The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: crypto

The Zodiac- Killer Podcast!

The Zodiac Killer episode produced by an old cryptography Vanderbilt student was surprisingly entertaining, and well made. Not that I was expecting it to be sub-par, I was just impressed with the podcast’s high quality. There were a few aspects in particular that I really enjoyed, and would like to incorporate into my podcast. The background music was extremely useful and made everything less awkward. There were also additional audio clips other than those of the speaker, breaking up the podcast. These clips made the podcast more interesting and easy to follow. I liked how the writer used her friend to play the voice of the Zodiac killer too. I am extremely nervous about the idea of listening to my own voice for several minutes, so I will definitely be incorporating my friends’ voices in my podcast. 

I really enjoyed the content of the podcast as well. To be honest I had never really known the true story of the Zodiac Killer, so this was very interesting. I really enjoyed her telling of the story. It was extremely detailed but not in an excessive way. I found the reasoning behind his name to be quite interesting. There was, surprisingly, not much that went into it.


Hall: Ruthless or Ethical?

Late into the first world war, top level German officer Arthur Zimmerman wanted to assert Germany dominance with a major offensive move. He wanted to start unrestricted U-Boat Warfare. He knew that a potential outcome of this would be the United States entering a war. His plan for combatting thisEthical was an alliance with Mexico. If the Americans entered the war, Mexico would ally with Germany and, using funds from the Germans, invade America to reclaim Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Zimmerman sent this message as a telegram that was intercepted by the British. This message was then quickly deciphered enough to crack its basic message, but not completely deciphered, and brought to British Admiral Hall. To the cryptographers’ surprise, Hall did nothing with the message. He believed that it was not worth it to convey these messages to the Americans because there could be vital information in the non-deciphered parts and because if America started reacting to Germany’s plans, it would be revealed that Germany’s encryption had been broken, compromising the Biriths’s intelligence position. It is important to wonder whether hall did the ethical  thing in this situation. I believe that Hall’s actions were ethical if he intended to do the most good for the most amount of people. 

I look at ethics in a utilitarian way. If an action is intended to accomplish  the most good possible for the most amount of people possible it is ethical. However, if an action is intended to benefit a small party but be harmful to the larger group, it is unethical. Hall’s position could have been unethical. By not sending America the decipher telegram, he was basically allowing America to be provoked by unrestricted U-Boat Warfare. Essentially, that means he was going to allow a deadly attack to happen for America to come into the war. If Hall was doing this just because he didn’t want to have to deal with Germany knowing that Britain had broken their encryption, this would be unethical.

However, the argument could be made that Hall actually was doing the most good for the most amount of people. It is possible that the British being able to decipher German messages was actually leading to lives being saved on a daily basis. It is possible that, had Germany stopped using their encryption because Britain could decipher it, more lives would be lost than in one unrestricted U-Boat attack. Additionally, Hall chose to hold the message rather than send it to the Americans because he thought that there may be vital information in the parts that hadn’t been deciphered. He did this on January 16th, leaving plenty of time for the whole code to be cracked before February 1st, when the U-boat attacks would begin. In this case, it seems that Hall is making sure everyone is safe and acting in the interests of the public. Therefore, I would argue that when Hall made this seemingly harmful decision, he was probably acting ethically by drying to do the most good for the most amount of people. 

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