Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Author: howard2

When Cryptographers Die

There were many strong ciphers that seemed impossible to decipher, but only one has the name "Great Cipher." The Great Cipher stood undecipherable for 200 years. Created by Antoine and Bonaventure Rossignol, it was used by King Louis XIV as a way to keep his secrets hidden, "protect details of his plans, plots, and political schemes." He was impressed by the cipher and the Rossignols' so much he gave the father-son duo offices near his apartments.

What made the Great Cipher so great was the combination of its use of syllables as cipher text in the form of numbers, and the death of both Antoine and Bonaventure. The Great Cipher was secure because it turned basic french syllables into cipher text into numbers, specifically 587 of them. As mentioned before, 200 years went by before it was deciphered. Many people tried their hand at the cipher and ultimately failed, died, or gave up before they could solve it. Along with the death of the Rossignols, there was no one to read the messages. This lead to messages being unreadable for years, thus securing the cipher for years until Etienne Bazeries deciphered the Great Cipher. This still took him a total of 3 years of work of using various techniques. Some of these techniques led to gibberish and complete restarts of his journey. He finally considered the numbers could be syllables, then he found a single word, "les ennemis," from a cluster of numbers that appeared several times. From here he could examine the other parts of cipher texts and decipher them.

The Great Cipher is remembered as one of the most secure ciphers in all of history. The techniques used to decipher it are still used in other deciphering techniques, and it is one of the "forefathers" of today's unsolved ciphers.

The Fight for Freedom and Privacy

During a heated debate in chapter 11 of Little Brother, the main character, Marcus Yallow, felt the need to read something to put his point across. "'It's short. "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."'" Of course this passage is from the Declaration of Independence, and I believe Marcus uses it in this debate to defend not only the hippies or Yippies in question, but the group of people proclaiming "TAKE IT BACK!," at the concert.

From Marcus' use of this passage multiple times more in the book, and other grandiose speeches about fighting for rights, one can take that he want a true freedom. His infatuation with freedom leaves him as the most politically charged characters in the book. He is the main reason that as we read this today, we can notice the almost prophetic political statement of today's government watch on web usage. The situation may not be extreme as in mentioned in the book, but it gives a look into what could be a worse case scenario: a complete misuse of governmental power that leads to a major part of government being cast out of an entire state.

The passage from the Declaration of Independence is from times of distress of early America. There needed to be a change in the way people were treated as citizens. We can only hope that now, as current day Americans, that we can protect ourselves and our privacy as we see fit, so that we will not need a drastic change.

Is Possible Student Safety More Important than Student Privacy?

In the article, "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives," by Michael Morris, one can draw that Morris argues that if universities began using data mining as a form of preemptive measure to predict "the propensity for a person's future behavior," it would increase the safety of the students from threats.  Data mining is a form of data examination of network usage that can be used to create new information. While data mining can be very important and a key to improving public safety, there is a fine line between analyzing the network usage of someone, and invading personal privacy of those who wish to keep it. I agree with Morris' argument, but only to a degree.

There are a couple reasons for people to not want their university surfing through your data usage. People search up, read, or watch things that wouldn't necessarily point them out as a threat to society, but still want to keep that sought up information to themselves. They also enjoy the pleasure of knowing or believing that they are not being spied on as they navigate social networks or the internet in general.

I agree with these reasons, however, I do believe that data mining, when used in a way that does not forfeit privacy without need, can be effective in stopping violence before it starts. Data mining that tracks extremely dangerous individuals can save countless lives. Using it wisely is the key to not crossing that fine line of protecting students, and invading their privacy. As I say that, you may be asking yourself, where do I draw this line? That honestly depends on the threat level of the situation, the location of the institute, and the overall attitude of the people that are possible non threats that are also being data mined. Let it be known, however, that the data mining of a person who clearly is not a threat, is a clear and direct violation of that person's privacy, no matter how effective a data mining is.

The article begs a question. Should we as a people value our privacy over our safety? This is a very perspective driven question. I believe that not one man or woman can effectively answer this question for another. Nevertheless, this should not stop the drive to keep people safe while keeping their comfort intact, as both are important to us as human beings.

 

Bloody Ciphers

There is good merit in regards to reminding one’s self to the fact that they are never safe in comfort. Mary Queen of Scots and Anthony Babington communicated with this “comfort,” while a double agent, Gilbert Gifford, was secretly taking their encrypted messages to one of England’s leading cryptanalyst and cipher secretary, Thomas Phelippes. To the eyes of maybe her jailor, or another untrained person, the cipher may have been unbreakable, probably impossible, but it was dismantled by Phelippes.

The nomenclature used by Queen Mary and Babington had abstract alphabetic, null, and word symbols used to masquerade the details of every message between the Queen and her henchmen. The false security given by this weak encryption let Queen Mary and Babington fall into a complacency that made them feel that they can write openly and freely about a murderous plot to kill Mary’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. The henchmen to Mary and Mary herself were all executed for the crimes of plotting Queen Elizabeth’s death.

Queen Mary’s complacency to write at her pleasure because of her weak encryption lead to her execution, but having little-to-no encryption keeps pressure on a message’s sender and receiver. This pressure does not allow either person to feel comfortable giving too much detail in a encrypted message, out of fear of the message being deciphered. If a message written by someone who is very cautious is also intercepted, one can assume that this message will not shed light onto any major situation that would sabotage a planned action. This implies that people that attempt to use cryptography for secret communication would use it in a way that should hide every possible detail of a message. They use hiding techniques such as steganography to keep messages hidden, and they use almost unbreakable encryptions on their ciphers.

These people know that they can be caught, and their secrets can be released. These are the prices they pay. With all the possible negative outcomes with this form of communication, especially when used in the fashion of Queen Mary and Babington, there should be no room for comfort.

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