The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Author: whitnese

The Writing Process

The first part of my process for writing the practical cryptography paper was selecting a topic. This was quite time consuming since nothing that I found particularly stood out at me. The main problem with selecting a topic was finding something interesting, applicable, and with enough information available. I eventually settled upon Bitcoin. The reason I choose this topic was that it was not well known among college students and represents the future of money. The next step in working on the paper was research. I knew very little about the topic before starting this paper. The most challenging part for me understood how Bitcoin works. This portion was the most time consuming by far. Once I understood the process of Bitcoin, I was about to start outlining my paper. I spend a large portion of my paper explaining Bitcoin and its functions. The remainder of the paper is about its application and implications in our lives. I have finished the rough draft of the essay. I will make further revisions and edits once I get feedback. The most enjoyable part of the paper was learning about something new that I would never have thought to read about. The paper overall was a good experience for me.

The Importance of Privacy

jeff_golden. Flickr. Creative Commons.

jeff_golden. Flickr. Creative Commons.

The government does not have the right to infringe upon the privacy and security of United State’s citizen. The proposed idea of the government being given ”wide latitude” of surveillance breaches these privacy barriers that are protected by the Constitution. The ability to keep information secure has decreased with the increased use of technology. A face-to-face conversation is the most secure method or exchanging information but is not practical with todays growing world. “The advent of digital technology, which makes monitoring so much easier” fuels the desire to protect your information (Singh 306). This decreased ability to protect your information has led to the creation of enciphering methods on the Internet. The creation of this type of security has aided in the protection of citizen’s rights. These are ways that citizens protect their right to privacy and the government should not be allowed access to their citizen’s private information. The government should be prevented from infringing upon the security of its citizens without reasonable cause and search warrants. Giving the government ”wide latitude” would allow citizen’s rights to be violated. It is the government’s job to respect the constitution and the wishes of their constituents. The citizen’s rights are supposed to be of the utmost importance to the government and the basis of the constitution.

Noticing Patterns

One reason that the code breakers were eventually successful over the German cryptographers was the identification of patterns in the Enigma codes. There were certain key discoveries that aided in the eventual crack of the codes. One of these discoveries was the new message key between the sender and recipient was repeated twice to avoid potential error or confusion. This was a good idea for the Germans to make communication more clear and since they thought that the Enigma machine would never be broken, they never thought about the vulnerability that this action could cause. Once Allies cryptanalyses realized this, this knowledge allowed them to decipher codes more easily because they had this knowledge of a pattern. Another pattern that aided that Allies was the weather reports everyday. This could help start the day with a message that they knew what the content, for the most part, was about therefore giving them a clue when solving for the plain text. Another pattern that the Allies used in their favor was the U-boats that would surround convoys and send information to other U-boats. The Allies knew what information was to be sent because they knew where the convoy was. The knowledge of this information aided in the decryption of that day’s key. The realization of these various patterns aided greatly in the Allie’s breaking of the Enigma machine.

Photo Credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann via flickr

Photo Credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann via flickr

Extreme Security Measures

The book Little Brother by Cory Doctorow brought up many ideas and concepts that I did not know or think about. The idea of privacy and security and these wide spread implications were well illustrated in his novel. The concept of too much security and safety measures is shown in depth in the novel. The elaborate and invasive security system of Marcus’s school is a prime example of too much. The stride detectors and recorders to identify students is just plain ridiculous. The simple fact that the school has already had some of their security system features, the face recognition cameras, ruled unconstitutional displays the level of invasiveness that the school is using. The school issued library books with trackers is another prime example of the school infringing upon the student’s rights.  These are extreme examples of the ways that security and safety measures infringe upon our rights as citizens. The idea of extreme security and safety measures is carried from the school environment at the beginning to the entire city of San Francisco. The use of data mining the Fast Trak and Fast Pass to see irregular patterns in the movements of people is a great example of extreme safety protocol. This data mining as shown in the book just ended up upsetting the citizens and inconveniencing them. The book does a very good job of giving examples of extreme security and safety measures and showing their down falls.

Agony columns the old version of love notes

There was increased interest in cryptography and this interest still persists today. Part of the drive in this interest was the telegraph. This is due to the need to protect and hide personal or private information that would be sent over the telegraph. An example of the increased awareness and use of encryption was shown in the “agony columns” in some newspapers. Forbidden lovers used these columns quite often during the Victorian era in England. This greatly reminds me of Romeo and Juliet except quite a long time later. This would have been a more efficient and safe way of communicating for them but that didn’t happen. These columns did spark the curiosity and interest of cryptanalysis. Because lets be real who wouldn’t want to see the secret messages of forbidden lovers. These columns would be like Victorian reality TV for those who decipher the codes. Lovers did not only use these columns, they were also used to create challenging ciphers for others to solve. I guess people would do this just for funsies since there is probably nothing else do in the Victorian era. These columns were also used to criticize political figures. During this era, speaking out against public officials was greatly frowned upon so this was a way to get some freedom of expression.

Tor is the key to online security

Online privacy is a major concern for college students and Internet users in general. Users of the Internet put so much information on it from credit card information, communication, and personal information. There are various steps that users can take to protect their online security. One method of protection is the use of Tor. Tor is an open network and free software. This software allows users to be hidden, ambiguous, and safe while on the Internet. It enables users to be protected from network surveillance or analysis that may be imposed upon them on the normal Internet by various agencies, corporations, or individuals. Using software like this allows the user to be completely safe through routing layers and encryptions.  This method of privacy seems the most straightforward and easy when it comes to online security. It is a simple step of downloading and using the software that will protect an Internet user. College students today do not have the time to mess with various modes of privacy servers on the Internet and Tor allows students to use single software and receive protection. This simplicity alone is a compelling reason to use Tor when on the Internet. Tor allows students to have online privacy and is quite simple; this is just one step that a user can take to protect their online privacy.

Blog Post #1

I can honestly say that going into this class I had very little knowledge of what cryptology is or its implications. I had most likely heard the word in passing but never fully tried to comprehend the true meaning. The first chapter of Singh was to say the least an eye opener. I was shocked by the widespread use and history of codes and ciphers. The chapter expanded on the history of ciphers in various societies and cultures. The main example of the first chapter is Mary Queen of Scots and her cipher mishap. This situation displays the risks of ciphers. As discussed in class, sometimes a weak cipher can be worse than no cipher at all. The reasoning behind this is the false sense of security that a cipher can give the sender and recipient. Mary Queen of Scots also made the mistake of trusting someone else to deliver and keep the secrets safe. As the saying goes, “loose lips sink the ship.” Well in Mary Queen of Scots case deception, ciphers, and double agents sank that ship. The discussion in class led me to realize that Mary had no other option than to trust that her correspondences were honest since she had very limited resources. This ties into another topic that we discussed about the impact that resources has in ciphers. In Mary’s case, the limited option of resources and possible ways of communication forced her to relay on her a double agent. She had no way to change the cipher or strengthen it without him knowing so she was sort of doomed. If she was more vague and a little less trusting in the strength of the cipher she could have saved herself but that did not happen. The discussion in class aided me in seeing the scope of ciphers along with the potential drawbacks of them.

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