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Five Popular Espionage Techniques of the Former Soviet Union

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Five Popular Espionage Techniques of the Former Soviet Union

The art of spying has been used for centuries and is still used today.

This form of intelligence gathering is a staple of any government; and, no government perfected this art better than the former Soviet Union.

The Soviets came up with ingenious ways to steal and pass secrets from their opposing governments. The most common targets were the U.K, France, Italy and Germany.

However, as the Cold War escalated, the U.S. became another target. Below are 5 popular espionage techniques used by the former Soviet Union in its attempts to steal secrets.

Brush Passes/Dead Drops

Popular during the Cold War, these two techniques are required elements in any modern spy novel or movie. The brush pass is when an agent passes another, discreetly handing him an item.

This usually occurs in busy public areas such as train stations and public restrooms.

On the other end of the spectrum, a dead drop requires a quiet place. A dead drop is when an agent “loads” the dead drop by placing the item for later pick up by another agent.

Dead drops require quiet areas such as libraries and churches. Though these techniques take skill and planning, they can be used in a variety of locations and, if done well, can be executed completely undetected.

Live Drops

Live Drops are very similar to brush passes and dead drops. In a live drop, two agents make an exchange, but the exchange is hidden in plain sight.

This is because one of the agents is disguised as someone who commonly exchanges items with the general public.

For example, a man walks up to a hot dog vendor and purchases a hot dog. The man pays for the concession and leaves. However, the man is an agent and has just passed the hot dog vendor, his co-conspirator, a note mixed-in with his money or written on the actual bills.

Transactions such as these took place on city streets across the globe. There is nothing suspicious about someone buying food from a street vendor.

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This technique took “hidden in plain sight” to whole new level.

Steganography was the technique of hiding a message in an obscure way so that the intended recipient could reveal the message, but the message itself could be displayed in plain sight.

A common stegangraphic technique was to hide secret messages in pictures using microdot technology. A microdot is text or an image reduced into a 1mm disc in order to communicate covertly.

These microdots could be hidden just about anywhere; such as the dots of an ā€œiā€ or the periods of sentences. This method has been modernized for the cyber age.

Most recently, it has been reported that the Russian spy ring, which included Anna Chapman, developed software to insert data inside images posted on public websites.

Shortwave Radiograms

Shortwave radios have been a tool of the espionage trade for many years. Radios can transmit information encoded to be picked up by the receiver and then decoded.

This technique was used throughout World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Like Steganography, radiograms are still being used today.

According to Popular Mechanics, “Radios can transmit bursts of data that can be picked up by another radio set to that frequency. The court documents say these encoded signals sound like Morse code transmissions, and that the [Russian] spy ring used this method to communicate with handlers in Moscow.”

In this day and age, we always seem to look at technology, and gadgets, as being better than some of the old ways. But as recent news related to modern Russian spies is released, it seems that the espionage trade has some tried and true techniques that haven’t changed much through the years.

The techniques were used by the Soviets during the Cold War many years ago, but it seems that they have remained long-lasting fixtures in Russian Espionage.

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