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Report #011 05/01/2000

On 24 April, 2000 an unknown person caused a disruption to those trying to connect to the web site. Later attempts to connect were greeted by an obscene message plus "Pirate radio for life, baby." According to Don Durand, ARRL Information Services Department Manager, "the vandalism did disrupt email service to League staff and officials. Mail service was returning as servers were updated. The ARRL Email Forwarding Service was not affected. ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5KJBP, said " the League intends to investigate the disruption through all possible means. Haynie promised that the perpetrators, if caught, would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The Kulpsville, PA Holiday Inn is no longer affiliated with Holiday Inns. It is now a "Best Western" hotel. One of the Winter Fest organizers, Richard Cuff, has advised there will be no changes planned for the hotel administrative staff and there would be no changes affecting our relationship with the hotel, and no need to alter any aspect of fest planning.

Equipment problems severely restricted my coverage of the target transmissions during the month. However the heavy traffic exchange between the Cuba relay station and the field station continued. It was noted that frequently there was another sked during the day around 1830 UTC. Also observed was the once per week sked at 1735 UTC with Cuba calling KRN on 17414 kHz. I have not seen any traffic passed on this sked since it was reduced from a daily sked to a once per week sked.

Suppose you were going to set up communications with agents in the field. Logic dictates there should be three categories of traffic. Practice traffic would be required to accustom the newly assigned agent to tuning in and copying his respective broadcasts. The individual gains proficiency in copying as well as decryption of decoding as the case may be. Deception messages should be mixed in with the practice traffic as well as later on with valid messages. The absence of a pre-specified indicator group in the header or in the dummy message text would alert the agent that the message is bogus. Finally there would be valid messages. These would contain details of selection of secure dead-drop locations for leaving materials and/or picking up money or instructions left by the local control officer. Such instructions would deal with mailing addresses, meeting schedules, recognition/identification marks, and information about radio frequencies and schedules. Any of the thousand and one real-life concerns of the spy organization and its clandestine personnel in place overseas. The getting settled process may require many months, and in some cases perhaps years, before all necessary preliminary arrangements have been carried out. Only then would the agent probably be given operational reporting assignments. To provide cover for the clandestine activities, it would seem imperative that the agent be engaged in regular work of some type, preferably self-employed, plus engaging in appropriate normal daily practices.

The explanation for so many one-way broadcasts is that it is probably not good security for these agents to possess transmitters. Traffic would be copied utilizing a common radio receiver with shortwave bands and this type of radio would not cause suspicion on the part of agent non-witting acquaintances. A possible reply channel could be via mail where an innocent appearing text serves as a means of conveying secret writing or a message in an open code system. This mail would be sent to an accommodation Post Office box. The item would be picked up, repackaged, and remailed to the final destination. The lengthy time en route could explain why certain messages are repeated for prolonged periods of time. It might very well be that the headquarters unit has not as yet received the field mailed reply.

Let's now consider the cryptographic system to be employed. We want a good secure system but one which is also not too complex to use. In reading various open source articles, it is apparent that the one-time pad is a very popular system. A good example of a "Spy Numbers" broadcast was one from Moscow to London to KGB Agent Gordon Lonsdale (real name Konan Trofimovich Molodi). Lonsdale was assigned a 3-character callsign which included a figure 1 if the broadcast was live traffic. If the 1 was not present, it signified it was dummy traffic.

On 11 April at 1349 UTC I came across CMU967 (Russian Navy, Santiago, Cuba) on 14695 kHz calling RMP (Russian Navy, Kaliningrad, Russia). CMU967 sent ZZU 20088 so I checked 20088 and found RMP there. Cuba was apparently repeating back cipher letters previously transmitted by RMP because as Cuba sent, RMP periodically made the error signal whereupon Cuba would stop, back up a few characters and proceed sending the letters. When sending the cipher letters Cuba sent very slowly with spacing between letters. In chatter however, Cuba used a speed key. RMP told Cuba to go to 19888 kHz and a few moments later Cuba appeared on that frequency. Cuba resumed sending the cipher characters which included several cyrillic characters. After copying for several more minutes I dropped coverage.

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2000 Don Schimmel.