Home » Insights » Russian Radio Hacking Since the Cold War

Russian Radio Hacking Since the Cold War

russian radio hacking

You can learn a lot about Russian radio hacking dating back to the 1950’s. This new book is all about electromagnetic radiation, RF flooding and other weird espionage techniques. 

Eric Haseltine, top right above, is a neuroscientist and futurist. For a few years, he was head of research and development at NSA, as well as Associate Director of National Intelligence in the U.S.

A few months ago, I discovered his new book The Spy in Moscow Station: A Counterspy’s Hunt for a Deadly Cold War Threat. As a ham or electronics enthusiast, you will love the technical details in this fascinating story.

During the cold war, the Russian KGB got really good at recovering information from unintended RF emissions of all sorts. By flooding the U.S. embassy with microwave signals, they were able to detect and decode all sorts of information.

It turns out that mechanical, voice and electric signals will mix with microwaves to create inter-modulation artifacts. For example, a human voice will create vibrations that mix with various non-linear devices. The mechanical movements of an old IBM Selectric typewriter cause changes in current which will give off electromagnetic radiation.

This book is the story of how NSA staff tracked down how the Soviets used microwave and passive listening to spy on the US Embassy and elsewhere. You will discover tons of technical details about how and why this works.

Much of the technology was created by Leon Theremin during the 1950’s, as described in this video. Also, you might want to check this declassified report Learning from the Enemy, which describes how the IBM Selectric typewriter was hacked.

Russian Radio Hacking – Charles Gandy, Counterspy

Reading The Spy in Moscow Station, you will discover an unsung hero. Charles Gandy, K3BXO spent most of his career at NSA, retiring in 1986. He headed a secret research group that figured out the Russian radio hacking techniques described in Haseltine’s book.

Gandy grew up in Lousiana. He developed a fascination with radio, got his ham radio license at age 11. Still in his teens, he got his commercial license and became chief engineer at a radio station while still at college. In 1954, Gandy graduated in electrical engineering and joined NSA. You can read more about him here.

In addition to all the radio and electronics stuff, Gandy and Haseltine provide a strong warning still relevant to the asymmetric warfare conducted by Russian spies and hackers.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.