The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Author: naiksj

New Type of Privacy

“I just think that [technology is] redefining what’s acceptable for people to put out about themselves. I’ve grown up with technology so I don’t know how it was before this boom of social networking. But it just seems like instead of spending all of our time talking to other individual people and sharing things that would seem private we just spend all of our time putting it in one module of communication where people can go and access it if they want to. It’s just more convenient.” This was said by Alicia in Boyd’s study. She believes that just because we post stuff on social media does not mean teens dislike privacy. Instead of having to talk for hours on end about our lives we post what we want online and can reminisce about it later. It is also said that adults find social media to be an oxymoron to teens wanting privacy but I believe that it is not. What is posted on instagram or facebook is chosen by the person. They decide what parts of their lives they want private. The idea of privacy changes with every generation. Today, we believe that privacy is choosing what we don’t want to share. I agree with this idea. Just because I want to post a picture of me and my friends having fun on the lake or at dinner does not mean I want to share my entire life with the world. Instead I am saying that those are moments that I am ok with people knowing about. They do not know what was said during those moments or anything that occurred before or after. Just small snippets of my life that give nothing close to the big story.

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.

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.

The Great Cipher:Cryptography as Man in the Iron Mask:French Lore

The Great Cipher of Louis XIV proved to be one of the most challenging ciphers ever recorded. This was brought together by the father son duo of Antoine and Bonaventure Rossignol. They immersed themselves in studying and perfecting methods of cryptography from the past and eventually determined how to create a form of encryption stronger than anyone had seen before.

Previously, cryptographers focused on discovering the identities of individual letters. When Bazeries first attempted to decipher the text he used these methods mainly believing that it was a homophonic cipher after discovering that there were 587 different numbers being used. This was another big advantage to the Rossignol cipher, instead of using a normal 26 number system they used double and triple digit numbers. Believing to be homophonic, Bazeries attempted to align each number with a letter. Of course this proved to be futile as the cipher was not homophonic. One method that had never been used previously was assigning numbers with syllables which is exactly what the Rossignol’s did. The code may have remained unsolved had Brazeries not deciphered the text “les ennemis”. The use of traps and numbers representing “delete” also delayed the solving of the cipher.

One big form of security for the cipher that can often be forgotten is that the Rossignols died without letting anyone know how to solve their cipher. It remained a complete mystery, along with the Man in the Iron Mask, until Brazeries. Their greatest achievement was going past the typical ciphertext of representing one letter for a number and instead using numbers to represent syllables.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Justice

The Declaration of Independence, written to protect and serve the people of the United States while they abided by its laws. It allows for free speech, freedom of press, and the right to protest the government. As is says on page 180 of Little Brother, “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,”. This is saying that if a government seizes too much power from its governed, then the people have the ability to overthrow and rebel until they are once again happy with the government. Marcus brings this up in class when they are discussing the yippies of the late 1900’s. He is arguing that they were within their rights to protest the government as it is written in our Constitution. In the passage Charles tries to argue that since the Constitution is so old that it doesn’t apply to society today. America was formed because people didn’t believe that their government has failed to protect their rights and they were given the power to rid of their ELECTED government if they saw fit.

After the discussion, Ms. Galvez asked the class to write an optional paper about the discussion and their opinions. A few pages later, we learn that Ms. Galvez was fired and replaced by a woman who is promoting the suspension of the constitution in some circumstances. She states that there is an order that rules are followed that protect life first, then liberty, than happiness. She believes that in matters of life and death, people should be willing to sacrifice happiness and liberty for life. She also states that if the police believes you are a danger to others without any proof than they can detain you. This is unlawful in my belief. According to the constitution you are innocent until proven guilty. You should not be locked up if you are “thought” to be dangerous. This was seen at the start of the book when Marcus and his friends were taken by the DIA because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If this was how the Constitution is taken at all times and the Government was given total surveillance power, then there would be arrests made every day just because you looked up something that could be “flagged”. This is why we have a Supreme Court so no one part of the government can circumvent the rules written by the founders of our country.

Making Sacrifices Even for Safety

Michael Morris chooses to write about a very controversial issue in his article “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives”. His argument is that College officials should be able to mine students data, that is monitor all the information they send and receive on their network. This would provide security to the campus and prevent attacks by monitoring and flagging odd and suspected behavior from students. The free access to internet and computers allows college campuses potentially unlimited access to student accounts. The question is what are we willing to forfeit for protection?

If a college is given unlimited access to student information that surpasses any privacy that we believe we should have. In this day and age where terror attacks are becoming more frequent people are turning to the only place that they can monitor, the internet. What was thought to be the last truly private place is now monitored by every government agency. There are necessities to monitoring areas in our lives that use technology such as bank accounts but delving into personal data is where we cross the line. The fear of the unknown has left people scrambling to unmask the unknown leading to extreme methods. If the government or even a college campus has the ability to look at every little search or message sent then everyone becomes a suspect. There is a solution to how much we should be monitored but that hasn’t been found yet. Michael Morris makes a fair argument about the need for safety but it should not be by losing the totality of privacy.

Mary’s dilema with a weak encryption

Mary, Queen of Scots, said that a weak encryption can be worse than no encryption at all. Mary and Babington started with a good encryption but as cryptanalysis progressed in England they failed to change there code and make it stronger. This allowed Queen Elizabeth’s men to crack the encryption and forge letters to Mary and Babington.

This ability to crack the code and use it against your enemy is what Mary was warning of. Their weakened code was cracked with ease and Mary and Babington were unaware that their cypher had been broken. Mary and Babington were placed in a false sense of security that left them writing the entirety of the plans in their letters. When Walsingham’s men discovered the letters and broke the encryption, they knew they had sufficient evidence to execute Mary and Babington.

Mary and Babington were not prepared for the encryption to be broken. They believed that hiding the letters and encrypting them were sufficient when in reality they had led themselves to their own demise. A weak encryption is far more worse than no encryption at all because you place yourself in a false sense of security and rely heavily on the strength of your encryption to keep you safe. As seen in the case of Queen Mary, she was killed because she did not prepare for the worst.

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