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DDR Type 2 Short-wave spy transmitter (cryptomuseum.com)
167 points by jonke 62 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments



Nice work and superbly chronicled. I hope in 60 years someone will find my work and similarly finish all the documentation I never got around to writing today.


Are you certain you want to be compared with the Stasi?


Is there a reason why they're so vague about which country it was found in?

It's repeatedly described in the article as "a West-European country", and that it was "close to the border of The Netherlands." That seems to suggest either Belgium or Germany. Is it just to make the location harder for others to find, or because borders are in dispute or have shifted since it was buried?

(Probably unrelated, but I see on Google Maps a forest & bog 20km from the Netherlands border, where the German border appears to be split in two by a Belgian railway line running through it.)


I don't think there are any border disputes in this area.

Perhaps the hobby-archaeologist wanted to remain anonymous because unearthing historical artifacts with a metal detector is illegal in some places. In Germany one needs a permit at least and must leave finds undisturbed so that archaeologists can see the context of the find. If the hobby-archaeologist is searching illegally, then he/she may be afraid that the location of the find may lead to him/her.


That railway and strange border is an old remnant of the Treaty of Versailles.


Oh wow! I knew I'd get an interesting reply. That helped me find some more info on the Travel StackExchange [1] & Fascinating Maps [2], if others are interested. I'm especially fascinated by Rückschlag, a single house & garden that is German territory within Belgium:

[1] https://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/105503/is-this-we...

[2] https://fascinatingmaps.com/strange-german-exclaves-in-belgi...


There's a fascinating YouTube series called "The Most Complex International Borders in the World" about enclaves and exclaves. [1] There are even some "counter-enclaves", e.g. a part of the Netherlands inside Belgium inside the Netherlands. [2]

[1] https://youtube.com/watch?v=gtLxZiiuaXs

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Nassau


Thanks for sharing, cryptomuseum.com on itself is quite interesting.

A question though: how is humidity handled in modern electronics? Is there any sacrificial used on mainboards, or is there any design pattern used on PCBs in general to achieve the same effect?


Conformal coating is used, which is a thin layer of polymer sprayed as a film over the finished and soldered PCB.

As modern components are normally much smaller and sit fairly flush with the PCB, there are less nooks and crannies, and so the coating manages to fill them all or bridge them over quite well. It's still not a step used in most PCBs, there are downsides like requiring connectors and switches to be masked off with tape, and so it is reserved for more extreme applications than consumer electronics. Think electric gate control boxes, or marine electronics.

It would probably have existed in some form at the time of the OPs radio, but spraying the PCBs in it wouldn't have saved all the connectors, switches pots and other front panel controls from moisture, and so a more general method was needed.

Finally, a more extreme step is to "pot" the entire PCB by putting it in a sealed container and filling the container with a "potting compound", a liquid resin that sets solid or to a rubbery finish. This makes replacing or repairing the PCB very difficult, requires a lot of thought as to connectors, and it doesn't work well for high power electronics as the potting compound traps heat. It allows you to fully submerse a PCB in water forever, stops sparks if your PCB is working around explosive gases/powders, and is sometimes used as a "security" method in hardware security modules or "secure" USB keys.

For security, potting only really works if tiny wires are embedded in it, which on breaking wipe the encryption keys. Scraping off potting compound can otherwise be done by anyone if they are willing to spend a long time.


> A question though: how is humidity handled in modern electronics? Is there any sacrificial used on mainboards

For consumer electronics it generally isn't handled. If you look at the edges of the boards you'll see that they are rough-sawn and not sealed and that there is not conformal coating elsewhere on the boards. Note that while FR and hardpaper material are hygroscopic, the epoxy cases of chips let moisture pass as well.


Conformal coating or potting. Simply not exposing the components and board traces to environmental conditions at all is simpler and more effective - but then we no longer expect to need to replace vacuum tubes very often.


Interesting that the Stasi chose to hide it in a car battery shell and bury it, ensuring that anyone who stumbled across it would be suspicious.


The disguise was for transport. There was very little chance that it would be discovered once underground and even if it were, it would not compromise the owner as it would be located far away in a place like a wood or a public park.


Here's how it may have went down:

> Digs around in forest for no good reason

> Finds car battery

> Rattles

> Opens it

> Western radio inside

> "Oh shit, a cache of an allied spy. I better put this back where I found this and tell no one ever."


While it's true that a dumped car battery would at least raise interest or even suspicion, a buried one is significantly harder to stumble upon, however suspicion is still optional. Who is going to open a potentially highly acidic/hazardous car battery anyway? Something "rattled" inside, which suggested it was dry, and what ever rattles inside a car battery, everything is supposed to be fixed there, right? Besides, an ancient Varta battery - put that in a museum! There - the cover's blown.

Back in the days no one cared about dumped car parts. But nowadays just about anything raises instant suspicion if anything out of the ordinary lies about on the ground.


Are we sure it was buried intentionally, and not moved from its original place and eventually thrown away (presumably because the concealment worked as intended and it looked like a junk old battery) to where it ended up now?


There's a photo in the article of how it was concealed, it seems like it was very deliberately buried:

https://www.cryptomuseum.com/spy/ddr2/img/ddr2_cache_small.j...


I can't edit my other comment, but I did think that it accomplished its mission.

> ensuring that anyone who stumbled across it would be suspicious.

Or the person who was meant to retrieve it would know what they found. "It's inside the car battery buried in ..." is a pretty easy instruction to follow.

The instruction can also be hidden in plain sight – a car battery is ordinary enough that no one is going to be suspicious if you write it down on a piece of paper. You can even hide the location in order or invoice number pretty easily.

If someone found it, they may be suspicious. If I found one my first thought would be that is just some junk someone threw out (you can't put car batteries in normal trash where I live). It is fairly easy to notice if dirt has been recently disturbed, even from afar (which his good if you're worried about getting caught).

TL;DR burying something in a car battery is actually pretty clever.


It did stay hidden for 30+ years


Makes you think about what they've got nowadays. You can finds lots of recordings of Numbers Stations uploaded by amateurs on Youtube. Also look at http://www.spynumbers.com/


Heh, the title made me think that someone made a radio transmitter using DDR2, the memory.


Did they try sending? Maybe the Lincolnshire poacher would reply?


This is a transmitter, it can't receive replies.

But yes, they tested it:

> The transmitter produces a strong and stable signal at the fundamental frequency, but also produces strong unwanted harmonics, with the f2 being only 3dB down. Furthermore, the f3 is only 10dB down and the f5 is just 20 dB down.


The reply would be encoded in the one time stream the numbers station sends: you pick things like the Lincolnshire poacher up on another radio.

Btw, I think it was Russian not east German and possibly was over the horizon radar or a deadmans switch or something else: we need a /j for joke marking.


"The one shown here, was found in 2018 in a forgotten cache in a West European country. Based on the manufacturing codes on some of the components, it was probably manufactured in 1962. "

"forgotten" it was not - KGB does not forget! just deemed useless to both sides and not worth the extraction risk later on.

also, i wonder if one of Putin's buddies used these back in the days when he was stationed in East Germany in the 80's.


But Stasi ceased to exist in an orgy of shredding, so it might very well have been forgotten.


Perhaps, but we were reminded just this week that some Stasi memories are well preserved. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/11/valdimir-putin...


I wonder if there are any news articles about what else might have been found in the cache, and where it was found?

Edit: Just hadn't read far enough...




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