Monday, July 08, 2024

A Call to Former KL-7 and KL-47 Operators

TSEC/KL-7 © Dirk Rijmenants

The TSEC/KL-7 crypto machine was developed by the Army Security Agency (ASA) and Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) under the name AFSAM-7, and introduced in 1953 by the National Security Agency (NSA) into the U.S. Army and Air Force, and later also into the CIA and FBI. The machine also served in all NATO forces, their embassies and some state departments. The U.S. Navy AFSAM-47B, later known as TSEC/KL-47, was compatible with the KL-7. The last machines  retired in the early 1980s. It's been little over 40 years ago that the last machines left the service and time is running out to document first-hand accounts on these machines.

If you are a retired signals veteran with experience on the KL-7 or KL-47 as operator or technician, a member of a signals association or organization, or worked in the communications section of a state department that used the KL-7, then contact us through our website to document your story. The KL-7 is fully declassified and we're not interested in classified information, we only want to preserve the cryptologic history of these Cold War icons.

Besides the United States, the KL-7 was also used by its NATO allies Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal and Turkey. Outside NATO, the KL-7 was also on loan to South Korea, South Vietnam and Taiwan. If you're a signals veteran from any of these countries, a state department or embassy in the 1950s to 1980s era, then contact us, or spread the word.

Unfortunately, time is running out to document first-hand accounts, as the people involved are age seventy to ninety, and memories are fading. Please share this request with all signals communities that might have former KL-7 or KL-47 operators and technicians. Those who share their story retain full control over the content and how it is published. Let's preserve cryptologic history!

Visit the U.S. TSEC/KL-7 ADONIS & POLLUX webpage for more info about the KL-7, its development, technical details and full history, including examples of first-hand accounts, published and linked, to get an idea of the stories we hope to document. Contact us through the website contact page.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Martin Gillow's Virtual Colossus and Other Machines

The Virtual Colossus
© Image Martin Gillow

The history of crypto equipment is quite fascinating, but diving into the archives, searching for historical publications, or collecting those old machines is not everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily, we have a community, dedicated to preserving the history of old crypto equipment, research the technical details, publish their history and operational use, and bring those old crypto machines back to life, either physically, which can be quite expensive, or virtually though software simulations.

Writing software that works exactly like the real crypto machine requires extensive study of the original machine, its mechanical and/or electrical properties, and many hours to write the software that reproduces the plaintext or ciphertext exactly like the original machine. However, you could take it one step further, and make a virtual three-dimensional machine where you can manipulate all components and encrypt, decrypt or break messages, just like the wartime operators.

Martin Gillow created a website with no less than ten 3D simulations. The virtual British Colossus machine is the first ever digital computer, developed in WW2 to break the German Lorenz SZ40/42 encrypted telex, of which he also created a virtual version. There’s also the virtual Enigma machine, and the Bombe that was used by the Bletchley Park codebreakers to decrypt the German Enigma messages.

Hagelin's U.S. M-209
© Image Martin Gillow
Also the British Typex machine and the U.S. M-209, developed by the renown Swedish engineer Boris Hagelin, have their 3D version. Moreover, the collection includes the ICT 1301 ”Flossie” second-generation computer, the E.R.N.I.E electronic random number generator, and the American crib dragging machine Dragon that helped to break the Lorenz messages.

Of course, the countless hours of work by Martin to research and study those machines, and write accurate 3D versions, is just enormous, and makes this 3D collection simply unaffordable… unless you just want to preserve and share the history of old crypto machines, and make the simulations available to everyone for free. A big Thank You to Martin for creating all those virtual machines, and for being part of that small community, dedicated to preserve cryptologic history.

Make sure to scroll all the way down his main page, to find all virtual 3D simulations and read the various tutorials on how to use them. Also click the relevant "find out more" buttons to learn about each machine and its history. Visit the Virtual Colossus website.
Highly recommended, and no better day than D-day to share Martin's work and commemorate all codebreakers.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Crypto's Cast with Dr. Carola Dahlke as First Guest

I'm pleased to announce the first guest on our brand new Crypto's Cast. The goal is to bring interesting bite-size stories for crypto enthusiasts, but also to tickle the interest of listeners with limited or no knowledge on cryptography.
The Cast is a group of crypto experts, historians and collectors that will bring fascinating stories, with topics ranging from cryptologic history, its technology and science, important historical events, influenced by cryptography, renown cryptologists, cipher machines, the making and breaking of codes and crypto algorithms, crypto and privacy, to books and websites.
Our first guest is Dr. Carola Dahlke. She is the curator of the department of Computer Science and Cryptology at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany, and expert in historical crypto equipment. There's hardly a better guest to start our podcast, as she was instrumental in documenting and preserving the Schl├╝sselger├Ąt 41, a German cipher machine, far more secure than the famous Enigma, but unknown until recently.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Ringway Manchester

Ringway Manchester

The Ringway Manchester YouTube channel is a fascinating journey into radio waves, but hard to describe, as it covers so many subjects with signals as the common theme. Lewis created hundreds of videos on various signals from across the world and explains the equipment and historical context behind them.

No extensive documentaries, but interesting bite-sized 5 to 15 minutes videos about shortwave listening, numbers stations, military transmitters, pirate radio, Cold War relics, clandestine radios and spies, transmitter locations and mysterious and even frightening signals, but also reviews of transceivers, receivers and handheld scanners.

Click banner to visit the YouTube channel

Visit also Lewis Ringway Facebook, RingwayManchester X (Twitter) and M3HHY Instagram, well worth following.

Below some Ringway Manchester videos that might want you to buy a shortwave receiver and start surfing the radio waves. Many more videos available at his YouTube channel. Enjoy listening!



The Most Terrifying Shortwave Signal Ever


Saturday, February 03, 2024

Podcast Nuggets Episode 10

Click for more

After a long break, we resume the Podcast Nuggets series, covering a selection of excellent talks about signals, intelligence, wars and espionage. In other words, ordinary everyday life. Some of the podcast pages provide additional information, photos or videos. We start with a fascinating career in SIGINT, prisoners in Hanoi Hilton with a direct line to the CIA, the SAS raising hell in North Africa, how to steal paintings, and working for the CIA or FBI, or maybe not, who knows? If you want more podcast introductions, just click the above Podcast Nuggets icon.

COLD  WAR Conversations - Uncovering Cold War Soviet secrets with the USAF and NSA. In 1975, Tim joined the US Air Force to see the world. He hoped for a job in electronics but was redirected to the field of communications analysis. After basic training, he was sent to the Joint Cryptologic school at Goodfellow AFB (Air Force Base). He served at the Air Force Electronic Warfare Center at Kelly AFB in Texas, RAF Chicksands in the UK, working on SIGINT collection of USSR targets, the Cryptologic Support Group, Strategic Air Command HQ, and Offutt AFB in Nebraska, providing SIGINT briefings to US Strategic Air Command. In 1983, Tim transferred to the NSA, and was later posted at GCHQ, the British Government Communications Headquarter. An amazing career and lots of stories to tell.

SPYCRAFT 101 - POW Spy Ring in Vietnam with Jim Stockdale. Jim is the son of US Navy aviator, Admiral James Stockdale, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965. His father was  imprisoned in the Hualap prison, a.k.a. Hanoi Hilton, where the prisoners were interrogated and turtured. Despite the harsh prison regime, het set up a communications network within the prison to secretly collect information, and support and encourage fellow prisoners. From within the prison, they also established a covert communications channel with the CIA.

HISTORY HACK - SAS Forged in Hell. When David Sterling founded the Special Air Service in 1941, he described it as forged in hell, and they definitely raised hell in the deserts of North Africa. They were the pioneers of unconventional warfare, and to operate behind enemy lines, they had to cross thousands of miles in the Sahara desert. You simply could not order regular soldiers to carry out such suicide missions, but the SAS members were volunteers, despite all odds against them. This was thanks to officers like Paddy Mayne, because the soldiers knew he would never ask them things he would not do himself, and he often lead from the front. Following the capture of Sterling in 1943, Major Payne became commander of the SAS, the unit that, according to Field Marshall Rommel, caused more trouble than any other unit. A fascinating story about a brave man.

SPYCAST - The Most Famous Art Detective in the World. Andrew Hammond interviewed retired Special Agent Robert Wittman about the creation of the FBI Art Crimes Team, a special unit, tasked to locate and recover stolen works of art. Not quite the career you might expect when working in the FBI, but Bob quickly came to appreciate both the job and the artwork. He explains how art thieves operate, the inside jobs and how the Art Crimes Team uses intelligence tradecraft to locate stolen paintings. Robert also talks about working and living undercover abroad and how they brought home many priceless pieces of art, worth millions of dollars.

ALPHABET BOYS - Season One: Troyan Hearse. In two seasons, journalist Trevor Aaronson reveals secret investigations from the FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, and other so-called alphabet agencies. He exposes secret undercover recordings that the government never wanted you to hear. Make sure to check out all the FBI documents, photos and undercover videos. In the first season, you learn how a mysterious antifa warrior in military fatigues arrives into town, driving a hearse filled with guns. Who is the man that infiltrates the 2020 protests, and who are the bad guys?

ALPHABET BOYS - Season Two: Up in Arms. The story of an undercover operation with a fake arms dealer and Colombian rebels. But who are the bad guys? The weapons dealer of course, but didn't he work for the CIA, or was it the FBI? No, of course he's a criminal, or a spy, but for whom? It's confirmed, and denied. One thing's for sure, it's a big mess. Two excellent seasons, well told, with audio interviews and covert recordings. Highly recommended!