Not Saussure

September 4, 2006

Spys and Codes

Filed under: Cryptography, press, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 10:06 am

Via Boing Boing

German spies hid secret messages in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in an attempt to outwit Allied censors during World War Two, according to British security service files released on Monday.

Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings.

They posted the letters to their handlers, hoping that counterespionage experts would be fooled by the seemingly innocent pictures.

But British secret service officials were aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them.

The book — part of a batch of British secret service files made public for the first time — included an example of a code hidden in a drawing of three young models.

“Heavy reinforcements for the enemy expected hourly,” reads a message disguised as a decorative pattern in the stitching of their gowns, hats and blouses. – Spies fashioned messages in drawings of models – Sep 3, 2006

Hmm. Something sounds wrong here; seems an odd combination a very laborious and time-consuming method of encoding — drawing the sketches — and a slow method communication — the post — to communicate what’s presumably an urgent message about reinforcements expected ‘hourly’. If the info were genuinely, presumably the reinforcements would have arrived well before the message, and probably before the sketches were finished.

And then the information is so vague as to be useless when it actually does arrive; what are these reinforcements — troops, armour, planes? How many’s ‘heavy’? I can just see someone in the Abwehr muttering darkly about getting this particular agent re-assigned to the Eastern Front when he gets the chance.

I wonder if the example’s actually from a MI5 counter-intelligence training manual, warning people of possible techniques, and, indeed, if it was ever used.


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