The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

A Child helping hand in War

I found the podcast on Rose Greenhow to be the most interesting. Not because it had very elaborate and scientific ways to encrypt messages but for the exact opposite. I was amazed by the simplistic ways she found to encrypt messages while living in the Union capital of DC. Sending messages by sewing different colors into quilts and using her daughter to relay messages from their tall tree all right under the noses of the North. The hidden messages in braids of girls and the insoles of  couriers were so simple yet hid messages for many years.

One way the podcaster made the podcast rather interesting was that he centered the story around little Rose instead of a history lesson on the older Rose. Also the music in the background keeps the story from being very monotonous and he also included sounds such as gunshots and other sound effects.

All of the documents used to make this podcast were cited below the actual podcast and he described how each one helped and which ones were the most helpful. Also the music is given a title and musicians name. After listening to this I would start my podcast with brief background focusing on most recent and most interesting items. I would then move into the actual cryptography behind my topic and how that has been or affected cryptography today. I would also try to find music that would play off of my topic and enhance the experience.

Never Become Lazy and False Genius During War

The Germans had created one of the strongest ciphers of seen with the invention of the enigma. If they had kept standard practices and routine shifts in keys the cipher would have been impossible to decipher. The Germans originally planned on continued randomization of the day keys and plugboard settings. As the war went on, the randomness decreased and they began to use the same day keys and with more of a pattern. The Allied forces were able to build on the Polish achievements and spot these patterns, or cillies as they called them. Often times the same key would be used repeatedly just for the sake of easiness, disregarding the need for more security.

Another point of weakness in the German enigma was that methods in which they believed made their machine more secure actually made it easier to decrypt. Their idea that never making a swap between adjacent letters actually eliminated two possibilities on the plugboard. Also, never allowing a scrambler to be in the same spot two days in a row made sure that the same number was never repeated or that a scrambler was never in the same place twice. The codebook compilers reduced by half the number of possible scrambler arrangements as stated in The Code Book. This greatly reduced the combinations that codebreakers at Bletchley Park had to attempt.

The Germans had an impenetrable cipher that was flawed with human error. The Allieds Tipex and SIGABA ciphers both went unbroken throughout the entire war due to their increased complexity and diligence with sticking to proper protocol.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

While German overconfidence in the enigma did eventually contribute to the cracking of the code and their subsequent downfall,  the use of mathematicians and scientist as opposed to linguists and classicist ultimately made the most difference. Many mathematicians and scientists are interdisciplinary. For example, Alan Turing was both experienced in math and building machines. Being interdisciplinary helped the breaking of the Enigma to be approached in both a creative and a logical sense. As opposed to the linguist and classists, that may just look for the patterns within the code, mathematicians and scientists will find the algorithm within the code and  the applicability behind the code and then find a method to apply it broadly. But while there were many mathematicians and scientists, Bletchley park was also made up of "an authority on porcelain, a curator from Prague Museum, the British chess champion and numerous bridge experts" (Singh, 178). This gives breaking the code many different ways of thinking and approaches. I think this mixture of knowledge filled the need to balance both creativity and logic. This is a balance that is needed to break any code. I also think that their motivations behind breaking the codes also had a huge impact. For the British it was a matter of breaking this codes in order to save more lives and keep their country safe. On the other hand, the original way of finding out more about the Enigma was through Hans-Thilo Schmidt's want for revenge on his brother and damage of his country's security. So while the Bletchley park codebreakers were compelled to figure out Enigma for their own countries' sake, Schmidt was driven by hate for his country and his own brother.

Ben Franklin on Liberty and Safety

The quote by Ben Franklin "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" is in my opinion an excellent statement. I typed the quote into google to make sure it truly was by Franklin and the description that popped up stated that this quote is used many times during discussions about advanced technology and government surveillance. I did some more research on to the quote and in reality Franklin was not speaking of the liberty and safety that we associate the quote with. Franklin was discussing a land taxation dispute and was arguing pro-tax and pro-defense. As stated in the NPR article I read, it is not the exact opposite of what people think the quote means but closer to the opposite than to common belief.

The person who wrote the quote did so without knowing the context behind it but it shows that they are pro-privacy. Benjamin Wittes, the man who explained the true meaning of the quote to NPR, says that he sees no problem with the quote being used in the modern day interpretation. He sees the quote as a form of showing the ongoing dispute between "government power and individual liberties."

I think this is a great representation of what the board is saying as a whole. There are many people that are willing to sacrifice anything to be safe because they believe they have nothing to hide so why not share it. Others think that you shouldn't have to sacrifice any of your rights to freedom, and the last group is those that only see fit to part with "some" privacy. While many have very strong opinions about this topic it is clear from the "all over the place" feel of the board that we see how different our ideas are and the need for discussion on what a good median is.

Can you be safe when you make yourself vulnerable?

This display highlights an overly important issue in today's America. The topic of choosing of what is more important, privacy or security, has sparked controversy and heated debate in all parts of our country. I believe the passing of the USA Patriot Act was needed after 9/11. I also believe that the act of terrorism should drive the examination of phones, emails, medical and financial records, but only to an extent. The government should only go after people that show that they can be a threat. This leaves privacy in a non respected state.

Now in modern day America, some people feel that their lives have been intruded on by the government. Their privacy is stripped by the agencies like the FBI and the NSA. Additionally, with the installation of new laws that state that companies can sell an individual's internet history, tension between people that want privacy and the government has reached a peak.

An intriguing question asked by the display is "What would you give up to feel safer?" The answer of course is going to be different for each individual person. This is true every person comes from different walks to life, and the fact that the display asks to share your thought on the topic of privacy versus security is fantastic. This sparks much-needed conversation that will lead Americans to new perspectives on what we want to keep private and how we want to be kept safe.

Essential Liberty vs. Temporary Privacy

The first quote I noticed on the board was the Ben Franklin quote stating "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." This seems like a perfect and very compelling quote for the pro-privacy argument, especially since it was said by an important figure in United State's history. But in actuality it is used largely out of context; after some further investigation, I came across an NPR article about the actual context of the quote. Robert Siegel points out that this quotes is more of a "pro-taxation" and "pro-defense spending" quote since is was in response to the legislature trying to tax the Penn family for property. While this quote has lost its context in the 21st century debate, I think it still serve a good purpose in putting many people's thoughts into words . It portrays the idea that being willing to trade some freedom for some confinement feels inherently un-American and goes against everything the nation was built upon. I personally still have mixed feelings towards the pro-privacy, pro-security debate. I think that Little Brother showed the absolute extreme of invasion of privacy that could occur. Since it was so extreme, it seemed unrealistic to me and has left me on the fence regarding pro-privacy. While I would rather not have people reading my personal text messages, I can understand being pro-security and being willing to give up "as much (privacy) as necessary to feel safe."

This is the NPR article:

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.

Resources on Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Some resources relevant to our discussion of plagiarism and academic integrity...

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.

Protection from Unreasonable Search and Seizure

The Constitution of the United States of America exists to protect the citizens of this nation from the government. Indeed, the Fourth Amendment states that citizens shall not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures by the government without a warrant. Data mining on college campuses violates this Amendment and is clearly an illegal search. There are soldiers are fighting around the country as I write this, working to keep us safe and protect our liberties that are exclusively found in America. They aren't risking their lives so the government can have more control over the people, but rather to secure the liberties of every citizen. And while the argument is often made that these searches in the form of data mining are designed to keep us safe, in reality they invade our privacy and our rights.

In Michael Morris's essay entitled "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives," it is evident that Morris is in favor of mining student data. For instance, he says by utilizing data mining software, colleges "will surely come much closer to that goal" of preventing crime. Morris argues that due to the fact that there have been so many attacks on college campuses, we should do anything to protect students, even looking at their internet data. But without a 100% detection rate, innocent students will be undoubtedly be victimized by this software and labeled as potential attackers, even if they have done nothing wrong. This violates our right to due process and goes against everything that we stand for as a country.

For me, the argument of privacy vs. security can be a very personal one. Having a father who was in the Marines and countless friends who have served, I often think about young men and women risking their lives for our freedom. Sure we could strictly monitor everything that everyone does, but is that worth neglecting the very freedoms that we worked so hard to earn back in 1776 and defend every day? I do not believe it does. If we were to search everyone's house then we could find people making bombs before they used them, but first of all that isn't legal, and second of all that isn't the way that we want to live. In the argument of privacy vs. security, I strongly disagree with Morris's argument and firmly stand on the side of privacy and keeping our rights in tact.

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