Numbers stations

Welcome to the weird world of numbers stations

Known to exist since World War I, numbers stations are believed to have been used or still being used, for transmission of coded messages to intelligence officers operating in foreign countries.

These shortwave transmissions have been known to be made using PSK (Phase Shift Key), FSK (Frequency Shift Key), Morse code and voice on a set schedule, scheduled patterns or at random.

One of the best known numbers station was the “Lincolnshire Poacher“, which is thought to have been run by the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Below is a BBC Radio 4 broadcast of “Tracking The Lincolnshire Poacher”, which was first aired in 2005. BBC Radio’s Simon Fanshawe looks into the weird world of numbers stations and tries to solve the mystery of exactly what these numbers stations are.

 

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1 comment

  1. Nice article Adrian and brings back memories of my time in Signals Intelligence (MI6) during the Cold War, numbers were my game and I intercepted thousands of them.
    Most number messages started with a preamble and you could tell if they were practice messages or not with the preamble and all messages were sent at a predetermined time.
    The one-time pad mentioned was the only code which could not be cracked as when a page was used it was destroyed and this is the best code which could not be decrypted unless you had a copy of the one-time pad.
    Things have advanced since the time of Bletchly Park and information is encrypted included the type of transmission which is too far advanced for the general amateur.

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