Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

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Advices for college students

After stepping into college, the internet becomes more and more popular in our daily life. Nowadays we purchase things through the internet, we upload our assignments through the internet, we book our session through the internet. Meanwhile, internet privacy gradually becomes a problem.

The first advice I would give a college student is that do not use the same password for many websites. Especially in the modern society, all of your accounts are connected. Some websites have strong security systems but some don't. If one of these websites was invaded and your password was decrypted by the hackers, all of your information on other websites is bare as well. For example, we may correlate our Facebook account to a video game account. If the security system of the game company was weak and the hacker got the information of your account, your Facebook is going to be invaded easily.

The second advice would be that try to avoid logging in your account on public devices. You never know what will happen to others' devices. Even though sometimes we can choose to not save the password. There would be cookies that can track your account and. Especially when it comes to your payment method, such as the credit card information. There might be unknown computer viruses that were implanted in the public computer system, which means your information could be stolen by others without any trace.

Finally, I would recommend the Apple productions for their security system. All of their devices are connected if you log into your account. If someone else wants to log in your account on a new device then they must get your approvement because there will be a required verification code showed on your old devices. Also, the "Find my Apple" function is useful for finding lost. Even though your mobile phone was turned off, you can trace its location in 24 hours, in order to find it in time.

Cryptography 1

        As the author of the code book, Simon Singh, writes, "Cryptanalysis could not be invented until a civilization had reached a sufficiently sophisticated level of scholarship in several disciplines, including mathematics, statistics, and linguistics.” People’s interest and skills toward all kinds of puzzles including cryptogram are getting developed fast in this day or age . Back into my primary school time ,I saw a sukodu puzzle on the newspaper for the first time. The shape and numbers on it suddenly caught my mind. A great sense of proud came to me when I first learnt and finished the puzzle. Puzzles and cryptography, using its own beauty and sense of mystery ,attracted hundreds of thousands of fans all around the world.

       Learning how to solve these kinds of problems is not a specialization nowadays due to the advancement of the Internet and the high level of education. Higher level of education leads to more ways of creative thinking to solve the problems. For amateurs, they don’t necessarily need to learn the special methods in order to solve the basic problems. Their level of education provides them with enough knowledge to use. Such as the most used letter in the english alphabet is e or some of the most frequent conjunctions like at, or, in and so on. Even amateurs can have fun by themselves solving cryptograms, which is significantly different from the old times when people generally don’t know a lot about languages and mathematics. Getting more amateurs working on their own is a great sign, for more and more people are getting involved into cryptography and are willing to dig further.

         Despite the fact that amateurs can have great fun working on their own, Singh was never wrong about the complexity of cryptanalysis that people need to be trained to be sufficient in breaking codes. The methods of transition and substitution or even more complicated methods still needs several disciplines, including mathematics, statistics, and linguistics for perfection.

        In general, it is a great phenomenon to have so many people interested in cryptanalysis and willing to work on their own to solve it. But they still need more practice and more training to go deeper into this area.

Privacy Through Effort

In It's Complicated, by Danah Boyd, she discusses the complicated situations teens face with social media. A big topic of discussion is privacy: "The default in most interpersonal conversations, even those that take place in public settings, is that interactions are private by default, public through effort...  In other words, when participating in networked publics, many participants embrace a widespread public-by-default, private-through-effort mentality" (Boyd). It is said that a verbal conversation (in person) is a private act, that is only public when made to be. On the other hand, an interaction on the internet is public, an only made private when made to be. This statement catches my attention because it focuses on social norms in reality versus expectations of the internet. In real life, people are expected not to ease drop one another, intrude on conversations, or not interact unless brought into the conversation. On the internet, however, all of these expectations become void, as the internet is a public place. A person has to go through special care to make sure something is private, rather than assume that others are not paying attention. It makes you think, are your conversations private at all? Probably not. Just because it is not considered socially acceptable to listen in on a conversation does not mean people do not do it. Privacy of your affairs should never be expected, but rather always assumed to be public by default. It is in our nature to be curious, and at times that leads us to be intrusive. It is never safe to assume that something is private, especially just because it is socially expected to be. The only fool proof way to achieve privacy is through effort

Teen Privacy

In It’s Complicated, Emily Nussbaum states “Kids today…have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy” (boyd 55). She continues with a series of eloquent terms that describe how the “kids” publicly defame themselves with indecent pictures, and how they are “little loons who post…their stupid poetry” and thoughts “online” (boyd 55).

 

In today’s complicated world of electronics, it is reasonable to see how many Internet users might not know how exactly the security on their computer functions. For example, users might feel safe uploading private information to the worldwide web because they believe their social media accounts to simply be protected by a mere password, unaware of the versatility of hackers to penetrate such protection. This sense of privacy within a security system may be the result of the user’s lack of knowledge, and subsequently may be a reason to why so many “kids” are prone to upload personal data online undeterred.

 

In the sense of social privacy, however, we see “kids” who are ignorant or apathetic to disclosing personal data to the public. This lack of responsibility in maintaining one’s privacy is what Emily believes to be troublesome. Yet, when posting pictures and videos of themselves, kids do carry around “a sense of shame” in selecting only photos they deem worthy to be presented to the public. While this may indicate a separate problem with their self-image, it is a counterargument for Emily’s aforementioned statement—kids do carry a sense of shame, just not the one adults typically have in mind. This leads to boyd’s point that there are teens that genuinely care about a different sense of privacy, one that involves escaping the surveillance of “paternalistic adults” (boyd 56).

Data Mining: The Internet's Way of Knowing Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

After a long day filled with unfamiliar Spanish vocab and seemingly endless Chemistry questions, I decide to reward myself by opening up a new tab to my most visited webpage: Facebook. I quickly scroll through my friends’ most recent uploads, my interest steadily declining. As my newsfeed takes me from one album to the next, I repeatedly encounter personalized ads designed to catch my attention at exactly the right moment. Online shopping pages with clothes I had once considered screamed for my attention as quizzes relevant to my life’s biggest decisions entitled “What type of surgeon should you be?” result in me being steered to another website. How did Facebook know I wanted to be a doctor? I had only decided this a few short weeks ago myself. I shrug my shoulders and finish my quiz, embracing the fact that Internet seemed to know me better than I knew myself.

Data mining has become one of the most valuable techniques of the Internet today, taking your personal information and using “behavioral surveillance…to predict, with amazing accuracy, the propensity for a person’s behavior” (Morris). In Morris’s article entitled Mining Student Data Could Save Lives, he argues for that mining student data by accessing their personal searches and documents could be used as a safety technique to help prevent future massacres such as the 2007 Virginia Tech case. I found this article uniquely compelling because of the relevancy it has in my life. As an active Facebook user myself, I am constantly prone to this data mining, often times without my knowledge. I hope that writing this essay will allow me to better understand data mining and how it personally affects me, as well as form an opinion on how much of your personal data I believe college campuses deserve to access.

You Say "Paranoia," Mom Says "Preparation"

My first email address was a very big milestone in my young life. Finally I was able to send my friends massive chain emails with instructions to pass the message on to 10 of their closest friends (of course including me). However, this email account did not come without its fair share of lectures. My mom sat me down and talked to me about how I shouldn't put my name in my email account-someone might search me. I was told I needed to never post where I went to school on the internet-someone might find me. And more than anything, never, under any circumstances, was I allowed to talk to strangers online-guessing what someone might do is too horrible to imagine.

Albeit overzealous, my mom wasn't entirely incorrect, it's not hard to search and/or find someone on the internet. In fact, that's the entire premise of most internet based social media. However, my mom didn't realize then that the ability to be found on the internet was going to catch up with her much faster than she could attempt to evade it.  Quinn Norton, hacked many times himself, would most likely say that my mother's attempt to outrun the internet information frenzy would be futile. He would most likely be right.

This article struck a particular chord in me. I certainly have a lot of personal information to draw from in regards to internet security, and know that writing about my experience in that subject would not prove to be too challenging. I also am very intrigued by the author's flippancy towards the subject of safety, and would enjoy delving deeper into his reasoning behind it. Overall, I am very excited to write my first essay on "Hello future Pastebin readers" by Quinn Norton.

The New Normal

In Hello Future Pastebin Readers, Quinn Norton talks about how everyone who has access to technology is essentially the same in that none of their personal information and data, no matter how securely uploaded or downloaded, is actually private. This particularly interests me because today’s society is so heavily centered around the distribution of information globally, and this feeling of interconnectedness provides a false sense of security to many people, because in reality, they can have no idea what other people are possibly doing with their data.

The article also exposes readers to the idea that as we progress towards the more modern and technologically-oriented society, more people will learn how to hack, and the status quo will shift to a society where people must become comfortable knowing that privately posting anything online is the same as posting it to the public. On this topic, Norton furthermore brings up the interesting prospect that we should embrace the idea of performing as if “on stage” whenever we do anything online, which ultimately may help the world move towards a more open society, technologically speaking.

The Correlation Between Technology and Self-Taught Cryptography

When the frequency analysis first emerged as a tool to decrypt substitution cyphers, it was the epitome of modern technology at the time.  Under the growing Islamic rule of the Arab nations there was, for the first time in history, the opportunity for the collection of mass amounts of diverse knowledge in one place and one time. Revolutionary at the time, in modern society this same concept of data collection is relatively commonplace. Worldwide schooling systems teach the basics of linguistics, mathematics, and statistics to children from young ages, giving them the platform upon which it is easier to compute the complicated nature of cryptography. Even more recently, information of all types has become increasingly available to any who have access to the internet. A place for data collection and collaboration of thought like no where else, the internet has revolutionized cryptography once again. No longer is a formal education entirely necessary to access the tools needed to decipher codes. One can simply study complex theories of statistical analysis taught to them through Yahoo Answers, or watch explanations of multivariable calculus on YouTube. While information is still being gathered, just as it was in ancient Arab nations, it is no longer limited to a single society, or even to formal education. There is no reason to say that the modern codebreaker is somehow inherently more adept at decryption; rather the skills which are needed to decrypt are accessible without advanced study.  Thanks to the internet, the only requirement in cryptography is the desire to seek out the tools necessary to decrypt.

A Developing Familiarity Throughout History

Fundamental development in the disciplinary topics of mathematics, statistics, and linguistics was procured from a comparative ground-level hundreds of years ago as opposed to what we have unearthed today. The advantages and resources currently available to the vast public are, of course, the most they have ever been in history. This goes without saying. "Discovering" tactics to break codes and ciphers that were once considered the most advanced techniques by exceptional cryptanalysts is certainly not as easy a task without the long history of code breaking (in the colloquial meaning of the term) that had come before us.

The ability to learn methods such as frequency analysis from a quick Google search is much less arduous a task than inventing them without any previous notion of such a possibility. Even assuming that today's amateur cryptanalysts aren't explicitly searching "how to's" from public databases, the idea of frequency analysis and any analogous general form of use is very comfortable and familiar. Perhaps teachers from grade school distributed puzzles aimed to unscramble words and phrases or your classmate used a simple cipher as a way to ask out their prom date. Experiencing or seeing a number of similar events throughout our lives inevitably ingrains the technique somewhere in the back of our minds, at least implicitly.

Noting the above, it is truly incredible to acknowledge how commonplace once incredible and cutting-edge discoveries are considered in the present day. This will always be observed, even beyond subjects regarding cryptography, as a natural progression of time.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

It is curious to think of how the world was just one hundred years ago. So many things that are now obvious were unknown or shrouded in mystery. In 1915, barely anything was known about heredity and the cellular functions that were involved in it. Now, we have mapped the entire human genome and can even change DNA. In Newton’s time, gravity was a concept that hadn’t been explored. Now, it is an obvious fact, one that forms the most basic aspect of sciences that have now advanced to ever-increasing complexity. What is gravity when compared to the Higgs boson?

In this same way, the discoveries made by cryptanalysts of centuries past have now become obvious to us. This is by no fault of theirs—without civilization’s ability to analyze statistics and linguistics and apply mathematical concepts, decrypting encrypted messages could never have been attempted.

The thing is, civilization didn’t stop there. It continued to grow and make new discoveries while standing on the foundation laid by its predecessors. Discoveries of algebraic concepts that excited prominent scholars hundreds of years ago are now taught in middle school classes to unappreciative twelve-year-olds. They are no longer new and complicated and exciting, but old news, taken for granted, never thought of unless they are used for the springboard into some novel inquiry.

Another aspect to consider is the advance of technology and information. Doing statistics by hand is a painstaking process that can now easily be bypassed by calculators and software. In addition, so many more people have access to information now than they used to, whether that be in a classroom or on the Internet. Especially when considering the Internet, where any question can be answered easily in a matter of seconds, it is not all that surprising that amateur cryptanalysts can “wing it."

This is not to diminish the strategies implemented by older cryptanalysts. Rather, it is to show how far we have been able to come since their time because of the nature of their discoveries. As Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

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