June 22nd, 2006 mlc
Listeners of 2600’s radio program Off the Hook know that we’ve been fascinated recently by some numbers stations which appear to have been popping up on the telephone network recently. These recordings, which sound eerily similar to the numbers stations which appear on shortwave and are purported to be operated by various governments’ intelligence services, have been announced by cryptic advertisements addressed to “Mein Fraulein” and appearing in the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist.
Inspired by these phone numbers stations, the air of mystery surrounding them, and the apparent ease which with they can be created, I decided to create one of my own. After chopping up a recording of one of the previous numbers, setting up an Asterisk server to play the numbers back in my desired order, and making the requisite post to Craigslist, I was curious to see if any of the other people curious about these numbers would be able to decode the hidden message. A serious hint was given on Off the Hook when the listening public was told who had created the number and that there was a message hidden inside with a pair of HOPE tickets to the first person to decrypt it.
Callers to the number while it was active heard a few bars of the song “Little Black Heart” then a polyphony of voices which said, “Group 215, Group 215”, followed by a series of groups of five numbers (each group repeated twice):
01200 60110 18011 02500 90310 23018 02303 00230 34038 03003 80410 31048 03803 40430 39055 05605 70450 55047 04506 00520 62051 06106 50750 71072 08007 40640 69083 08608 70900 72093 08309 10910 80100 09010 41040 94101 09010 01040 98110 11710 11151 14
The key to decoding this message is to re-write the numbers in groups of three: 012, 006, 011, 018, etc. Notice that the numbers start relatively small and tend to get larger towards the end of the message, ending in 117, 101, 115, 114.
This, combined with the hint on Off the Hook to ”drop the five“, would allow one to decrypt the message. At the beginning of the message, 0 is ‘A’, 1 is ‘B’, and so on, so the 012 is ‘M’ which gives the first letter of the message. Then, as we proceed to the next letter, we add two to the key, so that 2 is now ‘A’, 3 is now ‘B’, and the 006 is an ‘E’. Taking our cue from the ‘Group 215’ message, we now add 1 to the key, so 3 is A and 011 is ‘I’. Taking the hint to ‘drop the five’ we go back to adding two, so 5 is A and 18 is ‘N’. Proceeding in this manner, one can decrypt the entire message which reads:
MEIN FRAULEIN FOR HOPE TICKETS SEND AN EMAIL TO NUMBERSSTATION AT HUSHMAIL DOT COM
Congratulations to Usman, who was the first to solve the message and send that email, and so wins a pair of tickets to the HOPE conference.
Entry Filed under: Contests