyboard (keyboard with programmable led icons on each key), and I thought such a product would be even better. This search led to Elgato and their Stream Deck Mini. This has 6 buttons, just enough for a radio. I might have preferred the bigger version with 15 buttons but their products are ridiculously expensive, so I had to be content with just 6 buttons.

In addition to the Stream Deck Mini my son donated his old school laptop with Windows 10 installed. It was a cheap ThinkPad L-series which, although 3 years old and somewhat battered from daily use to and from school, was quite capable of streaming some audio from the Internet. My son created a guest account in Windows 10 with auto login. He set ‘Fn lock’ as default, meaning that keys F1, F2 and F3 was volume off, down, up without having to press Fn. We also found a pair of speakers lying around in the house.

No programming necessary *

(* But understanding of HTML, URLs and Windows command line arguments is a requisite.)

Initially I thought I would make a Windows application for controlling which radio streams to play. But it turned out that Elgato’s accompanying software was quite capable by itself.

I assigned five of the six available buttons to launch the standard web browser (Google Chrome in this case) with a corresponding streaming URL (radio channel).

Continue reading the full article by clicking here.

Annual Armed Forces Day Cross-Band Test set for May 7 – 8 (Southgate ARC)

The US Department of Defense will host this year’s Armed Forces Day (AFD) Cross-Band Test, Friday and Saturday, May 7 – 8, in recognition of Armed Forces Day on May 15. The event is open to all radio amateurs.

For more than 50 years, military and amateur stations have taken part in this exercise, designed to include amateur radio and government radio operators alike.

The AFD Cross-Band Test is a unique opportunity to test two-way communications between military and amateur radio stations, as authorized under FCC Part 97 rules. These tests provide opportunities and challenges for radio operators to demonstrate individual technical skills in a tightly controlled exercise in which military stations will transmit on selected military frequencies and will announce the specific amateur radio frequencies being monitored.

The schedule of military/government stations taking part in the Armed Forces Day Cross-Band Test and information on the AFD message is available on the MARS website.

Complete the request form to obtain a QSL card. ARRL

“Tokyo Rose” – WW2 Traitor or Victim? (YouTube)

Shortwave Collective – FENCETENNA (YouTube)

RAC Canadian Portable Operations Challenge Award (Southgate ARC)

The RAC Challenge Award: An Overview
Radio Amateurs of Canada is pleased to present a new Canadian Portable Operations Challenge Award for RAC members.

The objective of the new “RAC Challenge Award” is to recognize and encourage portable operations by RAC members from locations throughout Canada.

The new program will begin on Canada Day, July 1, 2021 and we hope it will become an annual event for RAC members.

Note: the following information is tentative as the new Awards program is still being organized so please stay tuned to this webpage for future updates.

Portable Operations
Portable operations are those in which Amateurs take their equipment, antennas and power supply to a location away from their home station to operate. This includes mobile stations, backpackers, DXpeditions and participation in events such as those described below:

Parks On The Air (POTA), a worldwide program of park activations – https://parksontheair.com/
Quebec Parks On The Air (QcPOTA) April 1 to December 31
Field Day: June 26-27
There are several other programs that celebrate portable operations including Summits on the Air (SOTA), Islands on the Air (IOTA) and the International Lighthouses and Lightships Weekend.

Features of the “RAC Challenge”
The new “RAC Challenge” will recognize all portable operations in which RAC members participate and will have similar features as a contest. Amateur Radio contests in VHF, UHF and the Microwave bands all have categories for “Rovers” – who move from grid square to grid square and “Backpackers” – who seek out hilltops from which to operate with highly portable equipment and antennas.

For many satellite operators, making contact with as many grid squares as possible is a mark of success. Some of those operators go on satellite DXpeditions to activate rare grids or operate from the intersections of grids to offer multiple grids with a single contact. In addition to being fun, these activities provide an opportunity for Amateurs to experience what is required to set up and operate under challenging conditions – valuable experience for emergency preparedness.

For more on the RAC Challenge Award, please see:

RAC Canadian Portable Operations Challenge Award


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Radio Waves: Radio Survivor Covers Pirates Pt. 2, Radio Scatter and Theoretical WSPR, RIP Bob Fass, and Vatican Radio Celebrates Marconi Day

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Paul L, Pete Eaton, David Iurescia, and Troy Riedel for the following tips:


Podcast #294 – Reading the PIRATE Act / FCC & the Supremes Pt. 2

The PIRATE Act was signed into law more than a year ago, but the rules governing increased fines for unlicensed broadcasting are about to go into effect on April 26. The Act is intended to give the FCC additional tools for tamping down pirate radio activity in hot beds like Boston and Brooklyn, NY, but there are reasons to be skeptical.

Brooklyn-based writer, post-production mixer and field recordist David Goren joins to help us tease out the real-world implications. Goren is also the creator of the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map and has been monitoring and recording unlicensed radio activity in the borough for decades.

Also joining the show is Dr. Christopher Terry from the University of Minnesota. A professor of media law, he helps illuminate some of the legal and bureaucratic elements that complicate the Commission’s efforts. He also catches us up on the latest development in the battle over media ownership rules, with the Supreme Court issuing a narrow unanimous ruling in favor of the FCC’s most recent changes, but not quite addressing the decades-long gridlock in that policy area.

Click here to visit Radio Survivor.

WSPR May Hold The Key To MH370 Final Position (Hackaday)

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 after an unexplained course change sent it flying south over the Indian Ocean in March 2014 still holds the mystery of the wreck’s final location. There have been a variety of efforts to narrow down a possible search area over the years, and now we have news of a further angle from an unexpected source. It’s possible that the aircraft’s path could show up in radio scatter detectable as anomalously long-distance contacts using the amateur radio WSPR protocol.

WSPR is a low-power amateur radio mode designed to probe and record the radio propagation capabilities of the atmosphere. Transmit beacons and receiving stations run continuously, and all contacts however fleeting are recorded to an online database. This can be mined by researchers with an interest in the atmosphere, but in this case it might also provide clues to the missing airliner’s flightpath. By searching for anomalously long-distance WSPR contacts whose path crosses the expected position of MH370 it’s possible to spot moments when the aircraft formed a reflector for the radio waves.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Hackaday.

Bob Fass, Pioneer of Underground Radio, Dies at 87 (NY Times)

His provocative “Radio Unnameable,” long a staple of the New York station WBAI, offered a home on the FM dial to everyone from Abbie Hoffman to Tiny Tim.

Bob Fass, who for more than 50 years hosted an anarchic and influential radio show on New York’s countercultural FM station WBAI that mixed political conversation, avant-garde music, serendipitous encounters and outright agitation, died on Saturday in Monroe, N.C., where he lived in recent years. He was 87.

His wife, Lynnie Tofte, said he had been hospitalized with Covid 19 earlier in the month, but he died of congestive heart failure.

Continue reading at the NY Times.

Vatican Radio celebrates 30th International Marconi Day

The Dicastery for Communication marks the 30th International Marconi Day with a celebration at Vatican Radio’s historic broadcast station outside Rome.

International Marconi Day is held every year on the Saturday closest to the birthday of the inventor of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi, on 25 April 1874.

This year’s commemoration fell a day earlier, and saw dozens of radio stations exchange messages, including Vatican Radio, which Marconi himself helped found in 1931.

The 30th iteration of Marconi Day was celebrated at Vatican Radio’s broadcast center at Santa Maria di Galeria, outside Rome.

Day for those who love radio

According to Dr. Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, it was “a day spent in a family spirit” for those who love the Radio and the man who invented it.

He noted that the broadcast station forms both the center and periphery of Vatican Radio, since it is the place where radio waves are emitted which carry the Gospel and the words of the Popes throughout the world.

Marconi’s favorite Radio

The 30th Marconi Day falls within the 90th anniversary year of the founding of Vatican Radio.

The great Italian inventor’s daughter, Princess Elettra Marconi, who was present for the celebration, recalled that the station was her father’s favorite, though he had founded several others.[]


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Transmitters stuck in time

Sometimes we radio enthusiasts discover odd things on the air.

We’re listeners and we notice things.

A few days ago our friendy, Matt Blaze, tweeted this:

Yep, for eight years a DDOT TIS (Traffic Information System) transmitter has been broadcasting the same repeating message and few have noticed.

You can read Matt’s whole Twitter chain here.

Matt has also kindly shared an audio recording of this transmitter. He notes that the reception “was weak but readable” from his home:

What’s more, Matt’s tweet was picked up by The Drive and turned into a post, thus exposing our radio geekery to the populos at large. Many thanks to the numerous SWLing Post readers who shared a link to the article.

I have to assume someone from the DDOT was paying attention too because Matt posted that as of March 3rd, it appears the transmitter has been taken off the air:

This reminded me of another transmitter stuck in time that I thought David Goren once mentioned. I checked with him and he confirmed:

Yes, there’s a transmitter somewhere on MW in NYC that has been broadcasting: “this is a functional test of the text-to-speech capability of the [VR or BR 2000] software package”. They’ve probably been on at least 10 years.

Many thanks to David for sharing the following recording:

Have you ever heard a forgotten transmitter? Please comment with details!

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2021 Shortwave Shindig (in Exile) via WRMI

David Goren (left) and Richard Cuff (right) during the Shindig live broadcast at the Winter SWL Fest.

The Virtual 2021 Winter SWL Fest starts today and one of the Fest traditions–the Shortwave Shindig hosted by David Goren–will be broadcast via WRMI at 0200 UTC Saturday (9:00 EST Friday/Today) on 5,800 and 7,780 kHz. Please tune in!

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Today is World Radio Day 2021

Today is UNESCO World Radio Day and this year the theme highlights diversity on the airwaves. Here’s the announcement from UNESCO:

Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day (WRD).

Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard. Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations.

CELEBRATIONS IN 2021
On the occasion of World Radio Day 2021 (WRD 2021), UNESCO calls on radio stations to celebrate this event’s 10th anniversary and the more than 110 years of radio.

This edition of WRD is divided into three main sub-themes:

  • EVOLUTION. The world changes, radio evolves.This sub-theme refers to the resilience of the radio, to its sustainability ;
  • INNOVATION. The world changes, radio adapts and innovate.Radio has had to adapt to new technologies to remain the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone;
  • CONNECTION. The world changes, radio connects.This sub-theme highlights radio’s services to our society—natural disasters, socio-economic crises, epidemics, etc.

Click here to check out the UNESCO website devoted to World Radio Day 2020.

Radio Taboo Issa Nyaphaga on the right with a community friend and Radio Taboo listener on the left.

AS mentioned in a previous post, I also suggest you checkout this documentary produced by our friend, David Goren:

World Wide Waves: The sounds of community radio

We may think we live in a digital age, but only half the world is currently online. Across the globe, small radio stations bind remote communities, play a dazzling array of music, educate, entertain and empower people to make change. Cameroon’s Radio Taboo, in a remote rainforest village 100 miles off the grid, relies on solar power; its journalists and engineers are all local men and women. Radio Civic Sfantu Gheorghe in the Danube Delta preserves the history of the community. Tamil Nadu’s Kadal Osai (“the sound of the ocean”) broadcasts to local fishermen about weather, fishing techniques—and climate change. In Bolivia, Radio Pio Doce is one of the last remaining stations founded in the 1950s to organise mostly indigenous tin miners against successive dictatorships. And KTNN, the Voice of the Navajo Nation, helps lift its listeners’ spirits in a time of loss and grief.

Produced by David Goren
Presented by Maria Margaronis.

Click here to listen on the BBC World Service.

Happy World Radio Day, everyone!

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Radio Waves: Radio Tirana’s Global Communist Voice, Sounds of Community Radio, Morse Code Phishing, and the Mission of Vatican Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors David Shannon, Dennis Dura, and David Iurescia for the following tips:


Sources on Cold War Radio, Paradoxes, Maoism, and Noise (Wilson Center)

Radio Tirana emerged as a global Communist voice in the 1970s, reaching Brazilian guerillas in Araguaia, Maoist factions across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and many other listeners around the world. Elidor Mëhilli explains how this came to be.

“Dear Radio Tirana,” the letter begins, “here in the Alps we can hear you well, and we are especially fond of your propaganda directed at the Italian Communist Party.” The letter is dated April 12, 1976 but its Italian authors are not named. After a final greeting “Viva Mao e Viva Stalin,” they have simply signed off “a group of true Communists.”[i]

Two months earlier, in Entroncamento, Portugal, someone has penned a letter to the same station. “Camaradas,” his note begins, “I am a worker (a porter) who listens regularly to your Portuguese-language broadcasts.” The letter then proceeds with complaints about the fate of Communism in Portugal, with questions about Albania’s foreign policy, about why Radio Tirana spoke so infrequently about Portugal, about sports, about whether a trip to the Balkans might be possible.[ii]

By March, in Arequipa, Peru, a thirty-year-old places the recipient’s address on a small envelope: Señor Director, Radio Tirana, Albania.

He is among early Peruvian intellectuals who have been drawn to Mao Zedong’s ideas. Having completed a thesis on the topic, he is on his way to becoming a professor within a few years. “Unfortunately, I have to tell you that it’s been over a year that I do not receive your broadcasts,” he writes, “I think that it might due to the interference of the imperialist Yankees or perhaps the Soviet social-imperialists.”[iii]

Once a modest station, Radio Tirana had become a global Communist voice by the 1970s, reaching Brazilian guerillas in Araguaia, teeny-tiny Maoist factions across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, far-flung dots scattered across oceans and seas. This turned the station into a kind “of superpower of its kind” as author Ardian Vehbiu has put it. Officials embraced this role, broadcasting in numerous languages—English, Arabic, French, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, German, Indonesian—and beaming anti-capitalist and anti-Soviet messages day after day.[]

World Wide Waves: The Sounds of Community Radio (BBC World Service)

We think we live in a digital age, but only half the world is currently online. Across the globe, small radio stations bind remote communities, play a dazzling array of music, educate, entertain and empower people to make change. Cameroon’s Radio Taboo, in a remote rainforest village 100 miles off the grid, relies on solar power; its journalists and engineers are all local men and women, and some of its audience listen on wind-up radios. In Tamil Nadu, Kadal Osai (“the sound of the ocean”) broadcasts to the local fishing community about weather, fishing techniques—and climate change. In Bolivia, Radio Nacional de Huanuni is one of the last remaining stations founded in the 1950s to organise mostly indigenous tin miners against successive dictatorships; its transmitters are still protected by fortified walls.

For World Radio Day, we visit community stations around the globe and celebrate the enduring power, possibilities and pleasures of the airwaves.

This program will be available shortly after broadcast on Feb 14, 2021. Click here for details.

New phishing attack uses Morse code to hide malicious URLs (Bleeping Computer)

A new targeted phishing campaign includes the novel obfuscation technique of using Morse code to hide malicious URLs in an email attachment.

Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail invented morse code as a way of transmitting messages across telegraph wire. When using Morse code, each letter and number is encoded as a series of dots (short sound) and dashes (long sound).

Starting last week, a threat actor began utilizing Morse code to hide malicious URLs in their phishing form to bypass secure mail gateways and mail filters.

BleepingComputer could not find any references to Morse code being used in phishing attacks in the past, making this a novel obfuscation technique

The novel Morse code phishing attack
After first learning of this attack from a post on Reddit, BleepingComputer was able to find numerous samples of the targeted attack uploaded to VirusTotal since February 2nd, 2021.

The phishing attack starts with an email pretending to be an invoice for the company with a mail subject like ‘Revenue_payment_invoice February_Wednesday 02/03/2021.'[]

Father Lombardi: Mission of Vatican Radio in service of the Pope (Vatican News)

We reproduce excerpts from an article written on the 90th anniversary by the former Director of Vatican Radio, which were published in the latest issue of La Civiltà Cattolica.

By Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ

On 12 February 2021 it will be exactly 90 years since Pope Pius XI inaugurated the new Vatican Radio Station – built at his request by Guglielmo Marconi and entrusted to the care of Jesuit Father Giuseppe Gianfranceschi as its first director. The “mission of Vatican Radio was clear from the beginning: to be an instrument at the service of the Pope for his ministry of proclaiming the Gospel in the world and guiding the universal community of the Catholic Church. This mission has been preserved over time and has been reaffirmed several times by the Popes, guaranteeing a strong identity of the institution. […]

The voice of the Pope
Vatican Radio […] was founded in 1931, in the context of the rapid establishment of the new Vatican City State […]. The radio station built by Marconi was at the forefront of the technology of the time, and was able to provide telegraphic and radio service completely independently from Italy. Thanks to short-wave technology, in an “ether” not yet overcrowded with countless transmissions, it was possible to be heard on other continents with a rather low power. At the beginning of its existence, Vatican Radio was the instrument thanks to which the Catholics of the world could hear the voice of the Pope directly for the first time. […]

The 1930s were years of the power of totalitarianism. Pius XI’s positions were courageous and, in the thickening of the storm, he looked to the Church with confidence. The demand for broadcasts in different languages to guide and support the faithful in European countries grew rapidly. Father Filippo Soccorsi, appointed to lead the Radio in 1934 (at 34 years old!), after the untimely death of Fr. Gianfranceschi, not only dedicated himself to improving the technical structures — such as the new antenna towering over the Vatican gardens, known as “The Pope’s Finger” — but promptly grasped the expectation to make the Radio grow also in the content of its programming. Thus, in 1936, the Vatican Broadcasting Corporation was accepted into the International Broadcasting Union with a recognition of its special nature, which authorised it to carry out radio activities without any geographical limitations. Because of the limited means available, Fr Soccorsi asked for the collaboration of Jesuit brethren from various countries for the editing and presentation of the texts. The German-language broadcasts were particularly important.

In the tragedy of war: for peace and solidarity with the suffering
[…] On the eve of the war, in 1939, there were regular broadcasts in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian, and the station was able to be a point of reference for the Church in the immense tragedy, playing its role of denouncing violence, supporting victims and members of the resistance, and encouraging hope. The “Radio-messages” of Pius XII in wartime, eagerly awaited and listened to with great attention throughout Europe, remain famous. His was the loudest and most authoritative voice rising above the warring parties in those terrible years, calling for justice and peace.

During the war, however, Vatican Radio became famous for another service: it was in fact a fundamental instrument of the great commitment desired by Pius XII with the “Information Office of the Secretariat of State,” set up in 1939 to track down missing civilians and soldiers and prisoners; to provide information to their families and, if possible, to re-establish among them at least a link of greeting and remembrance. […]

Vatican Radio devoted specific broadcasts to requesting news about the missing and broadcasting short messages from the families to the prisoners, whose names were slowly spelled out by the “metallic” voice of the speakers. These broadcasts reached 70 hours per week, with peaks of 12-13 hours per day. Between 1940 and 1946, a total of 1,240,728 messages were broadcast in 12,105 hours of actual transmission time. In some cases, the transmissions were broadcast over loudspeakers in prison camps. The testimonies of gratitude for this service were numerous and moving. This is one of the most beautiful pages in the history of Vatican Radio.

A voice for the “Church of Silence”
With the end of the war, Vatican Radio accompanied with its broadcasts the climate of moral and spiritual reconstruction of the countries devastated by the conflict, while preparations were in full swing for the great Holy Year of 1950, a time of renewed vitality of the Church.

But in the meantime, most of Eastern Europe fell under the oppression of the communist regimes, and the Catholic Church became the object of harsh persecution in many countries. This was an historic challenge for Vatican Radio, which was practically the only way through which the faithful could nurture their bond with the Pope and the universal Church and receive support for their faith. Even with limited resources, programmes in the languages of Eastern European countries became more numerous and were given more airtime. At the end of the 1940s, the programme in Polish — which together with Italian, English, French, Spanish and German had always been one of the main languages of transmission — was joined by those in Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian, Croatian, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Belarusian and, shortly afterwards, Albanian. For decades, throughout the time of oppression, the broadcasts of Vatican Radio offered a regular and sure appointment for the faithful, religious, priests and bishops deprived of the freedom to express and live their faith.

There would be countless stories to tell about those years. In certain countries and in certain periods of the harshest persecution, listening to Vatican Radio was absolutely forbidden and seriously dangerous: it could be the cause of serious penalties, up to imprisonment and even — in some cases — the death sentence. For some languages, such as Polish or Slovak, the audience was high, while for others, where Catholics were a minority, there were not many listeners. But the principle that guided the fathers of the Radio, according to the Pope’s intention, was not the vastness of the audience, but the situation of need of the listeners. That is why the languages of broadcasting to Eastern countries have always represented more than half of the languages used by Vatican Radio. When, after many years, the walls fell, the gratitude of the faithful and the people could finally express itself in moving forms, such as the more than 40,000 letters that arrived at the Ukrainian Section in the first year after the fall of the Soviet regime, or the bestowal of the award of the Albanian State for the work of Vatican Radio. […]

Communication for communion
In 1970 the editorial offices and studios of Vatican Radio moved to Palazzo Pio, in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, providing adequate space in what would become the main headquarters of the station for decades. In 1973 Father Roberto Tucci […] succeeded Father Martegani in the general direction. We were on the eve of the Holy Year 1975 and the Radio was completely mobilised. It was not only a matter of broadcasting live the great papal celebrations, audiences and events, and of giving adequate information in all languages so that the universal Church felt involved, but also of providing a service for pilgrims arriving in Rome from all over the world. […]

Pasquale Borgomeo, who would become a dynamic and creative director of programmes; and Father Félix Juan Cabasés, in charge of the “Central Editorial Office,” later the “Documentation Service”: The former would greatly cultivate the valuable international relations of the station, in particular with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU); the latter would leave a lasting mark in the organisation of documentation and editorial programming. […]

Vatican Radio thus reached maturity, with increasing professional and journalistic quality, which makes it not only the beating heart of daily communication in the universal Church — “communication for communion”, as the Council hoped — but also an active protagonist in the wider world of Catholic and lay communication in the life of the Church.[]


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