All The Tech We’ve Used To Intercept Every Kind Of Communication

All The Tech We’ve Used To Intercept Every Kind Of Communication

Spy cameras are probably the most axiomatic gadgets when we talk about intelligence-gathering techniques. But intercepting and decoding messages is just as important as taking pictures. Here’s a look at all the devices spies have used to tap into voice, mail, phone, radio, morse, electronic messages and other signals.

Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

This letter removal device was used in World War II to take letters from their envelopes without opening the seals.

Picture: CIA

The bombe, developed and designed by Alan Turing, was an electromechanical device used by British cryptologists to decipher German Enigma-encrypted secret messages during World War II.

Picture: NSA

CIA used the “Belly Buster” hand-crank audio drill during the late 1950s and early 1960s, to make holes into masonry for implanting audio devices.

Picture: CIA

This ivory flaps and deals kit for advanced users were used for the surreptitious opening of letters and packages during the 1960s.

Picture: CIA

British listening device kit used in World War II for intercepting phone calls and private conversations.

Picture: Heritage Auctions

Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Radio Research Unit conduct intercept of Morse code transmissions from both fixed and mobile stations.

Picture: US Army

Telefunken PE-484, was a beautifully crafted body-wearable miniature direction finder from the late Fifties. It could be carried inconspicuously under the operator’s clothing and was intended for tracking down clandestine radio stations. Awesome wrist-watch field strength indicator included!

Picture: Crypto Museum

US Ambassador to the U.N., Henry Cabot Lodge, shows the Security Council in New York a Soviet listening device.

Funny story here: Lodge said the Soviet authorities managed to plant the bug in the office of US Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson in Moscow. The wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States presented by a group of Russians was hollow and contained a hidden microphone. (May 26, 1960)

Picture: John Rooney/AP

Soyka was a Soviet made wide-range body-wearable intercept receiver that was used to track down clandestine radio stations and to intercept communication between agents.

Picture: Crypto Museum

Gun type listening device from the Sixties.

Picture: Dan Grossi/AP

Jitka, a telephone tapping equipment, used by Czechoslovak State Security in the Sixties.

Picture: Shaddack/Wikimedia Commons

Steve Soltesz (8) and his toy listening device called The Big Ear able to pickup conversations 200 feet away (1966, Detroit).

Funny story here: Steve got in trouble with his neighbours who called the police and said he’d better put his Ear away in the attic where it was until his birthday. Steves dad, Ernest, refused. Police called the prosecutors office, they called the FBI who called a US District Attorney. Ruling: The device is legal under Federal Law.

Picture: AP

The Soviet (now Ukrainian) T-shaped Radio telescope field, the world’s largest low-frequency radio telescope at decametre wavelengths. It was built in the early 1970s near the village of Hrakovo. Beside scientific purposes it was allegedly used for communications intercept as well.

Picture: CPCP – Братерство. Мистецтво, Київ, 1972.

Receiver 2170, developed in the early 1980s, and heavily used by the East German secret police to intercept domestic and foreign radio signals.

Picture: Crypto Museum

Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

April 11, 1987: Soviet security official shows a display of listening devices he said were placed by US agents in the new Soviet embassy complex in Washington.

Picture: Ira Schwarz/AP

Kolibrie was a car-phone intercept receiver developed by the Politie Verbindingsdienst (PVD) (Police Signals Service) in The Netherlands in the early 1990s. It was intended for the interception of criminal conversations on the Dutch NMT-900 cellular network, known as ATF-3. It was gradually phased out when GSM became more popular.

Picture: Crypto Museum

2007: Filipino police investigator shows a wiretapping device and a tape recorder found connected to the telephone line leading to the residence of former President Corazon Aquino.

Picture: AP

Sailors on the watch-floor of the Navy Cyber Defence Operations Command monitor, analyse, detect and defensively respond to unauthorised activity within US Navy information systems and computer networks.

Picture: Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Corey Lewis/US Navy

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Ryan Allshouse uses the intrusion detection system to monitor unclassified network activity from the automated data processing workspace aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

Picture: Rick Naystatt/US Navy

Flottendienstboot A 50, an Oste class ELINT (electronic signals intelligence) and reconnaissance ship, of the German Navy.

Picture: B.Wilke/Bundeswehr

Royal Air Force Menwith Hill, a Royal Air Force station near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, the largest electronic monitoring, communications intercept and missile warning station in the world, allegedly an element of the Echelon system.

Special thanks to the Crypto Museum, check out their huge and fantastic collection of spy gadgets!