Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. Spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers. The encryption system used by Numbers Stations, known as a one time pad is unbreakable. Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to track down the message recipients once they are inserted into the enemy country, it becomes clear just how powerful the Numbers Station system is.
These stations use very rigid schedules, and transmit in many different languages, employing male and female voices repeating strings of numbers or phonetic letters day and night, all year round.
High frequency radio signals transmitted at relatively low power can travel around the world under ideal propagation conditions, which are affected by local RF noise levels, weather, season, and sunspots, and can then be received with a properly tuned antenna of adequate size, and a superb receiver. However, spies often have to work only with available hand held receivers, sometimes under difficult local conditions, and in all seasons and sunspot cycles. Only very large transmitters, perhaps up to 500,000 watts, are guaranteed to get through to nearly any basement-dwelling spy, nearly any place on earth, nearly all of the time. Some governments may not need a numbers station with global coverage if they only send spies to nearby countries.
Although no broadcaster or government has acknowledged transmitting the numbers, a 1998 article in The Daily Telegraph quoted a spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry (the government department that, at that time, regulated radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom) as saying, “These [numbers stations] are what you suppose they are. People shouldn’t be mystified by them. They are not for, shall we say, public consumption.”
A sample of these recordings is available at http://www.last.fm/music/The+Conet+Project. More information about the project is available at http://www.irdial.com/conet.htm. Although the project is currently sold out, the sound files are available elsewhere on the net. The location and whereabouts of said files are left as an exercise to the reader.
[via The Conet Project ]