Tag Archives: Spy Numbers

How to find the Pyongyang numbers station (V15) including an off-air recording

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey (our resident North Korea specialist)  who shares the following comment regarding our recent post about the re-activation of the North Korean Numbers station:

The Pyongyang numbers (designated V15) have either become less regular or changed their schedule since March. Its been a few months since I have personally received them – but I also haven’t been specifically tuning in for them lately so maybe I have simply missed noticing a timing change.

If you want to find the North Korean numbers, they are read out in a block between songs within the regular programing of the Pyongyang Pangsong radio station.

The choice of music immediately before the number block seems to indicate which recipient agent the transmission is directed to.

For Agent 27 “We Will Go Together with a Song Of Joy” is played, whereas Agent 21’s song is “Spring of my Hometown.”

The announcements typically take between 5 to 10 minutes to read dependent on the number of digits passed. The transmission schedule is variable; in early 2017 the broadcast alternated with a cycle of one week on Thursday night at 12:45AM Pyongyang Time (1615 UTC) and the following week on Saturday night at 11:45PM Pyongyang Time (1515 UTC).??

Pyongyang Pangsong can be heard on these shortwave band frequencies (it is also on MF & FM on the Korean peninsular):

  • 3250 kHz, Pyongyang 100KW Transmitter
  • 3320 kHz, Pyongyang 50KW Transmitter
  • 6400 kHz, Kanggye 50KW Transmitter

Mark followed up this morning with a off-air recording of V15 on 3250kHz. Mark comments, “I will leave the decrypted message content to your imagination!”

Click here to download.

Mark: thank you for taking the time to write up this V15 tutorial and sharing this recording!

Spread the radio love

North Korea activates numbers station?

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors who’ve shared this particular item from The National Interest:

North Korea Broadcasts Really Strange Messages As New Nuclear Weapons Test Looms

Pyongyang is reportedly broadcasting encrypted messages reminiscent of those used to contact spies during the Cold War.

[…]As North Korea prepares to mark a key anniversary — the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung — a U.S. Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson is on its way to Korea.

[…]Radio Pyongyang began broadcasting peculiar messages at 1:15 a.m. (local time). The messages included numbers and pages, such as No. 69 on page 823, No. 92 on page 467, and No. 100 on page 957.“I’m giving review works in elementary information technology lessons of the remote education university for No. 27 expedition agents,” the broadcaster explained before repeating her message.

The messages are broadcast over shortwave radio.

Yonhap News Agency reports the numbers are different from past announcements. Since June of last year, Pyongyang has broadcast its messages 32 times.

Continue reading the full article on The National Interest website…

Update: Since I haven’t gotten any direct listener reports regarding this numbers station’s reactivation, I’ve added a question mark in the title. Please comment if you’ve logged this station (and we’d all love a recording!).

Spread the radio love

Was Morse Code the smoking gun for this spy with no name?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares this story from the BBC News via Matthew M. Aid‘s blog:

[…]It was a cold Saturday morning in April 1988 when a van full of detectives arrived outside the North London home of Erwin van Haarlem. The self-employed art dealer, 44, lived alone in sleepy Friern Barnet, a smattering of brick homes beside the grim North Circular ring road.
The Dutchman’s apartment building on Silver Birch Close had become the centre of an investigation led by the British intelligence agency MI5. It suspected that Van Haarlem – whom neighbours described as an “oddball” – was not in the art business at all, but a sinister foreign agent.

Inside, Van Haarlem was hunched over a radio in his kitchen. He was still wearing his pyjamas, but his hair was parted neatly to one side. He was tuned in, as he was every morning, to a mysterious “number station”. In his earpiece, a female voice recited numbers in Czech, followed by the blip-bleep of Morse code.

At 09:15 detectives from Special Branch, the anti-terror unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, crashed into his apartment. Van Haarlem tried to lower his radio’s antenna. It jammed. When he pulled open a drawer and grabbed a kitchen knife, an officer tackled him, and yelled: “Enough! It is over! It is over!”

Hidden among his easels and paintings, detectives discovered tiny codebooks concealed in a bar of soap, strange chemicals, and car magazines later found to contain messages written in invisible ink. Investigators suspected Van Haarlem was not really from the Netherlands, but was a spy for the UK’s Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union.

[…]Mrs Saint, 61, who co-ordinated the local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, said she telephoned the police in November 1987 to report strange noises and a “Morse code” interference which affected her television reception every night at 21:20.[…]

Click here to read this fascinating in0depth story on the BBC Magazine website.

Spread the radio love

Shortwave Radio Recording: “The Buzzer” on 6,998 kHz

UVB-76-Buzzer

Screen capture of the Web SDR waterfall tuned to 6,998 kHz.

On Friday, Andrea Borgnino, tweeted that he could once again hear “The Buzzer” on 6,998 kHz. Of course, during the day, I couldn’t hear  the signal from my home in North America.

I could, however, easily hear the signal via the University Twente Web SDR in the Netherlands.

Here’s my recording:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty sure this is simply a pirate having a little fun relaying UVB-76 audio on 6,998 kHz.

Spread the radio love

UVB-76: The Buzzer surfaces on 6,998 kHz

Photo: Andrea Borgnino

Image: Andrea Borgnino

My buddy, Andrea Borgnino, recently heard UVB-76 (The Buzzer) on 6,998 kHz with his Elecraft K3 in Italy. Check out this short video:

While the audio sounds identical to that of UVB-76’s on 4,625 kHz. I strongly suspect this is simply a pirate radio station relay–especially since it’s broadcasting just below the 40 meter ham radio band. Either way, it’s a great catch! Thanks for sharing, Andrea!

Spread the radio love

Hackaday: “Secret Radio Stations by the Numbers”

SWLingPost-Spy-Numbers-Station

(Source: Hackaday via Andrea Borgnino)

One thing has stayed with the James Bond movie franchise through the decades: Mr. Bond always has the most wonderful of gadgets. Be it handheld, car-based, or otherwise, there’s always something to thrill that is mostly believable.

The biggest problem with all of those gadgets is that they mark Commander Bond as an obvious spy. “So Mr. Bond, I see you have a book with many random five character groups. Nothing suspicious about that at all!” And we all know that import/export specialists often carry exploding cufflinks or briefcases full of unknown electronics in hidden compartments.

Just as steganography hides data in plain sight, the best spy gadgets are the ones that don’t seem to be a spy gadget. It is no wonder some old weapons are little more than sticks or farm implements. You can tell a peasant he can’t have a sword, but it is hard to ban sticks.

Imagine you were a cold war era spy living in a hostile country with a cover job with Universal Exports. Would you rather get caught with a sophisticated encryption machine or an ordinary consumer radio? I’m guessing you went with the radio. You aren’t the only one. That was one of the presumed purposes to the mysterious shortwave broadcasts known as number stations. These were very common during the cold war, but there are still a few of them operating.

Continue reading at Hackaday…

Spread the radio love

Jack Barsky: KGB spy who relied on numbers stations

JckBarsky

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Anthony, for forwarding this CBS/60 Minutes video: an interview with former KGB spy, Jack Barsky. During the interview, Barsky mentions that he received encrypted KGB “radiograms” via a numbers station he believed to be in Cuba. He admitted that the messages could take an hour to copy, then an additional three hours to decode. This is a fascinating story–well worth watching.

Here is the intro via 60 Minutes:

“Tonight, we’re going to tell you a story you’ve probably never heard before because only a few people outside the FBI know anything about it. It’s a spy story unlike any other and if you think your life is complicated, wait till you hear about Jack Barsky’s, who led three of them simultaneously. One as a husband and father, two as a computer programmer and administrator at some top American corporations and three as a KGB agent spying on America during the last decade of the Cold War.

The FBI did finally apprehend him in Pennsylvania but it was long after the Soviet Union had crumbled. What makes Jack Barsky’s story even more remarkable is he’s never spent a night in jail, the Russians declared him dead a long time ago, he’s living a quiet life in upstate New York and has worked in important and sensitive jobs. He’s now free to tell his story…as honestly as a former spy ever can.”

Click here to view the video via CBS online, or you can simply watch via the the embedded players below:

Part 1

Part 2

Spread the radio love