Spy vs Spy Week

Spook-y Airline

The iconic image above of a helicopter evacuating American and Vietnamese personnel from Saigon minutes before the city fell into Vietcong control is ingrained in our minds. That helicopter, it should be noted, was not a military helicopter. Well, not technically.
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Spy vs Spy Week, Vintage Celluloid

Vintage Celluloid

What the hell was all that about?

Yes, it has been a hard week here at Atomic Toasters, but let’s put all that behind us now and watch a few cartoons.

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Spy vs Spy Week, User Input

User Input: Sticky Traps

Anna Chapman, an actual Russian (not Soviet) honeypot.

Earlier this morning, Techie spoke of the modern “honeypot” systems that are designed to lure in hackers — well, not real hackers, let’s be honest, mostly script-kiddies like Tiger-M@te, the charming fellow who tried to fake hacking our server some time ago. That’s all very […]

Spy vs Spy Week

Know All The Codes!


Codes, Ciphers & Other Cryptic & Clandestine Communication by Fred B. Wrixon is a spectacularly thorough examination of how people communicate in secret. Its subtitle, “making and breaking secret messages from hieroglyphs to the internet,” is a very succinct description of a very verbose and wide-ranging book. To a layperson, Mr. Wrixon’s book could easily apppear to be a textbook from a military academy. It covers everything you’d ever want or need to know about codes and ciphers, in both theory and practice. But there is very few dry spots in his presentation. He smartly weaves history and technical theory together, using specific past examples of secret codes (both successful and not) to illustrate each of his discussions of specific code types.
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Spy vs Spy Week, Startup

Startup: Fight fire with fire

Hackers are, really, dumb stuffed bears.

The original honeypot was a sexy Russian woman trained in the art of seduction. Now that the cold war is over, the term is used mainly in computing to talk about hacker traps. A honeypot is, at its core, a computer set up specifically to get hacked. […]

Spaceheads, Spy vs Spy Week

Corona: Caught in Midair

After Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union, the US Air Force began trying to find ways to spy on the commie bastards without letting our boys get touched. This was the genesis of the SR-71 and of spy satellites. One of the first was publicly called Discoverer, privately called Corona, and took pictures of Russkieland for over ten years.
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Spy vs Spy Week

Making OXCART

A lineup of A-12s, quite possibly at Groom Lake

The U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was developed and became operational in the mid 1950s, and while it was successful, CIA officials had predicted that the aircraft’s useful lifetime for flights over the USSR would only be around 18 months. In its first flights over Soviet territory, the U-2 was detected and tracked very successfully by their air defense warning system. Efforts were made to make the U-2 less vulnerable, and new advances in radar-absorbent materials were tried and were successful to a degree, but not enough to solve the problem. A number of different analyses determined that supersonic speed made radar detection less likely, and it was decided that an extremely fast, high flying aircraft that also incorporated the best stealth technology available was the approach to take.

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Spy vs Spy Week, User Input

User Input: To The Death!

You know, it's really hard to avoid using these images…

When we look back on the intelligence battles of the Cold War, it becomes pretty easy to boil the whole thing down to a head-to-head CIA vs. KGB battle. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, those were the […]

Spy vs Spy Week, Startup

Startup: Necessary Condescension – Spy Plane Edition

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Nevada mountains sold separately.

Last week on Necessary Condescension, we explained the difference between an aileron roll, a barrel roll, and a cinnamon roll. To recap, an aileron roll is what you do when Peppy yells at you to do a barrel roll, a barrel roll is a very cool strafing loop in mid-air, and a cinnamon roll for breakfast explains the man-boobs I have to accompany my beer gut. We also said we would later explain what flight has in common with dribble glasses. What we didn’t say was that we don’t have an engineering degree and may not be qualified to write this article, but you made it this far so you may as well keep going.

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Spy vs Spy Week

FP-45 Liberator: A Strategic Gun

This is the FP-45 Liberator. It’s extremely cheap, only fires one shot, and had an effective range of about 25 feet. A million of them were made in a two month span between June and August 1942 by a General Motors subsidiary. Why would you build such a thing?
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