A new movie called The Numbers Station, starring John Cusack and Malin Akerman, will be released in April. When Black Ops agent Emerson (John Cusack) is put aside, he's reassigned to a seemingly boring job. He should protect a remote CIA shortwave numbers station.
The station sends encrypted numbers messages through SW radio to agents in the field. Katherine (Malin Akerman) works at the station and is responsible for encrypting and announcing the messages over radio. What looked like a dull job turns into a nightmare when the station is ambushed and both have to fight for their life. Meanwhile, they discover that a series of messages has been sent to start a series of assassination.
To the layman, the story line might sound like absurd spy fiction. The truth, however, although seemingly less spectacular, is just as scary. Numbers Stations have been around since the Second World War and their use has grown exponential during the Cold War. They are more than real.
For those who think the Cold War is far behind us, think again! These stations still broadcast today in English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and many other languages. The messages are destined to Intelligence personnel in foreign countries, Special Ops teams behind enemy lines, sleeper agents and...who knows. Several spies who received their operational instructions through numbers stations have been caught and convicted... also very recently.
Some believe that such shortwave espionage broadcasts are a thing of the past. However, these broadcasts have nothing but advantages. The operational messages are converted into numbers and encrypted before they are sent over shortwave radio. The shortwave broadcast travels around the world and no one can tell who is listening to them. Anyone with a small commercial SW radio can receive the message and decrypt it manually with a unique (mathematically unbreakable) one-time pad. No compromising equipment to be carried by the agent, no insecure communications channels to be used, unbreakable encryption. And even when all communications, telephone and Internet are down or unavailable, the messages still arrive. It's the ideal one-way method to send instructions.
Visit my website for more info on Numbers Stations and check out my one-time pad page, which explains how such numbers messages are composed and encrypted. Some very recent U.S. spy cases are documented in the paper Cuban Agent Communications. More on Numbers Stations and related spy cases is found on this weblog. Read about the movie at the Internet Movie Database or watch the trailer below.