Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: October 2019 Page 3 of 7

Importance of Personal Privacy

People truly deserve the right to encrypt their messages in order to guarantee their privacy. Private is an important part of normal citizens. These citizens behave well and obey the laws, so they deserve the right to keep their privacy. Sending email is what people will almost do every day, which means this is a basic event in our lives. If this can not be realized, the trust between each other will collapse since everyone is under the exposure. What’s more, e-mail makes communication between people easier and more efficient than before. If there is no privacy in sending e-mail, there will be fewer people using this tool. The technology needs to develop, but it must be build based on people’s requirements. Privacy must be one of these requirements and it is in a high position. If people cannot possess their basic demand, people will not be intended for supporting or using this technology. Privacy also provides the feeling of being safe. Without safety, there will be more chaos in society since they are always watched by others and this creates the emotion of fear. In order to gain freedom back again, people may choose different ways to protest, so chaos will be produced. If we cannot have the method encrypted our messages, the company should do that for us and be responsible for their customs since it is we who use the app so that they can make money.

With an advance in technology, the use of computers for encryption technology wasn’t just limited to the military and government. Increasingly, civilian businesses began using encryption and cryptography to encode their messages. In an attempt to standardize encryption across the United States, the National Bureau of Standards looked to Lucifer. This encryption system developed at IBM was so strong that it offered the possibility of cryptography that couldn’t be broken even by the NSA. The NSA didn’t want civilians to use encryptions that it couldn’t break, so the NSA successfully lobbied to weaken Lucifer by reducing the number of possible keys. The adoption of this weakened Lucifer meant that the civilian world had access to strong but not optimal security, meaning that the NSA could still break their encryptions if it needed to do.

The NSA was justified in pushing for the adoption of a mechanism that they could break even if it meant less security for the civilian world. Allowing civilians and businesses to gain strong encryption mechanisms that no one but them could decipher would have meant an increase in criminal activity that governments couldn’t even begin to monitor. This would have reduced the safety of the populace as a whole. When living in a society we often give up some rights for the greater good, and it should be noted that no right is absolute – my right to free speech doesn’t allow me to yell fire in a crowded theater for example. Thus by merely knowing that the NSA can still decrypt messages that businesses send can often be a deterrence to secretive or illegal activity.

Critics like to point out that giving the NSA the ability to decrypt any message they would like would be giving the government far too much power. But it should be noted that even while the NSA has the means to decipher an encryption, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. There are billions of texts, emails, and calls exchanged each day in our world – the NSA has neither the means nor the resources to monitor every single message. Thus the NSA must prioritize by possible criminal activity: criminal activity they cannot detect and stop without the use of decryption. Thus, it is not only important but essential that the NSA be able to decrypt the messages of the business world in order to deter criminal activity and better protect our society.

 

Blog Assignment #9

For your nextblog assignment, write a post between 200 and 400 words that responds to one of the reading questions for Singh Chapter 6.

Please (1) give your post a descriptive title, (2) assign it to the “Student Posts” category, and (3) give it at least three useful tags. Your post is due by 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 23rd.

Secure? So you thought…

World War II was a well choreographed ballet of air raids, land advances and U-boat attacks that required coordination across nations. The element of surprise was vital for successful attacks; maintaining secrecy in communications was absolutely crucial in winning the war. Because there were so many operations all across the globe involved in one of two sides, each nation developed their own coded system of transmitting information. After traditional encryption techniques were cracked in World War I, World War II demanded a whole new system of cryptographic methods that had not yet been solved. Both the Germans and the Japanese turned to machines to meet these new standards. The Nazi used Enigma machine and the Japanese employed Purple machine were both inventions that digitalized the encryption process for the first time. While the British worked on Enigma at Bletchley Park, the American codebreakers focuses their efforts on the Pacific powers. They worked on cracking the Japanese code that came to be known as Purple. The disadvantage they faced, unlike the British who had a version of the Enigma machine, was that no one knew how the encryption machine had been constructed. The cipher text it produced, was determined by many nations to be unbreakable, but the American cryptographers prevailed and worked for months to crack the code and ultimately succeeded. In wrongfully assuming their communications were secure, the enemy provided America (and Britain) with imperative intelligence, allowing us to evade attacks and plan successful missions of our own, ultimately leading to our victory on the beaches of Normandy.

So Hard it Broke the Soul

As a student of this course, I have quickly learned that breaking codes and deciphering texts is not the easiest of tasks, and the harder the codes become, the harder it becomes to crack them (obviously).

Chapter 5 of Liza Mundy’s book “Code Girls” describes the beginnings of women working as code breakers for the Allies in World War II and just how difficult it actually was. Working on a day to day basis with a group of women where only a small handful were able to work at the expectations of the military, this became increasingly frustrating as more American ships started to crumble and the Allies started to lose the war on many fronts. In fact, it become so increasingly difficult that they described it as “heart-rendering”, hence the title of this chapter.

Even despite all of this, those handful of women “rose to the challenge”, working collectively to break up to hundreds of thousands of codes every month. This was a major turning point, especially on the naval front. Germany’s naval codes were now not as uncrackable as they once seemed,  and the cryptanalyst’s eye could catch Japan’s mistakes within their messages. It almost seemed as though codes became easier to break as the enemies tried to complicate their codes further. This, along with a series of breakthroughs, is what I believe to be one of the key differences makers in this war.

More Than Capable of Completing Men’s Work

My copy of the book did not have any reading questions so I will do my best to interpret the first blog post question and answer it to the fullest extent. The roles that gender played in the codebreakers life and work World War II were significant. Women were subject to doubt, cut wages, and a lack of job security. After all, the main reason why women were searched for and employed by the government was because so many men from the top colleges had already enlisted in the Army. Among the population of women in the United States, very few were even qualified for the codebreaking positions. 

Many girls were often told not to attend college because of the small job market for educated women and there was a stigma that higher education did not guarantee a more fulfilling life. The girls who were recruited primarily studied science and mathematics, two subjects that women were often coerced to avoid because they were considered men’s work. Women cryptographers were also paid half the wages of their male counterparts to complete the same tasks. Despite the lower wages, these women still decided to serve their country the best way they knew how. Also, this job for the government was in no way a permanent position upon the conclusion of World War II. Once the men came back from Europe, there would be less demand for women these positions. However in other industries there was a demand for women workers which led the economy to boom.

Online Participation Check-in

Your online participation in this course contributes 10% of your final course grade. At the end of the semester, I’ll ask you to review your online participation in this course, compare your participation to that of your peers, and assess your contributions to the learning community. I’ll ask you to give yourself an online participation score between 0 and 10 points, and email it to me with a justification (a paragraph or two). If I think your score is reasonable, given your justification, I’ll use that as your online participation grade.

Your assignment for Monday, October 14th, is to email me your self-assessment of your online participation in this course as it stands now. This is your chance to reflect on how you’ve been contributing to our little learning community.

To assess your online participation, focus on blog posts and bookmarks on Diigo, as well as other forms of online participation, if any. In each of these areas, I usually ask you for specific contributions — posts that responded to particular questions, or bookmarks about specific topics, or tags and comments that fit certain parameters. As you look over your contributions to the course, keep these requests in mind. Also consider how your online participation contributed to the learning of your peers in the course.

Codebreaking Wins Wars

Hiroshi Oshima, the Japanese ambassador to Germany, played a big part in losing World War Two for the Axis. He had sent a series of messages home to Tokyo, describing seemingly every military secret that Hitler could possibly have wanted to keep a secret. Detailing the strengths and weaknesses of the German defenses along the northwestern coast of Europe must not have seemed like a big deal to him because his message was encrypted. Unfortunately for him, his messages were deciphered. Later in the war, Oshima again unknowingly revealed to the Allies ore crucial information that helped them win the war.

Oshima made several mistakes. Firstly, he trusted in the security of his code. The fact that he was so sure that his communications were secure made him reveal information that he might have otherwise kept more closely. The second was that he didn’t try to make life any harder for the American code-breakers working on his messages. His messages were a “wordy, effusive, somewhat emotional, meticulous description of German fortifications along the northwestern coast of France, from Britany to Belgium and everything in between.” (pg. 297) As anyone who’s ever tried to decipher a chunk of ciphertext knows, the more ciphertext you have to work with, the easier your job is. By being both wordy and specific, Oshima gave code-breakers a gift: they could find out what he was saying because he said so much, and what he said was immensely helpful to the Allies in the war effort. The information gained from Oshima, and from other Axis communications in Europe gave the Allies a leg up in the war, and led to the success of their D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Mundy, L. (2017). Code Girls. New York, NY: Hachette.

Gender in the War

The history of World War Two is incomplete if one does not analyze two elements: cryptography and gender. While these items have been recounted and studied heavily on their own, rarely have they been discussed together. The women who played a huge role in cryptography in the second world war have rarely been credited, that is until the book Code Girls, a book by Liza Mundy about their history, came out. This book, specifically chapter three, discusses in depth the role gender played in the cryptography of world war two. In the general. cryptography opened up new opportunities for women in world war two, but gender dynamics were still very imbalanced in the working world.

In general, World War Two presented opportunities for women to enter the workplace, as vacant positions left by men in war needed to be filled. However, the willingness of bosses to hire women varied greatly. One pivotal element of the story of cryptography is that William Friedman, head of the U.S office of code breaking, was exceptionally willing to hire women. This gave many women who never were ever permitted to get graduate degrees or teach mathmatics to now be propelled to the forefront of some of the most important mathmatics in the world. These women, like Genieveve Grotjan, would make some of the most important accomplishments in World War Two cryptography, including the initial breaks into the Purple cipher. In this way, cryptography gave women new opportunities, and women seized this opportunities fully and propelled cryptography to new heights.

However, it must be acknowledged that not all was equal in the world of cryptography. The was the author visualizes Grotjan’s cracking of the purple machine explains this. She describes Grotjan standing in the corner of the room, hesitant to share. This helps the reader understand that it was still not easy for women in the workplace. They weren’t taken as seriously as they should have been, and we still had, and have, a long way to go.

The Rise of WAVES

Gender was extremely indicative of what role Americans played in the war. The men were given officer positions, extra privileges, and were able to be shipped overseas to fight in the trenches and on the islands. The women, meanwhile, were resigned to domestic jobs, and a select few were sent overseas to serve as nurses or in other support positions. By 1942 however, a domestic push had introduced women into the war effort as more than passive observers. The women initially were seamen who had fewer privileges than their male counterparts despite serving in the same positions. But eventually, as more men were shipped overseas, the female codebreakers(who had set up shop in Washington D.C.) outnumbered the male codebreakers, served in officer positions, and became more integral to the war effort as they deciphered a greater number of crucial Japanese messages.

Perhaps the most famous example of this rise of the WAVES unit(the female naval codebreakers), was the decryption of the itinerary. A greater number of Japanese messages began to be intercepted, and a group of women managed to decrypt parts of the itinerary of Admiral Yamamoto: the top Japanese commander who had orchestrated the attack on Pearl Harbor. As the days passed, the codebreakers were able to piece together the exact itinerary of the commander’s flight to certain Japanese islands, and Nimitz and other navy officials proposed a daring American plan, dubbed Operation vengeance, to intercept Yamamoto’s flight and kill him. On April 18, American jets managed to catch the Japanese by surprise, and in a turning point of the war, show down the Japanese bomber carrying Yamamoto.

The WAVES unit managed to keep quiet about their section of the war effort, and told outsiders that they merely worked in naval communication. Their persistence and effort eroded traditional gender stereotypes by proving that women could be capable in the military, and allowed women greater control and more freedom to participate in the war effort. Codebreaking was integral to the war, and female codebreakers especially played a crucial role in the Allied victory.

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