The Spy Gadgets of the Real Spies

Probably the most infamous real-life spy gadget is the umbrella used by the Bulgarian secret services – with KGB help – to kill dissident writer and broadcaster Georgi Markov. KGB technicians converted the tip of an ordinary umbrella into a silenced gun that could fire a pellet containing a lethal dose of ricin, a deadly poison. We have all seen these in the films, but actually over the last century there have been many incredible real life spy gadgets used by international spies all over the world. Many were extremely lethal and others were simply ingenious and at the cutting edge of the technology available at the time

Other than the poison-tipped umbrella other spy gadgets worthy of note include an exploding briefcase that was designed to hold important documents, but doubles as a booby trap to any enemy agent that attempted to open it. In the 1950’s a Soviet agent defected to the Americans and revealed a cigarette-case gun. This cleverly crafted lethal spy device fired cyanide tipped bullets and was clearly designed to undertake an assassination. One of my favourites that convinced the senate to tighten up laws on recording people was the microphone in an olive. The tiny microphone was concealed inside a fake olive, perfect for placement in a vodka Martini because the toothpick acted as an antenna. Range was only about thirty feet, but an incredibly tiny spy gadget for the time.

Probably the most recent real spy gadget incident to hit mainstream news was the rock bug. In 2006, Russian television claimed it had footage of British embassy officials transmitting information via a receiver disguised as a rock in a Moscow street. The British government denied the claim.

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I am sure that the real spies use versions of the spy gadgets that are on offer to us all. Maybe they have been advanced and fine-tuned to make their operation more sophisticated, but the fact remains that these devices have their place not only in the modern world, but through the history of at least the last 70 years