Image: lanesplit, via Reddit
Piracy. Disinformation. Monitoring. CYBER is Motherboard’s podcast and reports on the dark underbelly of the internet.
Hackers hijacked an infamous shortwave radio station, which dates back to the Soviet era but is still online today, and used it to broadcast everything from Gangnam-style to audio that attracts memes when inspected under a spectrum analyzer.
For decades the number station known as UVB-76 emitted an enigmatic series of beeps and a voice read numbers and names, in what people suspect is a long-standing method of communication for the Russian secret service. Since the broadcast is public, hackers can use their software-defined radio (SDR) transmitters to effectively flood the frequencies with noise and memes.
The recent flurry of attacks on the station comes as Russia prepares to invade neighboring Ukrainewhere radio enthusiasts speculate about the origin of at least some of the pirate broadcasts.
Number Stations are shortwave radio stations known for their mysterious and encrypted broadcasts, long believed to be a method used by spy agencies to communicate with secret agents. They usually involve voices reading sequences of digits or timed pulses that can be decoded into messages. While many stations have become obsolete or redundant, several broadcasts remain on the air, much to the fascination of amateur radio enthusiasts.
Do you know anything else about this hijacked show? We would love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Around October 2010, the show’s source moved and a male voice identified the station with a new call sign: MDZhB. The following year, enthusiasts entered the show’s original location in Povarovo, Russia, and allegedly found a log that showed messages transmitted over UVB-76.
For now, the excitement seems over. At the time of writing, a live feed of the UVB-76 stream shows that the station has returned to its characteristic rhythmic beeps.