The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Author: Ross

Taking a structuralist tactic, legal scholar Alan Westin argues that privacy is “the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others," (boyd, 59).

With all of the definitions and specifics of privacy that dana boyd gives in Chapter Two of her book It's Complicated, I think Alan Westin's is the most sound. Many argue that privacy is the right to be left alone or the right for someone to keep personal information to themselves, but I think a better definition is that privacy is the ability to control how and how much personal information is made public, which is exactly how Alan Westin defines it. This definition is the best one because when teens post personal information on social media websites, they are not depriving themselves of privacy as some parents think; they are still in control of when, how, and to what extent their personal information is posted on these sites.

The reason many teens dislike when their parents look at their texts without permission or go onto their Facebook accounts is because they have no control over what their parents might see, which is a complete invasion of privacy by the parents. On the other hand, teens should not be bothered by their parents viewing their social media pages from their own social media accounts. Teens should assume that whatever pictures get put on the Internet are there permanently and almost anyone can access them. Teens have the ability to control what they put on public social media sites, so they cannot be annoyed by their parents viewing and commenting on their Facebook picture if they choose to be friends with their parents on Facebook. Teens are in control of what information they post on public social media sites, so they have no one to blame but themselves if they are bothered by how much information their parents can see on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page.

The Allies Work Better Under Pressure

It is no secret that Allied code breakers bested German code makers during World War II which contributed enormously to an Allied victory in the war. Germany's overconfidence in the strength of its Enigma cipher definitely contributed to the Allies' code breaking success, but another main contribution was the pressure that Germany forced against the Allies. The Allies were on their heels trying to defend against Germany, which led countries to band together and individual cryptographers to band together to fight a common enemy. The necessity for the Allies to break Enigma in order to thwart the Axis' attacks brought Poland, England, France, and America together which gave them the resources to crack Enigma and Purple (Japan's encryption method).

Without the pressure the Axis powers were putting the Allies under, they would not have felt the urgency to break Enigma and Purple. The Allies won this war on intelligence because they were on the defense and needed to break Enigma and Purple in order to turn the tables against the Axis, while the Axis got complacent and confident about their machines because they were able to advance through Europe and the Pacific without their code being decrypted. Since the Allies were under such pressure, they had to find a way to gain the advantage. Therefore, countries such as Poland and England teamed up and individuals such as the mathematicians at Bletchley Park teamed up to crack the Enigma and Purple ciphers. Without the pressure that the Axis' exerted on the Allies, the Allies would not have been so desperate to find any way possible to crack Germany and Japan's seemingly unbreakable ciphers.

The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms

Not only is Elonka Dunin able to solve extremely difficult codes and ciphers, but she is also able to create them and teach others the techniques to solve them, which truly shows a mastery of the skill. She illustrates this talent in her book that was released in 2006 called The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms. I really want to read this book because it includes a wide range of fun brain teasers such as secret messages, substitution ciphers, historical ciphers used by Julius Caesar or JFK, etc. She also includes tips to solve some of the most famous ciphers in history such as the fourth section of Kryptos or the Zodiac Killer ciphers.

The book seems like a fun and interactive way to extend my knowledge and cryptography, and it also relates to some of the things we have discussed in class this year. Of course, it include Kryptos which Elonka Dunin came in to teach us a little about, but we have also learned about the Caesar ciphers (substitution ciphers where the alphabet is just shifted), and we probably have the tools to solve some of the low to medium levels of ciphers that she includes in her text. Overall, I am excited to read her book because it will be an interactive way to learn how to solve more difficult ciphers and extend my knowledge on the history of cryptography.

Sacrifice Few to Save Many

It is extremely hard to discern whether or not Admiral Hall's decision to withhold the information contained in the Zimmerman Telegram from America is ethical or not. At first, it seems selfish to let Americans die because they are blind to the Germany and its allies' aggression towards them, especially from an American's perspective just so Britain can maintain the secret that they can decode German messages. But, sometimes I believe it is ethical to sacrifice the lives of a few to save the many. If it were not for Britain's strategic move to steal the unencrypted message that the President of Mexico received in order to conceal their cryptanalysis breakthrough, Germany may have created a different, more secure code that could have prolonged the war. This prolonging of the war would have ultimately led to more death than if Britain hid the fact that they were able to break Germany's code and use it to their advantage in thwarting Germany's advances. As an American, it is hard to accept the fact that Britain had the technology at its disposal to save some American lives during the war, but you have to look at the long term effects. Saving those American lives could have easily prolonged the war and costed the Allies many more fatalities, so I believe Britain made its decision based on the greater good of the Allies and made the ethical choice.

How Much Privacy Will Students Concede?

Data mining is a new, innovative technique that major companies have incorporated into their marketing strategies. This technology uses specific algorithms to identify trends and convert them to usable information, so that the only advertisements that pop up are relevant to your wants and needs. This powerful technology has many more capabilities that could make an impact on the lives of many as Michael Morris explains in his article "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives."

Although mining data could predict future suicidal or homicidal actions of students, people are still hesitant to allow this invasion of privacy because they believe it is not anyone's right to access that information. This debate of security vs. privacy has been going on for a few years now since the technology has become available to us. I plan to write about this article for my paper because I believe that this new technology should be used to prevent tragedies from occurring. Even if it does invade your privacy a little, that should not matter if you have nothing to hide. I feel strongly about this because I believe it can save lives, and we should do everything in our power to save just one life.

Evolution of Technology's Affect on Cryptanalysis

Information is at a premium in the 21st century. Any person of any age can discover the necessary information in seconds with the click of a button. Throughout history, as technology evolved, cryptanalysis became progressively simpler. The sophisticated level of mathematics, statistics, and linguistics required to be a good frequency analyst became more accessible with the evolution of the internet. It is so simple now for an amateur cryptanalyst to use an application such as Microsoft Word to count the frequency of each character in a ciphertext and to use Google Translate to help decrypt a message in a different language. Amateur cryptanalysts have so many useful tools to help them find shortcuts in almost any decryption methods. Codebreakers no longer have to work long, tedious hours just to verify that their theories are correct. Decryption methods that took the mathematicians days to work on now take hours, which gives amateur cryptanalysts much more time to test different theories. Now, as the new age of codebreakers begins to perfect frequency analysis which has been around for centuries, they can go forward and discover completely new ways to analyze encrypted messages. As technology evolves, so will cryptanalysis because the accessibility of information will get more efficient.

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