The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Author: Spencer Jones

Next Time Rent Out a Private Venue

In chapter 12, the “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 25” concert was a setting in the book that I found very interesting. The concert’s premise was basically an illegal open air concert at Dolores Park organized via the Xnet. The highly anticipated concert began with an energetic crowd full of people who were happy and dancing together. However the concert took a turn for the worse once cops dressed in riot gear with infrared goggles moved in to disperse the crowd. At this point there was mass confusion and screaming, many people ran away and attempted to leave but many were swallowed into a radical crowd that felt very defiant towards the authorities. It became graphic quite quick as the concert goers got gassed by riot control, hundreds of people collapsed and gasped for air and then were tied up and fed into vans for questioning.

As soon as I came to this part of the part of the book I found it very riveting, a secret concert to the uninformed public eye despite thousands of people knowing about it online. I really enjoyed the author’s account of the energy at the beginning of the event as well as describing the crowd’s dynamic making it sound like an event that was extremely powerful to the people in the Xnet community. I also enjoyed the evolution of the event from a concert, to a discussion of civil liberty, then ultimately to an activist group statement against the oppression that they felt from the Department of Homeland security. 

In my opinion, the violence of the crowd was incited by the radicals of the group. Specifically it was Trudy Doo’s voice that manipulated the intentions of the crowd to fight for what they believed in. To me, it felt right that at this point the riot patrol gassed them. From an outsider’s perspective they were being a rowdy crowd gathered illegally late at night. But it didn’t really feel like they were being rowdy and obnoxious until the cops came and told them to leave.

Data Mining Should Become a Priority of Campus Officials

In Michael Morris' article, “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives” Morris suggests that if universities are able to track troubling student behavior via data mining through traditionally private information then there would be more at risk and potentially violent behavior being caught early by university officials. Morris also includes that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Ferpa), which originally disallowed the release of a student’s information without written consent, has been altered because of the killings at Virginia Tech in 2007. Universities are now allowed to report data on students that they find to be demeaning and potentially threatening.

The central argument that Morris makes is that by increasing the functionality of university threat-assessment teams through data mining it would help avert violence on campus. I agree with Morris’ argument because universities are supposed to be a safe zone for students to learn while experiencing a lifestyle with more responsibilities. Allowing threat-assessment teams to have more control over the data would ensure that student safety and well-being is a priority for campus officials.

Coming from personal experience, I grew up in a suburb of San Diego where it was expected for every high school graduate to move on to universities. The academic pressure for a lot of students was paramount. So paramount in fact, that they couldn’t live with the stress put on them by the school or by the society around them. A total of six students had committed suicide by the time I graduated high school. I feel like with data mining and the enhanced capacity of threat-assessment teams, it would allow them to find data on students who are at risk of hurting themselves in order to cultivate a campus identity built upon health and conversation. I know Vanderbilt does a great job with this especially with the Center of Student Well-being and having accessible hotlines for students to call when they find themselves in hard situations, but this is more of a statement based off of what I have experienced previously to university.

To Code or Not to Code

What Singh is implying to coders is that cryptographic messages of high importance should be done well. For instance, if the contents of the message are a correspondence between about a politician having an affair then; it would make sense for the code to be very strong so the politician’s job isn’t jeopardized. 

On the other hand, if it is a playful message being sent between friends with no real significance then the consequences of it being coded are not drastic. It doesn’t make a difference how strong the code is. If the stakes of being caught are high, then make a strongly coded message that nobody will figure out.

Singh means that if instead of a message being poorly coded and it was just straight up then it would be more of a; “Yeah, this is hard evidence against you and there’s no denying it.” Then it would be used and that would be that. But because it was supposed to be hidden it adds an extra layer of distrust to the case and provides further justification for conviction. In Mary Queen of Scots situation, she was doing the most incriminating offense possible towards the Crown and the fact that she made a code to hide her plans hurts her legacy in the end. 

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