The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

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Your Face is Valuable

In Episode 062 of Leading Lines, the point I found most intriguing was when Dr. Bruff brought up the recent hype about FaceApp. And I can relate to this particularly because I remember exactly when that trend popped up and how I, just like everyone else, hopped on that train and tried it out. And at the time, it was borderline amazing  and absolutely hilarious. In hindsight, and with the power of some good ole education, I can now see how potentially dangerous something like FaceApp is.

The usage of facial recognition, especially within an app where they use your own pictures, can potentially be very dangerous because of the implications it has of staying on the web. Whether it’s through FaceBook or Instagram, many people are easily able to find photos of themselves on the Internet, and Chris Gilliard makes a point to say that none of those he himself put online. That just comes to show that despite what one might say or might think, people are always out somewhere in the world ready to jump on anything they can get their hands on and use it against you or to their advantage. Whether FaceApp was used deliberately to track people down is up for speculation, but regardless of whether this is the case or not, we should be more aware of what we put up, whether it be writing or photos, simply because everyone and anyone can see.

Watch Out Your Personal Information

In the podcast, there is an example of that some companies use a personal picture to predict what the person looks like in the future; this event also happens in China. When I surfing online or using apps for chatting, this kind of advertisement will come up sometimes. Expect about your future appearance, there are also some advertisements about what you are going to look like when you become a soldier. These are really funny and some of my classmates played with it. Before this class, I think this event is just for having fun and never think about giving out your personal information. Although I have not played it before, thinking that these companies may use our pictures to use for other purposes, I’m worried about this. These companies don’t have any income if they just do this activity, so there are possibilities that they sell personal information for money, which may cause a lot of inconvenience and troubles. What’s more, there are other fishing websites and we also need to keep out them. We need to think carefully before we click on the link or the app. To keep our own privacy, we need to pay attention to details and maybe some unfair condition is hidden inside the texts.

Internet Responsibility

The question of internet responsibility is one that has been debated for an extraordinary amount of years. I remember first hearing about it on the news with the site yellow pages. At the time, the owner of the site was being sued for the illegal use of yellow pages for sex trafficing. The argument was that since the owner was aware that the site was used for trafficking he should be held responsible for the illegal activity. In this case I believe the owner won as he did not do anything directly wrong. 

Although I could see how it would be easy to sue someone because of the activity done on their online forum, I do not believe it is just. The owners of the software or websites are simply creators and should not be held responsible for other people’s actions. Should google be sued for housing illegal content? No, because it is not responsible for what people upload to it. That seems obvious.The purpose of the site is important, however. A website made for a positive reason can not be punished if someone abuses the system. However, if a website is made for something negative it should reap the full consequences of its actions. 


The Internet Broke Us

I believe that given the time he has written this in, Simon Singh has done an excellent job of predicting how the upturn of technology would shift our society and our world towards one of automatic work and technical organization.

It turns out that Singh largely underestimated the rate at which all of this would develop. Technology raced through a lot of the aspects Singh talked about and has moved on to greater things. While we haven’t reached certain aspects that Singh explicitly talks about, such as online voting, the Internet has been used to expand our knowledge as well as our capabilities of running and existing in society. Today, we largely consider technology and the Internet to have taken over the world we know today. Although whether it was better or for worse is up in the air for discussion, we can all agree that it has made a sizable impact on who we are as human beings and what we prioritize. That being said, with so much accessible to us in recent days, strong encryption becomes even more critical in regards to our own security as well as the security for everyone else at large. Keeping what we want private as secure as we can make it keeps our mindset and morale high and positive, while being as secure as possible.

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.

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