(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘NSA

“It may be roundly asserted that human ingenuity cannot concoct a cipher which human ingenuity cannot resolve”*…

But sometimes it takes lots of ingenuity… and often, a great deal of time…

The United States National Security Agency—the country’s premier signals intelligence organization—recently declassified a Cold War-era document about code-breaking.

The 1977 book, written by cryptologist Lambros Callimahos, is the last in a trilogy called Military Cryptanalytics. It’s significant in the history of cryptography, as it explains how to break all types of codes, including military codes, or puzzles—which are created solely for the purpose of a challenge.

The first two parts of the trilogy were published publicly in the 1980s and covered solving well-known types of classical cipher. But in 1992, the US Justice Department claimed releasing the third book could harm national security by revealing the NSA’s “code-breaking prowess“. It was finally released in December last year. 

A key part of Callimahos’s book is a chapter titled Principles of Cryptodiagnosis, which describes a systematic three-step approach to solving a message encrypted using an unknown method… 

See how those three steps work at “Declassified Cold War code-breaking manual has lessons for solving ‘impossible’ puzzles.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we ponder puzzles, we might send intelligent birthday greetings to Alfred Binet; he was born on this date in 1857. A psychologist, he invented the first practical IQ test, the Binet–Simon test (in response to a request from the French Ministry of Education to devise a method to identify students needing remedial help).

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“Certainly it constitutes bad news when the people who agree with you are buggier than batshit”*…

 

The NSA’s 2007 internal manual for research on the Internet is, well… mesmerizingly odd.  On it’s way to a Dungeons-and-Dragons-as-reported-by-an-undergraduate-Classics-major-like depiction of life online, it cites Borges, Freud, and Ovid – and that’s just the preface…

The NSA has a well-earned reputation for being one of the tougher agencies to get records out of, making those rare FOIA wins all the sweeter. In the case of Untangling the Web, the agency’s 2007 guide to internet research, the fact that the records in question just so happen to be absolutely insane are just icing on the cake – or as the guide would put it, “the nectar on the ambrosia.”…

More of the backstory at “The NSA’s guide to the internet is the weirdest thing you’ll read today“; browse through the text in its extraordinary entirety here.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves?, or more familiarly, who will watch the watchers?)

– Juvenal

* Philip K. Dick

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As we limber up our gaming fingers, we might recall this is an important anniversary in the pre-history of the Internet:  on this date in 1837, Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke patented the electric “Five Needle Telegraph” in London (U.K. No. 7390).  They were subsequently granted a patent in the U.S. 10 days before Samuel Morse received his, but Morse was given priority by the U.S. PTO as the first inventor.  Nonetheless, Wheatstone and Cooke had priority in the U.K.; their system served British railways, press, and law enforcement for decades, first as the service of an independent company, then as a nationalized part of the General Post Office.

Wheatstone (left) and Cooke

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

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