Monday, January 23, 2006

Spy rock discovered by FSB

The Spy rock with electronics
A true Cold-War story: the FSB (Federalnaja Sloezjba Bezopasnosti), Russia's Federal Security Service, successor of the KGB, announced the discovery of a high-tech device to exchange classified information. The device was hidden in a fake rock and could store and exchange data wirelessly. After discovery, the FSB organised a stake-out and said to have caught a Russian person and two British Embassy employees, using pocket computers to send and receive classified data.

It appears that the observed Russian person collected sensitive information, stored it on a pocket computer and then transmitted the information to the fake rock while walking alongside it. The embassy personnel later retrieved that same information, stored in the rock, with their own pocket computer. More info on BBC Europe, The Telegraph and The Guardian.

The system is a modern high-tech version of an old spy trick called dead drop. This system, often used by intelligence services, enables a safe exchange of documents, microfilms, photos or money, without any contact between the spy and his handler. A dead drop is usually a small cylinder, hollow brick or another cache. The agent or his handler leaves the dead drop at a pre-determined place and time. Next, an innocuous signal like a chalk cross on a traffic sign pole or some flowers behind a window notifies the recipient that a dead-drop is activated. He can now collect the information from his courier without any risky personal contact that could compromise the operation,  Some real spy gadgets, including a dead drop spike, can by found on the CIA virtual museum tour. Who said that the Cold War was over?

Update: in november 2011, the FBI released information on the Russian SVR spy ring case, including FBI surveillance videos of dead drop exchanges by Russian agents.

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