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About this website:

I wrote my first “Numbers & Oddities” column in January 1995. It was published in the newsletter of the Worldwide Utility News Club (WUN) in February 1995. A couple of years later N&O also appeared as a separate newsletter for WUN and Spooks members. This website was originally setup as a service to the members of these groups. A place where they could find all the newsletters and some additional information. Lateron I have also included a logs database, recordings, links and other relevant information.

All information on this website was submitted by independent radio monitors or has been obtained from public available sources and public websites. Wherever data was obtained via the web or elsewhere, references and/or links to these sources have been noted. If you are the "original copyright holder" and think that I may be using your files, images or anything else, please contact me. I will take proper action to change or remove copyright materials. This will usually takes several days. Of course you'll need to prove that you are the original copyright holder!

What is a numbers station?

Numbers stations are radio stations that are mainly active on shortwave. Mysterious stations believed to be owned by governments, the military and/or intelligence agencies. They broadcast coded messages to agents or military personnel  in the field or to embassies or wherever they are. Some have fixed schedules; others are transmitting their messages on an irregular basis. The messages consist of letter groups or figure groups. Very often in groups of 5 characters but 4 and 3 groups are also quite common. Chinese stations, for example, are often using 4 character groups.

The first reports of coded messages date back to World War I when the military transmitted coded messages via HF. Most of the involved countries had interception capabilities but the British organized as one of the first countries an intercept service. The intercept stations were known as the "Y" stations. The coded messages were further analysed by the crypt-analysts of Admiralty Room 40.

In the early days not all messages were sent as number or letter groups but also as text phrases like “the milk is boiling over“. Interesting are also the Indian code talkers who sent coded messages in their native languages. In both World Wars “code talkers” served in the American forces. The name “code talkers” is especially associated with the Navajo speakers who served during World War II in the Pacific theatre. The first code talkers, however, were a group of Choctaw Indians from Oklahoma serving in the U.S. Army during World War I. These Indians are referred to as Choctaw Code Talkers. Both the Choctaw Code Talkers and the Navajo Code Talkers used Native American languages as military codes that could not be undeciphered.

The codes used by the modern numbers stations are believed to be so called one-time pads. A one

time pad is the only currently known secure encryption system, if used correctly. The system was created by Gilbert Vernam in 1917. The technique itself seems to be much older. Steven M. Bellovin, a professor of computer science at the Columbia University School of Engineering found a code book from 1882 that describes a similar technique.

Especially during the Cold War you could hear a host of stations from many different countries like the

U.S.S.R., Bulgaria, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Algeria, Egypt, U.K., U.S.A., East and West Germany, Hungary, France, Cuba, Yugoslavia, North and South Korea, Taiwan, China, Roumania, and Israel. Languages used include Russian, English, German, French, Spanish, various other Slavic languages, Korean, Chinese and even Tadjik and Farsi.

We have compiled a list of the agencies and organizations who are most likely responsible for the transmissions. You can find it on the files page. Please note that the majority of the information in this document is not officially confirmed.  

The number of stations has decreased dramatically during the past few years but there are still a couple

of them alive and kicking.

Note that not all numbers stations are intelligence stations. A number of them are military stations or are linked to diplomatic services.