Tag Archives: Dirk Rijmenants

Radio Waves: More Solar Minimum, Cold War Moscow, C-19 Ham Radio Event, and a WWII Code-Breaker is SK

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 Bill Patalon, Dirk Rijmenants, Rodrigo Tarikian, and David (G4EDR) for the following tips:


Deep ‘Solar Minimum’ is feared (Southgate ARC via Forbes)

Forbes magazine reports a deep ‘Solar Minimum’ is feared as 2020 sees record-setting 100-day slump

Jamie Carter writes:

While we on Earth suffer from coronavirus, our star—the Sun—is having a lockdown all of its own. Spaceweather.com reports that already there have been 100 days in 2020 when our Sun has displayed zero sunspots.

That makes 2020 the second consecutive year of a record-setting low number of sunspots

So are we in an eternal sunshine of the spotless kind?

Read the full article at
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2020/05/12/the-sun-is-asleep-deep-solar-minimum-feared-as-2020-sees-record-setting-100-day-slump/

Radio Moscow and the Cold War (SIGINT CHATTER)

Geopolitics and international conflicts during the Cold War made it important for the United states and the Soviet Union to inform people or influence their political views, and this in many countries around the world. But how did they reach their audience?

Today, we can hardly imagine a world without Internet, cable and satellites that brings all the news and information from across the globe in your lap. Yet, during most of the Cold War, people only had newspapers, local TV, FM and AM radio. The only solution to spread ideas was shortwave radio, as these waves travel around the globe and can listened to by everyone with a shortwave radio.

Both East and West had, and still have, shortwave radio stations with a world service. The best known were Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty on one side, and Radio Moscow, Radio Beijing and Radio Havana Cuba on the other side. Everyone had their own truth and accused the other side of expansion drift, disinformation and inciting across the world.

One truly iconic station was Radio Moscow World Service. Their foreign service broadcasting started in 1929 with transmitters in Moscow and Leningrad, and later also relay stations in Vladivostok and Magadan. Radio Moscow reached whole Eurasia, Africa and North and South America. During the Cold War, their broadcasts reached across the world with transmitters in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Cuba, and they broadcast in more than 70 languages.[]

COVID-19 Radio Communication Event (SRAL)

COVID-19 RADIO COMMUNICATION EVENT
DATE: June 06-07, 2020.
STARTS 10.00 UTC SATURDAY – ENDS 09.59 UTC SUNDAY

For amateur radio operators worldwide, social distancing is not an issue. Our ham radio network of radio-wave signals flies high and wide, across all borders near and far. Amateur radio operators are well-known for their communication on skills during the happy days, but also during times of crisis.Even if ham radio operators are now confined to their homes, they are encouraged to communicate, to enhance their friendships, and to keep their minds and skills sharp for global messaging whenever needed.

Click here to download the full announcement with event details (PDF).

Tributes as World War Two code breaker Ann Mitchell dies aged 97 (BBC News)

Tributes have been paid to Ann Mitchell – one of the last of a World War Two code-breaking team at Bletchley Park – who has died aged 97.

Mrs Mitchell, who deciphered German codes at the British code-breaking centre from 1943, died at an Edinburgh care home on Monday.

Her family and friends said she had been declining in health for some years and had “a life well lived”.

The Scotsman reported she had tested positive for Covid-19 recently.

Her son Andy Mitchell, 61, told BBC Scotland: “She was a loving mother and it’s very sad but she was declining in old age with memory loss and physical frailties.

“I’m pleased she has been given the recognition for a life well lived.”[]


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Numbers station HM01…and Ana Montes

Downloads-001Wednesday morning, I suppose I had number stations on the brain.  It was no surprise, as I had just watched The Numbers Station the previous night.  Nonetheless, I experienced a rather strange coincidence:  I was reading an intriguing article about Ana Montes, “one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history,” when my shortwave radio–parked on 5,855 kHz–suddenly began to fire out an eerie series of numbers and data bursts from the Cuban numbers station, HM01.  It was, unquestionably, the perfect accompaniment to the words I was reading.

A reader sent Montes’ story–written by Jim Popkin for The Washington Post Magazine–which made for fascinating reading. And as I read the account of Ana Montes’ rise in the ranks of the DIA, while simultaneously becoming one of Cuba’s most important spies, I remembered that it was actually Montes’ case that reader Dirk Rijmenants’ referred to in his paper, and that we posted earlier this year.

A "cheat sheet" provided by Cuban intelligence that Ana Montes used to help her encrypt and decrypt messages to and from her handlers. (Source: FBI)

A “cheat sheet” provided by Cuban intelligence that
Ana Montes used to help her encrypt and decrypt
messages to and from her handlers. (Source: FBI)

Popkin’s account of Ana Montes’ life, character, promotions within the Defense and Intelligence Agency, and the sequence of events that led to her FBI investigation and imprisonment, are the stuff of spy novels. And of course, he  mentions numbers stations:

[Montes’] tradecraft was classic. In Havana, agents with the Cuban intelligence service taught Montes how to slip packages to agents innocuously, how to communicate safely in code and how to disappear if needed.[…]

Montes got most of her orders the same way spies have since the Cold War: through numeric messages transmitted anonymously over shortwave radio. She would tune a Sony radio to AM frequency 7887 kHz, then wait for the “numbers station” broadcast to begin. A female voice would cut through the otherworldly static, declaring, “Atención! Atención!” then spew out 150 numbers into the night. “Tres-cero-uno-cero-siete, dos-cuatro-seis-dos-cuatro,” the voice would drone. Montes would key the digits into her computer, and a Cuban-installed decryption program would convert the numbers into Spanish-language text.[…]

On a side note, as Rijmenants points out, using a computer to decipher a numbers station was both unnecessary and risky.

The story continues:

Ana Montes

Ana Montes

[…]On May 25, 2001, [an FBI team] slipped inside Apartment 20. Montes was out of town with Corneretto [her boyfriend], and the FBI searched her closets and laundry bins, paged through shelves of neatly stacked books and photographed personal papers. They spotted a cardboard box in the bedroom and carefully opened it. Inside was a Sony shortwave radio. Good start, Lapp thought. Next, techs found a Toshiba laptop. They copied the hard drive, shut down the computer and were gone.[…]The documents, which Montes had tried to delete, included instructions on how to translate numbers-station broadcasts and other Spy 101 tips.[…][…]Later that day, an FBI evidence team scoured Montes’s apartment for hours. Hidden in the lining of a notebook they found the handwritten cipher Montes used to encrypt and decrypt messages, scribbled shortwave radio frequencies and the address of a museum in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she was meant to run in an emergency. The crib sheets were written on water-soluble disappearing paper.[…]

The story Popkin recounts, though, paints the picture of a very complex operative. One who, until discovered, was very successful at her craft.  She pulled the wool over the eyes of the DIA and spied for the Cuban government for many years.

The story is complex, and Popkins’ account somehow maneuvers through the twists and turns.

If you want to experience what I did–if a little less coincidentally–click here to read Popkin’s full article, and meanwhile play this recording I made of the Cuban numbers station HM01, below:

Note that the year Montes listened to the Cuban numbers station on 7,887 kHz, it only contained numbers–unlike the recording here of HM01 (Hybrid Mode 01) which contains both voice and RDFT data bursts (which you can also decode, but not necessarily decipher).

This recording of the Cuban numbers station HM01 was recorded on April 24, 2013, at 10:00 UTC on 5,855 kHz in AM. Click here to download the recording as an MP3.

Again, click here to read Jim Popkin’s full story of Ana Montes on The Washington Post Magazine website.

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Rijmenants’ paper sheds light on Cuban numbers stations

WFL_015I’m always amazed by the remarkable talents and extraordinary knowledge of SWLing Post readers. Dirk Rijmenants recently commented on one of our Cuban spy numbers station postings:

[T]hanks for your work on this fascinating blog.

I have additional information on how and who used these Cuban numbers stations. I composed a paper based on FBI and court documents. “Cuban Agent Communications” can by found in the Papers section of my website.

Here’s the direct link (pdf):
http://users.telenet.be/d.rijmenants/papers/cuban_agent_communications.pdf

Have fun reading!

Dirk Rijmenants
Cipher Machines & Cryptology

I’ve read Dirk’s paper, which does, indeed, shed light on the process of receiving and decoding numbers. Most of all, it exposes the vulnerability and fallacy of using anything other than one-time decryption keys and single-use pads. Why? Most of what the FBI has learned about Cuban numbers came from laptops that were used to help decrypt coded messages–an unnecessary procedure when numbers can simply be decoded on note pads that can then be burnt or destroyed.

But don’t take my word for it–download and read Dirk’s paper Cuban Agent Communications” by clicking here. Also, be sure to check out Dirk’s blog and cryptology website; I’ve bookmarked both.

Thanks for sharing your findings, Dirk!

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