Mysterious Russian shortwave radio station UVB-76, known as The Buzzer, normally broadcasts nothing but indecipherable beeps and numbers. But recently it has started to take music requests and post memes, after hackers seemingly took control of the channel for their own purposes. “Aboba” a voice repeatedly said over the station earlier today, before proceeding to blast Russian rave music.
The Buzzer, a Russian numbers station in use since the Cold War, became a sensation on the internet in the late 2000s thanks to 4Chan, and ever since people have wondered about the channel’s origins and purpose. It’s been especially good fodder for online creepypasta and paranormal enthusiasts because of the mysterious voices that occasionally read out nonsensical chains of numbers and words.
This week, however, it was home to Guy Fawkes masks, Discord pings, and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” as listeners gathered around YouTube streams for The Buzzer to witness the ghostly mashup. “The result is an absolutely bizarre and haunting mix of music that sounds like the end of the world, interspersed with crude and political messages,” wrote Twitter user ThePatanoiac.
As Vice reports, the images are the result of audio put through a spectrum analyzer. That’s how the hackers were able to share everything from trollface memes to coded messages. And then, on January 20, 2022 at approximately 7:34 p.m. ET, everyone listening to the channel got Rickrolled.
Conspiracy theories at one time pegged The Buzzer as a “Dead Man Switch,” meaning that if it ever stopped broadcasting, a nuclear war would be imminent. In reality, it’s probably a vestige of an outdated comms strategy for the Russian military. But the fact that no one has ever claimed ownership of the signal and it continues to beep with all the dread of a Fallout game has kept fascination with it alive. And apparently also made it a prime target for radio pirates.
While the hijacked playlist appeared to go dead overnight, the music and voices returned this morning. According to a screenshot of a possible exchange with one of the pirates, which may be real or just another shitpost, they had to take a break because their transmitters were overheating. On this morning’s return, listeners are questioning where the pirates might be located, while others are suggesting things more grim. “War is here,” wrote one YouTube user in the livestream, followed by a smile emoji. As Vice points out, the hacks come as Russia prepares to potentially invade Ukraine.