Aspidistra was a World War II man-in-the-middle attack. The vulnerability that made it possible was that German broadcast stations were mostly broadcasting the same content from a central source; but during air raids, transmitters in the target area were switched off to prevent them being used for radio direction-finding of the target.
The exploit involved the very powerful (500KW) Aspidistra transmitter, coupled to a directional antenna farm. With that power, they could make it sound like a local station in the target area.
With a staff of fake announcers, a fake German band, and recordings of recent speeches from high-ranking Nazis, they would smoothly switch from merely relaying the German network to emulating it with their own staff. They could then make modifications to news broadcasts, occasionally creating panic and confusion.
German transmitters were switched off during air raids, to prevent them from being used as navigational aids for bombers. But many were connected into a network and broadcast the same content. When a targeted transmitter switched off, Aspidistra began transmitting on their original frequency, initially retransmitting the German network broadcast as received from a still-active station. As a deception, false content and pro-Allied propaganda would be inserted into the broadcast. The first such "intrusion" was carried out on March 25, 1945, as shown in the operations order at the right.
On March 30, 1945, "Aspidistra" intruded into the Berlin and Hamburg frequencies warning that the Allies were trying to spread confusion by sending false telephone messages from occupied towns to unoccupied towns. On April 8, 1945, "Aspidistra" intruded into the Hamburg and Leipzig channels to warn of forged banknotes in circulation. On April 9, 1945, there were announcements encouraging people to evacuate to seven bomb-free zones in central and southern Germany. All these announcements were false.
The German radio network tried announcing "The enemy is broadcasting counterfeit instructions on our frequencies. Do not be misled by them. Here is an official announcement of the Reich authority." The Aspidistra station made similar announcements, to cause confusion and make the official messages ineffective.
EDITED TO ADD (11/13): Photos here.
Posted on November 10, 2008 at 7:07 AM • 40 Comments